Top Ten Tuesday: 10 books about witches and witchcraft

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a “Halloween/Creepy Freebie”. I seem to have read a lot of books about witches in the last few years, so I’ve chosen ten of them to list here.

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1. Corrag by Susan Fletcher

Also published as Witch Light and The Highland Witch, this is a beautiful, moving story about a young girl accused of witchcraft and the part she played in one of the most tragic moments in Scotland’s history – the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. The writing style is unusual and it took me a while to get used to it, but I’m glad I persevered because this really is a lovely book.

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2. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Not a scary book at all, but a gentle, comforting one. When Gilly’s cousin Geillis dies, leaving her a cottage in the countryside, Gilly finds that she has also inherited a black cat and a collection of magic spells. Could Geillis have been a witch? As with most of Stewart’s novels, there are some beautiful descriptions of nature, a likeable heroine and a touch of romance.

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3. The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

This novel is narrated by Alice Hopkins, a fictional sister of Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General who was believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of women in England during the 17th century. Alice’s story didn’t interest me much, but I found it fascinating to read about the methods Hopkins used to identify witches.

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4. The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton’s latest novel follows an investigation into the murder of three teenagers in a small Lancashire town near Pendle Hill, a place associated with witchcraft since the Pendle Witch Trials of the 17th century. As Florence Lovelady attempts to solve the crime she discovers a coven of modern day witches operating in the town. Could they be connected with the murders?

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5. The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

Set in the 1380s, this novel has everything I’ve come to expect from Karen Maitland: the dark atmosphere, the elements of the supernatural, and the twisting, turning plot. As well as hints of witchcraft, the story also features a ghost – and every chapter begins with a charm or a spell to protect oneself from witches.

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6. Circe by Madeline Miller

A mythological witch next! I loved this beautifully written novel by Madeline Miller which fleshes out the character of Circe, the witch from Homer’s Odyssey. I was surprised to see how many different Greek myths Miller incorporates into Circe’s story.

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7. Widdershins by Helen Steadman

Set in the 17th century, this novel describes the events leading up to the Newcastle Witch Trials of 1650 which resulted in the largest number of people in England’s history being executed for witchcraft in a single day. With half of the book following the witchfinder responsible for hunting down the so-called witches, and the other half following one of the accused women, we are given both sides of the story. The sequel is coming next year!

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8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy which follows the adventures of witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont. I wasn’t at all sure that this would be my sort of book, but I found that I loved the combination of romance, history, adventure and fantasy.

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9. The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge

Set during the English Civil War, the white witch of the title is Froniga, a healer and herbalist. Like Thornyhold above, this is a gentle, beautifully written ‘witch’ story, rather than a creepy one. Although there are themes of magic, mystery and mythology, it was the details of 17th century village life and the lovely descriptions of the countryside that I enjoyed the most.

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10. The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe

Also published as The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, the final novel on my list follows a 20th century history student as she attempts to track down a spell book belonging to Deliverance Dane, one of the women accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

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Have you read any of these – or any other books about witches or witchcraft?

21 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: 10 books about witches and witchcraft

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    I’ve read Thornyhold, Circe, A Discovery of Witches, The White Witch, and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Of those, Circe and The White Witch were my favorites. I guess this topic is something that appeals to me!

    I have to put in a plug for Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones, or indeed almost any of her books. She takes the “witch-hunter” trope and stands it on its head by setting it in a modern boarding school – and making it funny. No small feat.

    • Helen says:

      I still haven’t read anything by Diana Wynne Jones but I’ve heard so much praise for her books I think I’ll have to try one soon. Witch Week sounds like a good one.

  2. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    LOVE your list! The Witchfinder’s Sister, Widdershins, A Discovery of Witches, Circe and The Vanishing Witch are all on my TBR, and I am immediately adding The Craftsman to that list. I went to university in Lancaster, where the Pendle Witch Trials were held, so that sounds like the perfect read for me. I really enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – can’t wait for The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs next year! – and I’m so pleased to see Corrag on your list, because it’s such a beautiful novel and not enough people know about it.

    • Helen says:

      I hadn’t heard about The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs – that’s good news! I wasn’t really a huge fan of Deliverance Dane, but I’m still interested in reading a sequel. Corrag is a lovely book. I’m glad you liked it too. 🙂

  3. Pam Thomas says:

    Corrag is a lovely book, and Susan Fletcher writes so beautifully – her ‘The Silver Dark Sea’ is one of my favourites.
    For me, one of the best witch books is Robert Neill’s ‘Mist over Pendle’, which is a really vivid depiction of early 17th century country life, with added witchcraft – here, the Pendle witches are evil and malicious (he also wrote quite a few other books with witchcraft as a theme). For an alternative view of them, try ‘The Daylight Gate’ by Jeanette Winterson.

    • Helen says:

      Corrag is a beautiful novel. I haven’t read The Silver Dark Sea yet, but I’m reading Susan Fletcher’s new book, House of Glass, at the moment and enjoying that one too. I’ll have to try the other two books you mention – I’ve been meaning to read Mist Over Pendle for years.

  4. whatmeread says:

    I absolutely loved Corrag. Of the others, I read Thornyhold a long time ago and didn’t even remember it had anything about witches. I also liked A Discovery of Witches, although I felt the trilogy languished after a while and haven’t read any of the others. I think I might have Circe on my shelf at Netgalley. I liked the Physik Book of Deliverance Dane and didn’t realize there was a sequel. I also read a lot of Goudge years ago, but I don’t think I read The White Witch. Nice list! I think I’d like to try the Bolton book and maybe some of the others.

  5. Lark says:

    I love Thornyhold and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane! They’re two of my favorites. And I can’t wait to read Bolton’s newest, Craftsman. Great list! 🙂

  6. FictionFan says:

    Corrag sounds great – must try to read it sometime! And I have a copy of The Craftsman to look forward to. This is a very appealing selection of books, I must say… too appealing!

    • Helen says:

      I think you might enjoy Corrag, especially with the Scottish setting. The Craftsman is great – one of Bolton’s best books for a while, I thought.

  7. jessicabookworm says:

    Lovely choices Helen 🙂 Sadly I have only read A Discovery of Witches, but there are many more on your list I am looking forward to reading. An historical witch story I really enjoyed was Witch Child by Celia Rees and, on a completely different note, I love the fantastical Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.

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