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When Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witch-finder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe.
But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witch-finder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft.
Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.

208 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 1, 2019

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About the author

Helen Steadman

5 books46 followers
Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. She is currently finishing her fifth book, Solstice, the final part of The Widdershins Trilogy. The trilogy was inspired by several witch trials in the north east of England, including the Newcastle witch trials of 21 August, 1650 where fifteen women and one man were hanged as witches.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the various cunning women in The Widdershins Trilogy, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.

The Running Wolf tells the tale of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, she uncovered some new evidence and published her findings in the Northern History journal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews
Profile Image for Natalie  all_books_great_and_small .
2,111 reviews79 followers
November 8, 2021
I received a gifted copy of this book to listen to in exchange for an honest review as part of the book tour hosted by Lovebookstours.

Sunwise is the sequel to Widdershins by Helen Steadman and picks up exactly where Widdershins ended.
I could listen to these books for hours at a time they are so captivating!
In Sunwise we continue to follow Jane and John. The two POVs are very distinguishable by the narrators excellent voices for both characters.
John is found out from his fraudulent witch finding ways in book 1 and manages to escape capture. But, he comes back into Jane's life with revenge at the forefront of his mind.
Poor Jane has a real shock when her beloved Tom returns from the Navy after being thought drowned but this isn't her only woe, as John is back on the hunt and all women are in danger of being hunted down as witches.
John is a despicable person who made my skin crawl and my stomach turn on a number of occasions, but this is such fine writing by the author to make me despise him so much.
I desperately wanted Jane to get her happy ever after, but you'll have to read it yourself to find out if she does!
Set I England in the 1600s, this book is so detailed in setting and descriptive language used and I felt I was there at times when listening to these amazing books!
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
984 reviews113 followers
May 23, 2019
I'm going to jump right in and say that Sunwise had me totally hooked. I barely put the book down and because of that I read it in only one day. I'll be honest, though... this story broke my heart but only books that really touch me have the power to do this and Sunwise was one of them.

Sunwise is the sequel to Widdershins, which I read almost exactly two years ago. I loved both books but I gotta say I think I liked this sequel a little bit more. It's always great when a sequel trumps the first book. My favorite part of it was definitely the writing. It was amazingly written! I absolutely couldn't get enough of it. I was practically inhaling it word for word.

Story wise I wasn't left disappointed either. I don't want to give away too much as to what happens. It's kind of hard to relay it, especially since I don't want to spoil the first book for those who haven't read it yet either. What I will say is that I could feel the desperation and fear of the superstitious times of the 17th century. Especially with the chapters in the point of view of John Sharpe, the witch-finder. This again attests to how well this book was written.

I also highly enjoyed Jane's point of view. I felt bad for her because she was in a situation that wasn't her fault and didn't deserve. I loved her for being such a good person, always trying to help other women and I was so rooting for her and Tom to make things work somehow. I'm not going to say if they do or don't because again I don't want to spoil things for other readers. What I can say is that I didn't expect the ending at all. It was a bit shocking but even so I thought it was definitely gripping the way it ended.

Sunwise by Helen Steadman was a well-written and raw story inspired by true events. If you're a fan of spellbinding historical fiction, then this is the book for you. I loved it and would recommend it for sure.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,182 reviews217 followers
April 4, 2019
Sunwise is the sequel to the author’s debut novel, Widdershins. Although Sunwise can be enjoyed as a standalone, it does refer to events in the previous book so I would definitely recommend reading Widdershins first. Both books are fairly short, so no excuse on that count! In her afterword, Helen Steadman describes how writing a sequel to Widdershins came about because its two main characters – John Sharpe and Jane Chandler – kept reappearing in her mind. She explains, ‘they continued to haunt me with their unfinished business’.

