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Wakenhyrst – Book Review

Wakenhyrst on my Kindle

What is it about?

In an isolated corner of the Suffolk fens stands an old manor house, inhabited by a lonely girl called Maud and her repressive father. Enduring an overbearing patriarchal and Christian existence, Maud finds solace in the nature surrounding her, but when her father discovers a painted medieval devil in the local graveyard, Maud’s life becomes infinitely more complicated. And dangerous.

Maud must battle to protect the home she treasures, the nature she adores, and the people she loves. She must find her way to safety and sanity in a world steeped in witchcraft, age-old legends, and her father’s shocking past.

My thoughts

I adored the first half of this novel. It was refreshingly easy to read, written from Maud’s perspective. The setting came alive, and even now I can see the starlings swooping over the fens, taste the dust from the dry summer roads, feel the damp cold creeping over my body from the dank water.

Maud had my sympathy from the start, although she is somewhat of a hard child, and I was rooting for her to triumph. The author set the tone for Edwardian England perfectly, where the man of the house was master of all things. My stomach twisted with rage at Maud’s mother’s brutal and careless treatment, and at her father’s conceited and ignorant views on women in general. I smirked with Maud as she outwitted her father, stood up to the reverend’s daughter, and speared the mean housemaid with a particularly sharp insult. Indeed, Maud’s development from naïve child to intelligent, proactive and somewhat cynical teenager was the driving force throughout this novel and something I really enjoyed.

The second half was a little slow at times, with unnecessary repetition of events. I would also say that nothing about this novel scared me in a supernatural sense. This is not a ghost story. It is the tale of one man’s past catching up with him, and of insanity. The most chilling part for me came towards the end when certain peoples’ lives came under threat, but I’m not saying anything more because of spoilers. I didn’t need to be scared; the novel was still beautifully gothic in the use of the setting and descriptions.

Overall, I really enjoyed Wakenhyrst. It was not fast-paced. I would not call it a thriller or much of a mystery, although it begins with a murder and the question of why it was committed. I felt it was more of a gothic drama, perhaps even a coming-of-age story but with a decidedly dark edge. I know Maud and Wake’s End will remain with me for a long time, and I will find myself back in the fen when I least expect it.


“As she lay in bed it occurred to her that between religion and superstition there was no difference, since both were based on unreason. To kill a man to redeem the sins of others was as irrational as tapping a hole in one’s eggshell to stop a witch using it as a boat.”

“She’d always loved how Wake’s End looked from outside. Its bumpy roofs were splashed with orange lichen and its dormer windows poking from the attics looked like eyebrows over its shaggy green ivy-clad face. The ivy kept Maud safe, and she befriended the creatures that lived in it: wasps, spiders, whole families of sparrows. She would lie in bed watching the rustly green light filtering through the leaves and listening to the magpies stomping about on the roof. The old house was home to thousands of wild creatures. Not even Father could evict them.”

Recommend for…

Fans of historical gothic fiction. People who want something dark but easy to read. People who want to immerse themselves in nature and a way of life different from today.

About the author

From her amazon page:

Born in Malawi to a Belgian mother and a father who ran the tiny 'Nyasaland Times', Michelle moved to the UK when she was three. She was brought up in Wimbledon and, following a Biochemistry Degree from Oxford University, she became a partner in a big City law firm. She gave up the City to follow her long-held dream of becoming a writer.

Successfully published as an adult author, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness ("Wolf Brother") were her first books for younger readers, followed by her brilliant 5-part series set in the bronze age, Gods and Warriors. 

On the adult side, her first ghost story, DARK MATTER, was a UK bestseller and won massive praise from reviewers and readers, as did her second ghost story, THIN AIR.

Find out more about her work by visiting her website. Get Wykenhurst by clicking here.


About the author

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods is an author who loves to write historical mysteries and thrillers. 

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