Wednesday, November 23, 2016

REVIEW: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder's Sister
by Beth Underdown

Publisher: Viking
Page Count: 400
Release Date: March 2, 2017
Format: Kindle ARC

How got: ARC via NetGalley

First attention getter: subject matter


From GoodReads:

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...

1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women's names.

To what lengths will her brother's obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

Given my recent reading trends, I dove into this book with a certain amount of anticipation. The writer does a fantastic job in setting the scene and creating a suspenseful tale. Characterizations for the most part were done well; I found myself drawn into the journeys of most everyone. The one person I had a hard time connecting with initially, Alice, I still could understand her motivations and actions, though. This was a promising start for this debut author.

The historical tale explored in this book grips the reader hard. A tension-filled countryside at war is a lush background for the swamp of accusations, interrogations, trials, and executions of women falsely accused. The author knows how to create an enthralling scene in which the reader finds themselves turning page after page to find out what happens next. She portrays the fear-filled atmosphere of 1640s England held under the sway of a Civil War and witch trials fantastically.

One of the main draws for me in this title was the person of Matthew Hopkins. Most casual history lovers nowadays won't know his name or his impact on history. So to see him brought so vividly to life was a pleasure. He's given motivations for why he hunted down women so ruthlessly, and his background creates a window into his soul. The author does a great job at making him such a slime ball that you want to kill him; yet, at the same time, you understand why he acts the way he does and you kinda empathize with him, ass-munch though he is. That's characterization done well.

Alice, for the most part, I enjoyed, especially in the latter half of the book. In the beginning though, I found her to be too passive. She seemed to let others dictate her life with little argument. I also found her hesitation to tell Matthew of her condition to be exasperating. In the end though, given how he sees women I don't think he would've acted differently if she had. Still, I wished she would've had more gumption and spunk in the beginning.

As the poop hit the proverbial fan though, Alice started to grow a spine. As accusations started to fly and danger grew fast, Alice looked for ways to help, especially those she cared about or grew to care for. By the time the book's climax hit, I admired Alice. While her actions may not have been the smartest choices, she still acted from her heart and with courage.

This book is a journey through hard times, exploring tragedy, misogyny, and of the perils of being a woman in 1600s England. The author explored new ground for me in the form of Michael Hopkins and his characterization. I enjoyed seeing him and the fictional Alice brought to life. The author used these two, their relationship, and their society to explore some harsh themes. Despite some issues with characterization in the books first half, I feel this is a strong introduction for the author. I look forward to more.

Note: Book was received for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley too but haven't started it yet. I can't wait to read it, after reading your review. This is a time period I'm particularly interested in, but I haven't read anything about Matthew Hopkins before, so I'm looking forward to learning more about him.

    1. It was definitely worth all the hype; I enjoyed it. :)