Like Widdershins, the events in Sunwise are recounted through the alternating narratives of witch-finder, John, and herbalist, Jane, who is now married to Andrew Driver and bringing up her daughter, Rose, the child of her first love, Tom. Once more, their two stories run separately but throughout the book the reader has the sense of the underlying inevitability that they will converge at some point. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that when they do come together it’s in the most dramatic and shocking way, delivering an unforgettable climax to the book.

I can completely understand how the character John Sharpe would continue to haunt the author’s mind because, as I wrote in my review of Widdershins, he seems to be the incarnation of pure evil. In fact, this is where those who have read Widdershins have an advantage because the insight the first book gives into his early life perhaps provides some explanation (but certainly not justification) for his future actions. Demented, delusional, violent, misogynist are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe John. His hypocrisy and arrogance is quite staggering and, at times, almost laughable. For example, seeking to justify giving into sexual temptation on his travels, he argues the women concerned, “In giving up their flesh to me […] felt themselves brought nearer to God, and that was something I could do for them. A small sacrifice of my own morals and these women could experience the Godhead”. I suspect I’m not the only reader who gave a little cheer when the consequences of John’s sexual indulgence are revealed.

Those who have read Widdershins will also have additional insight into how Jane comes to find herself in the situation she does at the beginning of Sunwise – (en)trapped in an unhappy marriage to Andrew, the best friend of her true love, Tom, and now pregnant with Andrew’s child. Despite resistance from Andrew (and the ever present risk of accusations of witchcraft), Jane is determined to continue offering her services as healer and midwife to the local community using the knowledge passed down from her mother. I loved the details of herbal remedies and their uses scattered through the book which had an almost poetic quality from the use of alliteration: rosemary for remembrance, mandrake to soothe mania, snowdrop to slow senility, ivy to take down inflammation.

Other lovely touches in the book were the descriptions of seasonal rituals such as constructing the corn dolly and kern baby for the harvest supper or the celebration of Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. I also liked the use of phrases from chapters as chapter headings, such as ‘A Pale Green Powder’.

I described Widdershins as ‘a fantastically atmospheric book that immerses the reader vividly in seventeenth century north east England’ and I consider the author achieves the same feat in Sunwise delivering another compelling and powerful story. I was pleased to learn the author is working on another book set in the 17th century and I, for one, will very much look forward to reading it.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Impress Books.
Profile Image for Linda Hill.
1,210 reviews31 followers
April 15, 2019
Witch finder John Sharpe is back to rid the world of his perceived evil.

Having so enjoyed the fabulous Widdershins by Helen Steadman, I knew I was in for a treat with Sunwise and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s a glorious and frequently harrowing intensity to Helen Steadman’s narrative style, coupled with a vibrant historical accuracy that hypnotises the reader and transports them to a world of superstition, tradition, religion and persecution. I cannot begin to express just how authentically accurate Sunwise is, or to comprehend the level of diligence and research that must have gone in to its creation. This is a marvelous example of historical fiction.

I thought the plotting of the novel, with alternate chapters given to John Sharpe and Jane Driver exemplified perfectly the balance of good and evil, religion and superstition, women and men. Sunwise presents a seventeenth century world as vividly as if the reader is experiencing it first hand and yet with themes that are as fresh and relevant to today’s century – from abuse to corruption, greed to love. It’s impossible not to be drawn into the events because of the fabulous quality of Helen Steadman’s writing.

The fervour of John’s obsessive religious viciousness is thoroughly terrifying, and he’s a character I could hardly bear to read whilst simultaneously being unable to avert my eyes. He brought out the very worst in my personality and I wished him personal pain and suffering with a passion that made me feel quite uncomfortable.

Conversely, Jane enhanced all that is good and positive in the face of adversity. I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending and you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out if my wishes were fulfilled!

If you love historical fiction that is authentic, fascinating and compelling with characters that thrum with life then look no further than Sunwise. Helen Steadman has established herself as a brilliant writer with the power to be as spellbinding as any of the witches John Sharpe is hunting. I thought Sunwise was brilliant and connot recommend it highly enough.

