Power & persecution: the best books about witches

From heart-breaking tales inspired by true stories to modern-day thrillers and non-fiction explorations of the criminalization of female power, don't miss our edit of the best books about witches.

From rich fantasy worlds to modern-day thrillers and historical fiction based on real witch trials, we're spellbound by books about witches. And it doesn't stop there, our collective fascination with witchcraft has also taken hold of the non-fiction shelves in the form of Mona Collet’s In Defence of Witches, which examines the dark past of female persecution, and its echoes in the twenty-first century.

So whether it's eery tales from bygone eras you're looking for, or a modern-day take on reclaiming and reframing the craft, here, we've collected our edit of the very best books about witches. 

The Women Could Fly

by Megan Giddings

Book cover for The Women Could Fly

For fans of Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler, The Women Could Fly is a feminist dystopian novel that speaks to our times. In a world where witches are real and unmarried women over the age of thirty must be monitored by the state, Josephine Thomas is twenty-eight, ambivalent about marriage and on the cusp of losing autonomy over her own life. It's been fourteen years since her mother's disappearance, and Jo has heard ever possible explanation from kidnapping to murder . . . to witchcraft; but all these years later, she feels she's never understood her mother more. So when she's offered an opportunity to honour one last request from her mother's will, she takes it . . .

Hare House

by Sally Hinchcliffe

Book cover for Hare House

On a crisp autumn day a woman travels to London, having left her post at a London girls school in murky circumstances. She starts to explore the land around her cottage on the isolated Hare House estate, walking the moors and woodland. And she begins to hear unsettling stories, of witches, strange clay figures, and young men scared out of their wits. Having made friends with her landlord Grant and his sister Cass, doubts begin to descend. And when a snowfall traps the inhabitants of the house together, the tension escalates . . .

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

This stunningly evocative novel set on the remote Norwegian island of Vardø in the 1600s was inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left, still grieving for their men, are forced to fend for themselves. Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Ursa sees independent women for the first time in her life, and she is drawn to Maren, the young woman who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. But Absolom is convinced that the women’s behaviour is ungodly and he must bring them to heel by any means necessary.

In Defence of Witches

Book cover for In Defence of Witches

A fascinating take on the witch hunt, documenting historical persecution of women, and tracing it into the modern-day. Mona Chollet examines three archetypes from historical witchhunts: independent women; childless women; and women for whom ageing is acceptable. Her argument is that by looking at the lives of those who lived differently in the past, we can seek roles in the present that allow us to live more interesting lives, unfettered by societal limitations.

The Familiars

Book cover for The Familiars

17 years old, married, and pregnant –  Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, with her husband expectant for his first heir. But when she finds a secret letter from her doctor, she is broken by the news that she will not survive the pregnancy. 

That is, until she meets Alice Gray, a young midwife who promises Fleetwood a healthy birth. Despite accusations of witchcraft that haunt Alice, she agrees, and the lives of the two women become more and more entwined. 


by Susan Dennard

Book cover for Witchshadow

Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling fantasy series continues – with the story of Iseult, the Threadwitch. The Witchlands have been on the brink of war, and in the fourth book in this epic fantasy series, it arrives. Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.

Ruin and Rising

by Leigh Bardugo

Book cover for Ruin and Rising

Welcome to Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse: Ruin and Rising is the third book in the series. The fate of the nation sits with a ruined sun summoner, a tracker who has been disgraced and last remnants of once-triumphant mystic army. Meanwhile the Darkling rules from a shadow throne, as Alina tries to recoup after their last battle. Her hopes for the future lie with an age-old mythical creature, and a vanished outlaw prince...