Reading Wednesdays – Book review: The Black Hours

  • Title: The Black Hours by Alison Williams
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

First off, I’d like to mention that this novel is very different from my typical reading preferences. This isn’t a young adult novel, nor is it fantasy. There is very little romance, and there isn’t really a happily ever after. The Black Hours is a very dark tale; written like fiction, but based on actual events that occurred in 16th century England.

The story follows two main characters – Matthew Hopkins, a documented witch hunter during the 16th century, and Alice Pendle, a fictional young woman who is suspected of witchcraft. The story goes through the process of how women were first suspected of witchcraft during those times, then goes into further detail into their trials and how the witch hunters would ‘prove’ the witches guilty.

Again, this is not a happy book. It is dark, gritty, and gruesome at times.

It was still fascinating.

The story was extremely well done – one could read the novel as fiction and it would provide everything a fiction reader would need. Suspense, action, resolution – even some much needed karmic retaliation. The hero and the villain were both fleshed out beautifully – you could see the reasoning behind both views – but the villain stayed very much a villain. (Yes, I’m being vague. I don’t want to ruin it for you.)

However, the story is also extremely depressing. It was heartbreaking to realize that the events that unfolded could have (and probably did) happen in those times. The unfairness, the inequality … I found myself getting frustrated and angry at the ignorance of many of the characters multiple times while reading. Sadly, the ignorance was real back then. There were no lie detectors, no means of sending to another town for impartial witnesses. Doctors weren’t around then, either – in fact, to claim to be a healer was one of the ways to be suspected of witchcraft. The fact that the author was able to infuse the reality of those times so authentically … it was absolutely amazing.

I would highly recommend this book for history lovers, especially old English history, or anyone interested in the details surrounding witch hunts of the middle ages.

I would NOT recommend this book for children, anyone with a weak stomach, or anyone overly sympathetic. There are detailed torture scenes, rape, extreme prejudice, fanaticism, and death. It is not for the faint of heart, but for anyone who is interested in the real events of that time period – this book is gold.

 

I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

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4 thoughts on “Reading Wednesdays – Book review: The Black Hours

  1. A detailed review which shows the reader enough about the book to interest them and let them choose if this book about the English witch trials would make it to their TBR pile. Thanks.

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