Profile Image for Alex (ReadingBetweenTheNotes).
488 reviews33 followers
March 31, 2019
Straightaway, I was reminded of how fantastic the author’s writing is. There is a real sense of quality to it, in her word choices and sentence composition. I particularly enjoyed the kern supper scene; Helen’s talent for descriptive writing is really displayed well here. It made me so hungry! Honestly, you could probably get away with reading this book as a standalone but I recommend reading the whole duology simply because the prose is such a treat.

Just like Widdershins, the narrative voices in this sequel are distinct and believable. I had no trouble whatsoever switching between the two perspectives; it was an instant shift. The reader goes from sympathising with Jane one minute to incredulous loathing towards John the next, and there is never any confusion or delay.

Once again, I adored the familiar settings of Scotland and North East England. I think part of why I love these books so much is that I recognise the local area and feel a connection with it.

I love witchy stories anyway but what Helen Steadman has created here is one of my favourites. The multitude of herb lore included shows that the author clearly knows her stuff, lending a wonderful level of believability to the story. Widdershins and Sunwise are both fabulous, and I passionately recommend them!
Profile Image for Harriet Springbett.
Author 3 books18 followers
April 6, 2019
What a pleasure to read a sequel whose quality surpasses its predecessor. While Widdershins is fascinating in terms of learning about the Newcastle witch trials and the diverse herbal remedies, Sunwise is the product of a more confident writer. I couldn't put the book down. The descriptions are rich, making me feel I was in the 17th century rural village, and I loved the occasional use of rustic words. The plot is simple yet convincing, the end satisfying and realistic. The character of John Sharpe is much better portrayed in Sunwise, where we see how he justifies his evil behaviour. He repulsed and horrified me in turn, and I both pitied him and feared what he would do. This is masterful writing, and I look forward to reading more work from Helen Steadman.
Profile Image for Alison  Banks.
96 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2020
This and widdershins are an absolute must read for anyone who is interested in witch lore and the North East of England and Scotland. I've spent two days reading these back to back and I'm left feeling I've lost a family I had never met. The points of view keeps the people alive and real as you go through the books, you live with Jane, Anne, Tom and of course the reverend. You laugh and cry as they do. I can not praise these books enough. I want to go back to the beginning and read them again and again.
Profile Image for Victoria Franklin Atweh.
4 reviews11 followers
November 3, 2021
I really enjoyed this! I was gifted the audible version and started listening to it and couldn��t stop! I was so invested in Tom and Jane’s story that I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next!
Profile Image for The Page Ladies.
713 reviews46 followers
October 28, 2021
Sunwise is just as gripping as the first book in the series! You don't have to read them in order but I would recommend it. There are a few details in the first book you will enjoy knowing as you continue the story of Jane & John! Helen Steadman does a fantastic job transporting us back to the 17th century! With characters you can’t help but like and the great world building The Widdershins series is a heartbreaking, gripping & fascinating story all in one! Happy reading everyone!
Profile Image for Ted Curtis.
Author 11 books15 followers
April 4, 2019
In Sunwise, Helen Steadman’s fast-moving and spellbinding sequel to her astonishing debut novel Widdershins, the attention to detail and historical accuracy displayed are informative and immaculate, the plot engaging, thrilling and endearing. The bowel-quivering twists and turns will have you hanging onto the edge of your seat (or, perhaps, seate) whilst reaching for your crock of valerian, and the intermittent moments of subtle comedy are guaranteed to raise a smile – not least the description of a blowjob from the point-of-view of our psychopathic puritan villain, the witch hunter John Sharpe; or in the deceptively simple line, the mute came quietly.

A little time has passed since Widdershins, but not too much: just enough for Jane Chandler (now Driver) to have become married to the obstacle to her ultimate happiness, the cad Andrew Driver; to have taken his name, and, believing her true love Tom Verger to be lost at sea, to have given birth to her first child Rose (fathered by Tom in a passionate Beltane tryst), and to have quickly been made pregnant again by Driver. But Tom has returned, he is not dead, and this sets up our initial quandary. There are fisticuffs and whatnot, and the intimation of forced sex and domestic abuse (it would be worse for me later) is made more than once. Likewise, we have our arch villain John Sharpe’s parallel journey, from madness to more madness, from debauched relapses to the eating of leaves that grow above ground in god’s sweet air, Jane always lurking somewhere in his diseased and febrile imagination, as once again they move toward one another through time and space to Sunwise’s brutal and horrifying denouement. Sharpe’s lynching of fifteen women and one man as witches at Newcastle in Widdershins not having been enough for him, he is now considering mass infanticide as a career option. But I’ll stop here, before I say too much.

As I have peradventure mentioned before, I am not much of a one for historical fiction, preferring the easy identification that comes with the urban and the modern, and I had to resort to audiobooks to get through both Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies; I suppose I must be lazy, unwilling to move out of my comfort zone. But despite the authentic linguistic tone employed throughout Sunwise, no doubt assiduously researched, I had no problem with the language at all – in fact, I was immediately immersed in the world of rural 17th Century northeast England. I can only put this down the beauty of Steadman’s writing and the precision of her plotting; I won’t betray any of the plot twists and developments to you here, but Sunwise is by turns heartbreaking, hilarious, thrilling, spilling, and endearing. Whatever you do, dear reader, don’t miss this one. Five stars.
Profile Image for Michelle Ryles.
1,133 reviews81 followers
April 28, 2019
Never a day goes by when I'm not excited about books, but I have to say that I was super-excited to get my hands on an early copy of Sunwise by Helen Steadman, the sequel to the superb Widdershins. Although you could read Sunwise as a standalone, I recommend reading Widdershins first, not only because it is firmly fixed as one of my favourite books, but to fully understand the history between healer Jane Chandler and witchfinder John Sharpe.

Jane should be happy with her life now that John Sharpe has left Newcastle and headed to Berwick to terrorise innocent women there. Jane is married with a beautiful daughter, who is the image of her father, and has another baby on the way but she feels great unease while John Sharpe remains free to roam the country hunting witches. John isn't the first face from Jane's past to appear though, as her sweetheart Tom, who Jane thought had died at sea after being press-ganged, returns home to find Jane married. My heart went out to this pair who were clearly meant to be together but devious minds would go to any lengths to keep them apart.

Helen Steadman's writing is exceptional and I adore the authenticity of her books, as I learned about some fascinating customs in this amazing historical fiction novel. Sunwise describes the harvest tradition of the corn dolly which was made to preserve good fortune for future crops and was also an ancient symbol of fertility. The way that Helen Steadman weaves the corn dolly custom into the story is breathtaking; it literally stole my breath as I gasped out loud at the brilliance of her imagination. I will certainly never underestimate the power of the corn dolly.

Based on true events, Sunwise is exceptionally well researched whilst still ensuring that the reader's eyes are firmly glued to the page as the threads of the fictional story begin to unravel. With the threat of John Sharpe hovering over Jane like a black cloud, it's only a matter of time before they meet again. Jane is the 'witch' that got away from John Sharpe last time they met, but will the luck of the corn dolly save Jane from his evil clutches once again?

I didn't just read Sunwise; I lived and breathed it. It's authentic, gripping and extremely compelling reading; if you're looking for something fresh and original in historical fiction, then look no further. I am still recommending Widdershins to friends, but with the addition of Sunwise Helen Steadman has created a perfect pair. Read one, and you'll be compelled to read them both; I can't predict the future but I know for sure that I will be recommending Helen Steadman's books for a very long time to come.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for Lisa.
46 reviews8 followers
August 18, 2019
Sunwise, Widdershins‘ sequel, is a captivating tale set in the 17th century. We follow Jane, a midwife, and John, a witch hunter. Their lives are intertwined and Helen symbolises this nicely through the different chapter point of views which alternate between the two characters.

John is obsessed with revenge and is determined to rid England of witchcraft. He is a disturbed character who despises women, because he cannot control his feelings of attraction or lust and in consequence he tries to get them hanged. This is illustrated through a prostitute who he cannot resist having sex with, as he fells an “overpowering” “urge” (29) towards her; hence, he assumes that she has devious powers and is a witch. When in fact he simply is physically attracted to her and has a sex drive. Reading about John’s deductions is… interesting, it provides insight into the thoughts of 1650 witch hunters. However, because of John’s gruesome deductions and actions this is not an easy read and is often sickening to think some thought (still think?) this way.

Jane, even though she appears to be a slightly passive character in this sequel, hints at being a strong woman who takes the chances she has and tries her best to help other women, such as her close friend May who needs to put an end to her pregnancy. In this way there are hints of feminism even though the novel is set at a time when women were reduced to house wives and ‘possessions’. Jane appears to be more and I would have greatly appreciated to have her more present and developed in this second novel. I kept rooting for her, hoping that she could be reunited with her lover and that her luck in life would turn. But alas, it was a time unfavourable for women…

The cover quote perfectly symbolises the events that take place in the story “There is a madness come upon England of late”, and we discover this madness in Sunwise. It is terrible to think that witch hunting actually took place, and that this novel isn’t just fiction, but inspired by true events.

This review is also available on https://dragonspirits.home.blog/2019/...
Profile Image for Nicola Smith.
900 reviews24 followers
November 3, 2020
*There is nothing in my review that isn’t contained in the blurb but that means that there are spoilers relating to the previous book, Widdershins.*

Last year I read Widdershins by Helen Steadman, coincidentally whilst we were on holiday in Northumberland where the book is set. I said at that time that if I hadn't known there was a sequel I would have been screaming out 'noooo' as it ended on such a cliffhanger.

Sunwise is that sequel and it picks up where Widdershins left off. I do think it's necessary to read Widdershins first. Sunwise works as a standalone but you'd miss so much of the back story. Once again we follow the paths of two people, John Sharpe and Jane Driver. Jane is newly married to Andrew, unhappily so as she really wants to be with Tom, her childhood sweetheart, but Andrew saved her when Tom wasn't there to do so. Jane is a really good person, a herbal healer, and I found her use of herbs and plants really interesting.

By contrast, John Sharpe is a witchfinder, already responsible for the death of Jane's mother. He's a wicked and delusional man who believes he is doing God's work. Steadman has written him as a genuinely terrifying person, and reading his thought processes was really chilling. It was very dangerous time for a woman, especially those who could heal, but actually even men weren't safe around John Sharpe.

I found Sunwise absolutely gripping. Steadman's writing drew me into the mid-1600s effortlessly, putting me right there with the characters. The writing style is authentic without being inaccessible, and the sense of place and time is really strong. Corn dollies form a part of the story and I was fascinated by the folklore behind them and the way they were burned at the harvest supper to (hopefully) bring forth a decent crop. The author immersed herself in research and it shows.

Sunwise is a fantastic read for historical fiction fans. From the beginning, in which I was tentatively hopeful, to the ending which shocked me to the core and had me holding my hand over my mouth, I was absolutely mesmerised by this story.
Profile Image for Susana Aikin.
Author 8 books38 followers
April 3, 2019
In this riveting sequel to Widdershins, Helen Steadman takes us once more into England’s seventeenth century, a time of political and religious strife, where the Church of England was still looking to squelch, not just Catholic practices, but also traces of the old religion in towns and rural communities. It was a time in which superstition and paranoia about witchcraft peaked, darkly serving a deeper trend by which the new patriarchy of the Modern State sought to destroy women’s power within communities by suppressing their knowledge of healing and herbs, their practice of medicine, and so undermine their authority within family and township. Accusations of witchcraft and dealings with the devil became a useful way of spreading terror and forcing women into unrestricted domestic submission.
This is the deeper story underlying the narrative of Sunwise, where a crazed and unsatisfied witch hunter returns for a woman he was unable to hang in the past for witchcraft; a woman he has become evilly obsessed with; a woman who although loved and respected in her community, nobody is really able to protect. The story is narrated in two voices belonging to Jane and John, the alleged witch and her witch hunter, both radically opposite in tone and intention, but that end up entwining in a daunting final denouement.
Steadman’s skilful and resplendent prose leads the reader easily into villages, manses and cottages, festivities and day-to-day lives, with amazing detail and descriptions of a past age that jump off the page of the novel. The historical research is rich; scenes and spaces, deliciously visual, and the language employed by the protagonists and throughout the narrative is authentic and consistent, transporting us back in time just by virtue of its ancient tonality.
A great read, not to be missed.
Profile Image for bookishcharli .
587 reviews84 followers
November 9, 2021
Sunwise picks up where Widdershins leaves off, and although you could probably read Sunwise without having read the first book I would recommend reading them both as there are references to the first book dotted throughout this one.

Much like Widdershins, we follow Jane and Mr Creepy witch hunter John as they narrate alternating chapters. Jane is now married and raising her daughter, and Mr Creepy is still being, well, creepy and awful but thankfully the actions of his abuse and sexual misconducts catch up to him in this book and I couldn’t have been more happier to finally listen to the consequences of his perverted actions. I was happy to see more of Jane and despite the unhappy situation she’s in, she still practices midwifery and healing to those who need it. I won’t go into much more detail as I don’t want to spoil Sunwise, or Widdershins, for anyone but you should all check out this book. It was just as amazing as the first one, and you can tell while reading through the alternating chapters it’s playing out like angel vs demon, good vs bad, and it really does stick in your mind.

Once again the narrator (Christine Mackie) has done such a fabulous job with bringing this book and it’s characters to life, I want her to narrate any historical fictions books I listen to in the future! If you’re a fan of historical fiction then you definitely want to pick up this book (and the first one if you haven’t already!).
5 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2019
Gripping Historical Read

A captivating sequel to Widdershins.. you can tell the incredible amount of research that has been done in order to recreate the terrifying times of women had to endure during the witch hunts of England and Scotland.. Helen has done it again. I can’t wait for her next novel!
Profile Image for Nicola Richardson.
285 reviews3 followers
November 2, 2019
Finding these books so interesting. I am so fascinated by the witch trials etc so to learn more about them happening locally is great. Even though these are fiction, I love the insight to the time. Really hope there is a follow up, even just a little short story to say what happens next between Tom and Andrew because they now have a huge reason to carry on their feud.
Profile Image for Lexie Conyngham.
Author 39 books94 followers
June 3, 2019
This follows on closely from Widdershins – not the initial plan of the writer, but the characters came and grabbed her, and you could sense it happening. Sometimes charming, sometimes disturbing, and very firmly set in its time and place – don’t expect an easy ride, though!
3 reviews3 followers
October 19, 2019
Another great book but pretty devastated about the ending. I was so invested
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kristel Greer.
523 reviews14 followers
November 8, 2021
I was sent a copy of this audiobook for review.
Jane Chandler's life was forever changed when John Sharpe had her mother put to death as a witch. Only narrowly escaping hanging herself, Jane returns home determined to continue her work of healer and midwife while also fiercely protecting her unborn daughter Rose from her mother's faith. However, Jane is unwed, with a child and is cruelly imprisoned for these crimes. The only way out is marriage to a man she doesn’t love. What she hadn’t bargained on was her past lover Tom and Rose's father to turn up alive and well. The couple is forced to contend with Jane's ill-begotten marriage that was orchestrated by Tom's so-called friend who tricked Jane into believing Tom was dead.

