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Publisher's Summary

Widdershins is inspired by the Newcastle witch trials, where 16 people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known about. In August 1650, 15 women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches. 

Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John Sharpe, the witchfinder who condemns her to death. Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft. 

The Historical Novel Society said of Widdershins: “Impeccably written, full of herbal lore and the clash of ignorance and prejudice against common sense, as well as the abounding beauty of nature, it made for a great read. There are plenty of books, both fact and fiction, available about the witch-trial era, but not only did I not know about such trials in Newcastle, I have not read a novel that so painstakingly and vividly evokes both the fear and joy of living at that time.”

Recommended for anyone who has enjoyed Stacey Halls' The Familiars, Beth Underdown's The Witchfinder's Sister, AK Blakemore's The Manningtree Witches, Elizabeth Lee's Cunning Women, Louisa Morgan's A Secret History of Witches, Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate, Madeline Miller's Circe, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, or Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches.

©2017 Helen Steadman (P)2021 Helen Steadman

What listeners say about Widdershins

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A great choice for historical fiction fans

Widdershins is immersed in the Puritanical world of 1600s England. It’s based on true events, and the author has added enough fictional elements to really bring this world to life for the modern reader. I took my time reading it, as the heavy topics which surround the witch trials and the culture of the era needed a bit more care to navigate.

The narrator was a perfect choice to bring both the male and female characters to life, full of nuance and the right touch of emotion for the situations we are brought through.

Definitely recommend for historical fiction fans, or anyone interested in the witch trials which were rampant in this time period but wants a story one might be less familiar with. Thanks to the author for providing a complementary listeners copy of this audiobook, I’m glad to add this one to my collection!

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Perfect witchy read for October!

Inspired by the real witch trials in England in the 1600’s, Widdershins is the perfect October read. The narrator is fantastic, although I did sometimes get confused on which POV I was listening to because it was one female narrator for multiple POV’s, a male and a female.

I was transported in place and time while listening- a mark of a great book!

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Widdershins

Widdershins tells the story of the Newcastle witch trials in 1650, but we join the story when two of the characters whose fates will collide at this horrific event are children.



We see how John, the witchfinder, became so passionate about the work he does through the death of his mother, his wife and child as well as the influence of his abusive father and reverend uncle. We hear the stories of his progression into the career and the women accused along the way. Like with many other stories of this ilk, there is terrible aggression towards Eve's cursed daughters where women who have any knowledge or influence or cross the wrong man are deleted from society in the most horrific way. John is probably the most unlikable character I’ve ever read. I know history is full of these men but oof I just wanted to punch him more and more with every word and action.


Jane is a midwife's daughter whose life seems unfairly cursed from the start. Circumstance after circumstance leads her to her ultimate fate. It nearly seemed inescapable that she would end up where she did. As a woman with a brain and an opinion and a desire to make choices that followed her heart and not a sense of duty she set herself apart in a dangerous way. I was so empathetic towards her and found myself really wishing there was a way out for her. My favorite part of her story was the discussions of the herbs and treatments used at that time point. Oh and the END!



It’s definitely a slow moving story with the trials occurring quite near the end but the details of the time help build the tension to a crescendo. Lots of scenes are quite graphic and the description of the women’s “crimes” will make your blood boil but it is accurate to the trials of the times. Check this one out if you liked Phillippa Gregory’s Tidelands. After finishing this, I went right out and purchased the sequel.

Thanks to Love Book Tours for a gifted audio copy. All opinions above are my own.


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Well Written

Dark subject matter based on historical events. Not a lot of likeable characters and a lot of suffering. Well written and amazing voice artist.

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Impeccably written and performed

I agree with the Historical Novel Society, this story is impeccably written. And the narration by Christine Mackie is excellent as well. I might have appreciated an accurate Scottish accent when appropriate, but I enjoyed the performance all the same. My only complaint is that there remains too many unanswered questions at the end of the story.

Note: I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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A great great story!

