Saturday, March 04, 2023

Being female is treacherous in these ten new and upcoming novels about historical witchery

Witches are an increasingly popular subject in historical fiction. Incorporating themes of misogyny and women's power, strength, and wisdom, these ten new and upcoming historical novels are set at various times in history. Many dramatize actual events. In some of them, the women's magic is real.

The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman

To secure her own liberty from the fortress on Vardø Island in remote northern Norway, the disgraced former mistress of Denmark's king agrees to help identify suspected witches... but the accused women won't make it easy for her. Set in the 1660s, about historical events. Bonnier, Jan. 2023.  [see on Goodreads]

The Weaver and the Witch Queen by Genevieve Gornichec

The two main characters here are Gunnhild, soon to be Queen of Norway in the 10th century, and Oddny, her childhood friend, in this novel of spells, sisterhood, and survival in the dangerous Viking age. Ace, July 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Devil's Glove by Lucretia Grindle

Set in what's now Maine in the late 17th century, The Devil's Glove looks at the historical events that led up to the Salem Witch trials from the viewpoint of a young woman caught between the worlds of the Puritans and local Native American tribes. Casa Croce, May 2023. [see on Goodreads]

Weyward by Emilia Hart

Three Englishwomen are linked by the gendered violence they've faced, and perhaps by something else. This multi-period tale spanning five centuries takes place in 2019, 1619, and during the WWII years.  St. Martin's, March 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Burnings by Naomi Kelsey

This debut novel dramatizes the North Berwick witch trials of late 16th-century Scotland through the story of two women, one Scots and one Danish, and the quest for power during a time of fear and superstition. HarperNorth, June 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Witch of Tin Mountain by Paulette Kennedy

In the Ozarks during the Great Depression, three women are linked by family connections and an evil presence that threatens to overshadow them all.  Lake Union, Feb. 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer

Fictionalizing the witch trials of mid-17th-century East Anglia, this debut centers on a village healer, a woman unable to speak, who gets drawn into assisting a traveling witchfinder and who must search her own conscience for a path forward. Scribner, July 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Last Witch of Scotland by Philip Paris

Two newcomers to a remote locale in the 18th-century Scottish Highlands, a mother and daughter, face unpleasant scrutiny and worse in a novel about the last person put to death for witchcraft in Britain. Black & White, April 2023. [see on Goodreads]

Solstice by Helen Steadman

This third novel in a trilogy, all of which deal with historical events, looks at the Riding Mill witch trials of 1673 Northumberland, in which a young servant girl gave testimony about suspected witches. One of the accused, in this version, is a woman whose family members had been executed for witchcraft. Bell Jar, Sept. 2023. [see on Goodreads]

The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch, by Melinda Taub

Even Jane Austen's characters are dabbling in witchcraft. The youngest Bennet sister from Pride & Prejudice, Lydia, is a witch and gets entangled in an entirely different sort of trouble. Mr. Wickham, for example, is a demon (literally). Grand Central, Oct. 2023. [see on Goodreads]


  1. Katharine5:41 AM

    I just heard a short talk about Weyward on Strong Sense of Place, it sounds intriguing, and a beautiful cover! On my TBR now and I even entered a giveaway (1/1100 chance!).

    1. I hadn't come across Strong Sense of Place before - is that the podcast? Looks interesting and worth checking out. Good luck with the giveaway!

  2. Katharine4:33 AM

    Yes, a podcast, a blog and emails too - the couple, Mel and Dave, live in Prague and provide such interesting items including books that pair with destinations they talk about. Love it!

    1. That sounds wonderful! I've signed up for their newsletter.

  3. Anonymous3:27 PM

    I'm learning just how violent Scotland was in the 17th century. BTW there is a main character named Maren in THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, which is about the Vardo witch trials in the 1620s.
    Sarah Librarian

    1. I know... we don't hear much in the US about the witch trials in Scotland. The Mercies is on my list to read. I haven't looked much into the background b/c of potential spoilers but I think some of the women in the Vardo books are based on historical characters.

  4. I'm so grateful that you put a Goodreads link in your articles. It makes it so easy to add these books to my to-be-read list!! Thank you.

    1. You're very welcome! That's why I include them, so I'm glad the links have been of use!

  5. The Devil's Glove is in NetGalley and The Witching Tide is on Edelweiss. I haven't checked others.

    1. The Last Witch of Scotland is also in NetGalley. Also, Sourcebooks is publishing THE WITCHES AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Chelsea Iversen in October, also set in Norway, and it is available in Edelweiss.

    2. I should grab a copy of the Iversen - I'm curious when it takes place, since the blurb doesn't say.