John Sharpe is reeling from his dealings with that witch Jane Chandler who damaged his reputation and cost him his living. Banished from Newcastle he plots his revenge on Jane and all evildoers in England. His warped mind and malicious intent see him accuse more innocent women of witchcraft but his ultimate goal is to track down Jane and finally see her burn for her devil worship.

As Tom and Jane pursue a way to release Jane from her false marriage, John’s vindictive beliefs that he is doing God's work while acting out his perverted desires will have devastating consequences for the pair.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. I listened to the audiobook for this sequel and this book’s story was harder to listen to and some aspects were truly upsetting. Listening to the events as they unfolded added intensity and emotional depth to the story. I felt for Jane deeply as she was constantly at the mercy of men - an unloving and abusive husband, a vengeful and sadistic witch hunter and sometimes Tom was belittling to her trauma and circumstance. As hard as this was to listen to at times, it was a gripping and important story to experience considering it is based on true events and portrays the horrifying situations women were put through at the hands of the men at this time.

TW: Swearing, graphic depictions of sex & violence
Profile Image for Monika Armet.
258 reviews12 followers
October 26, 2022
In this series the reader meets Jane Chandler, an apprentice healer. Her mother is a midwife and a cunning woman with great knowledge of herbs and plants. She passes all that knowledge to her daughter, who appears quite happy living in a small village tending to the sick.

John Sharpe is a man who endured a very unhappy childhood. He was sent to live with his Uncle, a man of kirk, but somewhat all the Bible teachings got twisted in his head.

Blaming the cunning women on all his misfortunes, John Sharpe is adamant to rid the country of all witches… It won’t be long until Jane’s and John’s paths will cross.

I loved this series. I found the books compelling, very well researched and rich in folklore. The author’s knowledge of plants and herbs shone through each page, and I enjoyed discovering more about the past customs and traditions.

I enjoyed the historical detail, too. The books were based on Newcastle witch trials of 1650, where 15 or 16 witches were tried and executed during the course of one day.

John Sharpe was also based on a historical figure of a Scottish witch-hunter. In the book, John was demented in his behaviour and lamentations, however, I enjoyed his ‘ramblings’ a lot! He was cruel and deluded, and I shivered whilst reading how he treated those poor women during their trials.

I admired Jane’s strength and all she had to endure.

This series will stay with me for a long time. I definitely recommend both books.
Profile Image for Ray Star.
Author 5 books26 followers
November 5, 2021
Sunwise is the sequel to Widdershins and is a brilliant addition to where we left off, following the protagonists Jane and John in their very different roles after the gut wrenching ending of book one (no spoilers - pet peeve of mine when people give the plot away in reviews!)

Jane is left to a life of misery that is impossible not to empathise with after all she has been though, yet she still finds the strength and bravery in her heart to continue healing, with her life on the line as a result.

John. Oh John. It’s hard not to despise his character with his complete lack of empathy and endless acts of cruelty, yet, of the two, his is my favourite narrative, as I believe the author gives a brilliantly accurate insight into the insanity that motivated the many witch trials suffered world wide throughout history.

Once again Helen delivers a brutal account of the realities of England during this time, delving into life behind the trials themselves, both at home in family life and my favourite insight - within the minds of those consumed by it.

Our country encapsulated by fear, led to so many acts of barbarity, with those inciting the acts, falling prey to the evil they claimed to be freeing the land from.

If you’re looking for a witchy read with accurate historical aspects, herbal lore a plenty and a story that will stay in your heart after the tale is over .. this duology is one for you✨
Profile Image for Claire (c.isfor.claire_reads) .
281 reviews7 followers
November 8, 2021

With Widdershins being my favourite audiobook for October, I couldn't wait to listen to the sequel, Sunwise.
Sunwise follows on from where Widdershins left off and again it's an absolutely amazing listen. Christine Mackie is again the narrator and sets the tone and period perfectly.

