Select one of the keywords
The Witch's Trinity    by Erika Mailman order for
Witch's Trinity
by Erika Mailman
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's the bitterly cold winter of 1507 ('the second year of no harvest') and the villagers are slowly starving in the tiny burg of Tierkinddorf, deep in the woods of Germany. Neither prayer nor sacrifices to the old gods have helped. Elderly Güde Müller suffers particularly as her daughter-in-law Irmeltrud - whose 'face expressed the very fume of Eve when she realized the apple had undone all the good' - resents sharing what little sustenance they can forage with her mother-in-law as well as her husband and two small children, Alke and Matern.

Irmeltrud suggests that witchcraft is at the root of the famine and that 'there's talk of old Künne Himmelman', the local healer and Güde's good friend. When Güde's son Jost goes out to check his traps, Irmeltrud pushes Güde out into the cold, holding the door closed against the frail old woman. Güde begins to have visions - of witches, familiars, her dead husband Hensel, rich meat, and signing the devil's book.

It's a situation ripe for trouble, and trouble soon finds Tierkinddorf, in the form of fat Friar Johannes Fuchs, who urges the villagers to denounce the Hexen (witches) amongst them. A black cat hangs around Güde, who fears what Irmeltrud might do. But it's her friend Künne who's denounced - and eventually burned - by the very people she has helped in the past. Only Jost and Güde speak for her, to their own risk.

Then Jost and a group of other village men head out on a hunting party, planning to be away for weeks. Old Güde is left at the mercy of her vindictive daughter-in-law. There's a sense of inevitability to the events that unfold, but Erika Mailman takes them in unexpected directions, and parallels the tale with Güde's fantastic visions - are they simply the product of starvation and the kind of cognitive deficits common to the elderly?

Readers wonder what is real in The Witch's Trinity, a haunting tale with elements of horror. We feel for old Güde, a sympathetic character and a good woman, caught up in evil times. Though frightened, confused, and desperate, she manages to save someone dear to her, 'a shimmering, wholesome sign that there is good in the world.' In her Author's Note, Mailman talks about the horrific reality behind the fiction, and of the accusations of witchcraft made against her own ancestor. I highly recommend The Witch's Trinity.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews