Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT The Black Hours by @Alison_Williams #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Luccia she blogs at

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Luccia chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams.


Chilling Historical Fiction

The Black Hours is not an easy novel to read because it’s based on the true story of a cruel witch-finder during the English Civil War, in the 17th century.

Alison Williams thrust good and evil upon me disturbingly, because at the beginning, evil is shown to have the upper hand. I was outraged as I was taken inside the vicious witchfinder’s sick and manipulative mind, which enabled him to enlist the help of the landowners, magistrates, other members of the clergy, as well as some spiteful townspeople. I was shocked by the plight of the hopeless good people like poor Alice, who was constantly in the throes of a dreadful situation, because she was almost alone, poor, and helpless.

I was appalled and angered by the rampant misogyny, injustice, and violence for three-quarters of the novel, until eventually a small light shone, and a sensible and respectable hero appeared. At last I had some hope that the situation would improve, and it did, in a way which may not be totally satisfactory for those of you who like HEA, but in the only way such a dark episode could end realistically.

I loved the way Alison transported me to rural 17th century England, into the cottages, the prisons, and the courts, making me feel I was really there as I squeezed my kindle in horror. I couldn’t stop reading in spite of the distress I was feeling, because I really felt sympathy and concern for Alice and her grandmother’s plight.

The Black Hours is a must for lovers of well-written historical fiction, which deals with ordinary people and factual events, and for readers who don’t mind being chilled to the bone.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Crystin reviews The Black Hours by Alison Williams

Today’s book review comes from Crystin, she blogs at


Crystin Chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

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.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Karen reviews The Black Hours by Alison Williams

Today’s book review comes from Karen, she blogs at


Karen chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

My Opinion

The book introduces you to Alice, a 17-year-old girl and her grandmother Maggie. Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General accuses them of witchcraft. I will not tell you more about the story than shown in the Goodreads plot description. This would spoil the fun of reading this book yourself.

With The Black Hours, Alison Williams has created a compelling story of women accused of witchcraft and their Puritan prosecutor Matthew Hopkins. The Black Hours is a story based on historic events, Matthew Hopkins’ activities were done ‘in God’s name’, and show some pitch black hours of history, indeed; 200-300 women had to die. Alison Williams did a thorough research and elaborated a gripping read. It is a story that grips and holds you in its spell. I felt rather close to the events, at times a little too close for comfort. All characters very believable for this time in history. It is easy for the reader to decide if someone is friend or foe. The Black Hours is a good read for fans of history novels, readers who can put up with this intense story.

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Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Melissa reviews The Black Hours by Alison Williams

Today’s book review comes from review team member Melissa, she blogs at


Melissa chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

Good golly. Talk about intense. I had never heard of Matthew Hopkins until reading Williams’ The Black Hours. Learning that he was in fact an actual human being was almost more than I could stand. (I was having a hard enough time when I thought he was fictional.)

The book is aptly named. Serious dark hours will be before you, reader, you have been warned. We are talking injustice piled onto injustice, served with a heaping side of (you got it) injustice.

But if you’re fascinated by history — especially Witch Trials — you will find this to be a trip back in time. It’s clear that Williams took great care in her research. The characters are vivid (I liked that both the persecuted and persecutor told their views — made it all the more horrifying), and the writing is smooth. If you’re looking for a Halloween read, check it out. You’ll certainly get chills.

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Rosie’s Book review Challenge – A review by Cindy

Today we have a review from book review challenger Cindy Harrison. Her website is

Rosie's Book Review Challengers 1

Cindy chose to review “The Black Hours” by Alison Williams.

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

Here is her review.

Although the chilling historical novel The Black Hours by Alison Williams is fiction, it is written with such detailed realism that readers will feel they are in the village of Coggeshall where the story is set. In this bucolic and tranquil place, Alice Pendle and her grandmother are midwives and herbalists with a deep affinity for helping those in need. When they come under the jealous eye of a competing midwife, Annie Everard, this woman spreads rumors about the Pendles, hoping to blacken their name and steal their business. In this, she more than succeeds.

Matthew Hopkins is an historic figure who here is known as the Witchfinder. When he comes to Coggeshall searching for witches, Annie is more than willing to point the finger at the Pendle family. With excruciating detail, Williams describes the horrors that were the witch hunts of old. Midwives were often blamed when a mother or child died, and herbalists were celebrated when they brought the ill back to health. As we now know, these early keepers of medicinal knowledge did not have the power or the wish to kill, only to heal. This is especially true of the Pendles.

                Superstitions of the times swept the lands and the horrifying portrayal of the torture and degradation suffered by Alice Pendle and her grandmother as they is put through the dishonest and shameful rigors of Hopkins’ Witchfinder ways is not easy reading. Williams is a skilled storyteller, but make no mistake, this tale is a dark one from a black chapter in human history. Williams does not shy away from the details that make it so, and for that she deserves highest praise.

                There are also moments of light, but to tell these would be to spoil the story for readers. Suffice to say, there is evil afoot in Coggeshall, and the good news is it does not entirely prevail. Williams is a writer of power and strength and deserves a wide audience for her compelling work. – Cynthia Harrison

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Rosie’s Book Review Challenge – A Review from Barb

Continuing with the posting of reviews written by readers who took up The Book Review Challenge, today our review is from Barb. She blogs at

Rosie's Book Review Challengers 1

Barb chose to read “The Black Hours” by Alison Williams.

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

Here is Barb’s review.

In the three years of his short career as Witchfinder General from 1644 to 1647, young Matthew Hopkins was directly responsible for the deaths of over three hundred women. What author Alison Williams wants to know is not what happened or even how or why. What she sets out to examine in The Black Hours is who. Who were the murdered women, who were their accusers, and even who was the young man who became the Witchfinder?


She introduces us to a tiny English village, Coggeshall, where seventeen-year-old Alice Pendle lives with her Grandmother Maggie—Margaret Prentice, the village healer. Against the polarizing backdrop of religious and political divisions of the Civil War, witch-hunters claiming to have grants of safe conduct travel the Puritan and Parliamentarian strongholds. They are accompanied by women who administer witch tests such as “pricks” —needle piercings, often faked—to “prove” accusations of witchcraft, an often lucrative career financed by frightened local officials.


When Maggie and Alice are suspected of witchcraft, we see the proceedings from several points of view. Their neighbors—by turns vindictive, bullied, righteous, or frightened—are the accusers. Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins is secure in his belief that he is fulfilling his religious duty, contemptuous of the simple villagers who don’t immediately follow his commands, and self-righteously determined to fight the devil he sees in basically everyone except himself. He has no hesitation in ordering their arrest, torture, and trial. But there are others who don’t give up, who are willing to fight against what they believe is unjust.


What makes The Black Hours so interesting to me is the unusual choice to alternate point of view between the victims and their accuser. Alice’s story is difficult to read in places, as she’s subjected to assault, torture, deprivation, and loss. But it is also one of triumph, a quiet individual victory. With the perfect hindsight vision of history, we want to see the Witchfinder as a monster, his victims as powerless pawns, his allies as weakminded minions. But what we get instead are strong women who fight what they see as the sin of false confession. We see a weak, increasingly sick young man who has no real grasp of the events he thinks he’s orchestrating. And most interesting of all, we see the neighbors. Not only are there the malicious or easily manipulated accusers, but there are those who become increasingly infuriated by the abomination perpetrated against their families and friends. If there are victors or triumphs in this story, and if there is a message, it is that these everyday people are inherently good, and eventually victorious.


There is so much I found fascinating in this story. Alison Williams gave us an amazingly detailed description of everyday seventeenth century lives, with meticulous research and beautiful descriptions of people and places. But more than that, she made me think about so many other witch hunts throughout history. Like Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, it serves as a parable for political witch hunts such as McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee’s infamous hearings that led to the blacklisting of the anti-Communist purge of the American film and media industry.


Seeing the way the Witchfinder is eventually discredited by those he confidently bullied reminds me of CBS news anchor Edward R. Murrow’s challenge to McCarthyism. “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrines and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular.”


Because she made me think, because she wrote a challenging and entertaining book, and because she succeeded in bringing a difficult historical page to life, I would give five out of five stars to The Black Hours

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Blackwater by Alison Williams

BlackwaterBlackwater by Alison Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blackwater is a prequel to The Black Hours and is a short novella telling the story of Alice Pendle’s mother and father. We first meet Lizzie, Alice’s mother in Eversley in Hampshire where she lives with her mother Maggie. They are medicine women or “Cunning women” as they are known, who use herbs to heal the sick.

Often feared because of their ways, they have already moved five or six times to avoid prosecution from those who would call them witches. This is the tale of how Lizzie and Samuel Pendle fall in love and what drives them to move to Coggeshall which is where The Black Hours begins.

This book will work well as a companion book to The Black Hours which deals with the English Witch Trials.

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View all my reviews on Goodreads

The Black Hours

Find a copy here on or, read my review of The Black Hours here

Alison is also featured in my Editing and Publishing page at the top of the blog, got writing you want help with? Check out Alison’s editing services here

Catch up with my Guest Author interview with Alison Williams here