When John sharp was born unfortunately his mother died and his father blamed the midwife, who he called the witch on the deck. She would be the one who raised John until he was six and his father called him home to work on the form here is where John got beat every day for wrongs done and imagined and then whether it was fortunate or unfortunate John’s father died and he was sent to live with his minister uncle whose religion was steeped and superstition and this is how John was raised. Took a look out for the abnormal forgo common sense and come up with the craziest reason for it happening… Like witches. Jane Who was raised by her loving mother a healer who taught little Jane the right herbs to pick the right ingredients to help her neighbors get better. Their lives will intersect more than once but The most important time is when Jane is accused of being a witch and John growing up to be the local which author hast to decide does she live or die? This book was so good it was well researched told is it a genuine authentic story I just loved it and couldn’t stop listening. I thought the narrator did an awesome job! If you love history and well done historical tales this is a great book to read. Oh I absolutely loved it!

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  • house.full.of.books
  • 11-27-21

Novel set during the Witch Trials

I absolutely loved listening to this audiobook.
What a great story set during the witch trials in the UK. I loved the characters, and thought they were realistic and relatable. Often with historical novels I can't relate to characters, but not with this book.
The story itself was exciting, and I found myself wanting to keep listening at the end of each chapter.
The narrator was okay for me. I think maybe if she lightened up a little it would be easier to listen to. I felt it was maybe a bit too constrained.
Highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, like Hannah Kent and Hannah Kristin.

I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Sharon Griffin
  • 11-20-21

Fantastic

I was given a promotional code for a free copy of this book in return for an honest review,
I have both read and also recently listened to Widdershins. After reading the book a couple of years back and thoroughly enjoying it I didn’t think an audible copy would be the same but I was very much mistaken. Christine has narrated this book fantastically, she gets each character across to the listener extremely well. I could read and listen to this book time and time again. Helen has obviously done her research very well. Whilst the story is shocking with what happened with ‘Witch Trials’, you are drawn in by it and you want to know what happens. It’s emotional but so worth listening too. I have recommended this story to so many people. Well done Helen and Christine.

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  • Helen
  • 11-18-21

amazing book

amazing book get your tissues ready
base an real events
Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler

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  • Natalie H
  • 11-08-21

A gripping historical fiction!

Widdershins is a gripping story based on true events that happened in England and Scotland in the 1600s.
This book is set on and around the witch trials and is even more devastating knowing this really happened.
The author did an amazing job of capturing the time period and the hardships, superstitions, cruelty and ignorance inflicted during this time as well as the chilling, stomach turning examinations that were inflicted upon supposed witches (male and female).
I loved the character of Jane. How my heart broke for her so many times! The other main POV is John who wasn't a likeable character at all. He was a used by his father as a child and grows up to become his father - cruel and twisted.
This book captured me from the beginning and the narrator suited the book and did a great job with the voices of the characters. I'm now starting book 2!

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  • Serenity You
  • 11-05-21

brilliant

This is based on real-life events of the 1650 witch trial in Newcastle. I never realised this until I finished the book. I love reading books about witch trials and knowing that these actually happened makes it even better.⁠

I listened to this on audio and love the narrator and her accent. ⁠

this is told in alternative chapters of Jane and John. John’s mother died in childbirth and he went to live with the woman who delivered him, who his dad claimed was a witch. When John is older he also believes this and starts a vendetta against her. ⁠
Jane lives with her mum who uses herbs etc for healing. She has a partner and becomes pregnant, but he dies before they can marry. ⁠

I really enjoyed this so much. John made me so mad and it is totally unbelievable how people actually thought these people were witches for doing the smallest thing. I just loved it! a massive 5/5 stars for me.⁠

Can’t wait to listen to the second book in this series. ⁠

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  • Chantel
  • 11-02-21

Brilliant, did not disappoint

Historical fiction stories are quite new to me, I not ever used to read or listen to WW2 historical fiction but I have an interest in witchcraft so thought I would try this book and it did not disappoint!!
I listened to the audio version but would describe the book as a page turner.
I really enjoyed the narrator and the accent was very suited to the book.
The book is well written and very informative.
I was shocked at numerous points including to hear how women who were nurses/midwives/herbal healers were accused of being witches.
I listened to this and was shocked at the thoughts in previous time that the monthlies were a punishment for women not doing their duty of having a child and they should suffer with the pains especially as I was going through a monthly whilst listening. I’m now looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

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  • Amyjoanne
  • 10-30-21

Witchy read that’s perfect for spooky season

Told through the eyes of Jane, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John, the witchfinder who condemns her to death.
Jane is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world.
From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.