It's a character driven story, and follows John Sharpe, the Witchfinder and Jane Driver in their separate lives.
The retelling of time period in time is brutal in it's detail telling how much of the country was engulfed by ancient superstition which bred fear and assumption that women who practised herbal lore were witches. It was a dangerous period of time for women.

I've been enthralled yet again and whisked away into the mid 17th Century and lived and breathed it.
A superb listen with a climatic ending.

Another undeniable
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 listen for me, and I'm pretty sure it will be a contender for favourite audiobook for November.
Profile Image for Anne Carty.
141 reviews6 followers
November 7, 2021
I’m not really sure what to say about this book. Although I did enjoy this book I didn’t like it as much as Widdershins. I was really looking forward to this book because the previous did end on a bit of a cliffhanger so I wanted to see what happened next.

John Sharpe starts to spiral within this story and I found many of his chapters were very repetitive mainly because he was spiralling so I could find myself zoning out a little through his chapters

I still really enjoyed Jane’s chapters because after the trauma she experienced in book one I was hoping to see how she deals with that trauma and if she would end up happily ever after.

This wasn’t as dark or as gruesome the whole way through like Widdershins was but towards the end things turned so dark I almost cried. Trigger warning of harm to child. I felt physically sick reading the end of this story and not a lot of things got me as hard as this did.

The ending left me sad. Throughout the whole book I was waiting for the happily ever after and seeing things work out but unfortunately that didn’t happen. The ending really hurt.
Profile Image for Claire Ball.
98 reviews7 followers
November 6, 2021
First thing I need to say is you have to have read/listened to the previous book to read this one. It follows on brilliantly from the drama of Widdershins and allows the story to develop even further. It’s safe to say I didn’t like John Sharpe from the previous book but this book made me despise him! I’m not sure I really “liked” Jane as a character but I did feel for her immensely. Again, the narration was good and the accent often reminded me which point of view it was! I really enjoyed these two books and will certainly be reading/listening to more by Helen - starting with The Running Wolf in January.
Profile Image for Jen.
455 reviews9 followers
March 19, 2022
Although I enjoyed the story and it was satisfying to come a conclusion I found certain parts of this book really unedifying. I know we are meant to hate the witchfinder John Sharpe and root for Jane but he really is despicable, almost a comedic villain at times. It was difficult to read certain parts. Maybe I am feeling a bit squeamish today as my opinion is going against the general consensus. It's a good read, just certain elements were a bit overdone.
119 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2021
This book continues off where the first book Widdershins finished. This book concentrates more on the personal lives of Jane and John.
We follow Jane as she discovers that Tom is alive and Andrew tricked her into Marriage, taking over from her mother as a Midwife and planning to escape to the new world with Tom. I really liked Jane and was rooting for her and Tom the whole why through the book.
Then there's John who is just decending into if you ask me insanity! He see's everyone as evil continuing to accuse innocent people of witchcraft and blaming this for his own 'weakness' and when he gives into temptation.
Although I slightly enjoyed the first book more I still enjoyed this one even if it didn't have the happy ending I was hoping for. Again I really enjoyed the narratiation if this and will definitely be open to more audiobooks and will definitely read more books by Alison
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Natasha Mairs (Serenity You).
271 reviews16 followers
November 4, 2021
This is the second book in the Widdershins duology.

After leaving us on a cliffhanger in the last book, I couldn't wait to get started on this one. It follows all the same characters as before and each chapter is told by either Jane or the horrible John Sharpe.

Don't want to give too much away, as you need to read the first book first. But the carries on where we left off. I just loved this book so much. Loved all the characters. Well, I actually hated John Sharpe but shows how good the author made him to make me feel like that.

The ending of this was just explosive! It was shocking and brilliant at the same time.

A massive 5 out of 5 stars. I think this is my favourite series. and has I listened to them on audiobooks I really need to get them in paperback.
Profile Image for M.
117 reviews5 followers
April 14, 2022
I devoured this book.
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