Inspired by the Newcastle witch trials, where 16 people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known about. In August 1650, 15 women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches.

Fantastic witch book just in time for Halloween! What sets it apart is the English setting as opposed to the usual Salem and I loved how you got the 2 sides of the story with both the witch and the witch Hunter.
The author has done her research with this novel and it shows not only with the writing but the plot and I’m looking forward to her next book.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, a thousand ships, a discovery of witches etc or your dream in life is to explore the French quarter of New Orleans as it is mine then DEFINITELY give this book a go. The perfect Halloween read 🎃 👻

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  • CP
  • 10-29-21

A fascinating portrayal


For a long time I've had a fascination about the Witch Trials of the 17th Century but had not been aware of the Newcastle Witch Trials, and so I listened avidly to this audiobook. The narration by Christine Mackie was spot on and set the scene for this period.

Well researched and absolutely fascinating. The narration painted a graphic picture of what these women had to endure. Highly insightful, and brought home the fact that anyone who was skilled in herbal lore, early midwifery or an apprentice of the same fell under prejudice and suspicion of being thought of or called a witch. This was especially true of the attitudes of many men towards women of this period.

A thrilling, disturbing fictional listen but a true portrayal of historical events. I can't wait to listen to the sequel.

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  • heidi
  • 10-28-21

Thought provoking

It's October so this was the perfect time for a witchy audiobook! I've never read or listened to a book about witches other than Meg and Mog when I was a child, so it was really interesting to dive into a story aimed towards adults.⁠

Knowing this was based off a true story sent shivers down my spine, and I found it quite hard to listen to some graphic parts of the book. I can't imagine what those women and men went through during the witch trials.⁠

I found that this one did drag at times, and there was only one narrator for all of the characters, despite there being a female and male POV. It would've added to the story if there were at least a male for the male POV, but that is just my preference when it comes to audiobooks.⁠

It really shows how much thought and research the author put into this book, and I particularly love how at the end they paid tribute to those who inspired this story and sadly lost their lives due to the witch trials. It was a really nice touch and a thought provoking element.

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  • Celticmouse
  • 10-26-21

Based on true events, this is a compelling story



Told from two points of view, Widdershins is a story of good and evil. Put simply there is Jane Chandler, an innocent, naive country girl and John Sharpe, a misogynist and fanatical witch-finder. The story follows their lives until they inevitably meet with all the terrible consequences that meeting implies.

Read beautifully by Christine Mackie, her voice helps to draw you into the story and 17th century life in England and Scotland. I enjoyed listening to this book partly because it meant I could listen almost anywhere and not have to put it down until I had a free block of time to read. Believe me I didn't want, couldn't put it down! I listened while cooking dinner, driving to the shops, doing household chores, whenever I had a minute.

In John Sharpe, Helen Steadman has created a terrible and memorable villain. From his brutal childhood to his marriage and the death of his wife and son, it is as if fate had determined to warp his personality. In each of his chapters the reader see him become more and more cruel and rigid in his belief that there were witches everywhere. He particularly hated the cunning women who delivered babies and treated the minor ailments in their communities. Although John has no redeeming features, I did feel a modicum of sympathy for him. He was after all, as much a victim of the times he lived in as the women he condemned.

The contrast with Jane Chandlers life couldn't be starker. Growing up in the safe and loving household of the local Rector, she had a carefree childhood learning her mother's skills. Jane is destined to be the local midwife and healer just as her mother was and her grandmother had been before her. She falls in love with a local boy whom everyone expects her to marry one day. Her path is set out before her and seems secure. That is until a trip to Newastle-Upon-Tyne with her mother changes her world forever..

Helen Steadman has woven an amazing tale with a startling ending that leaves the reader eager for more.


1 person found this helpful