ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The King’s Witches by Kate Foster

The King’s Witches is published by Mantle and available now in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to Chloe Davies for the proof copy.

The King’s Witches by Kate Foster is a compelling and beautiful historical novel that gives voices to the women at the heart of the real-life witch trials in sixteenth-century Scotland.

Women whisper secrets to each other; it is how we survive.

1589. Princess Anna of Denmark is betrothed to King James VI of Scotland. Before they can wed, Anna must pass the trial period: one year of marriage to prove herself worthy of being Scotland’s new Queen. Determined to fulfil her duties to King and country, Anna resolves to be the perfect royal bride. Until she meets Lord Henry . . .

By her side is Kirsten Sorenson, her loyal and pious lady-in-waiting. But, whilst tending to Anna’s every need, Kirsten has her own secret motives for the royal marriage to succeed . . .

Meanwhile, in North Berwick, young housemaid Jura practises the healing charms taught to her by her mother. When she realizes she is no longer safe, she escapes to Edinburgh, only to find herself caught up in the witchcraft mania that has gripped not just the capital, but the new queen . . .

The King’s Witches follows three women over the course of a couple of tumultuous years. Princess Anna of Denmark leaves her country to travel to Scotland for a trial period before hopefully becoming the wife of King James VI of Scotland. She travels with her maid, Kirsten, a trustworthy companion to Anna but she has her own reasons for wanting to be in Scotland. The third woman is Jura Craig, a young Scottish woman trying to find her own way in the world, using the healing skills and charms her late mother, a so-called cunning woman, taught her.

Eventually the paths of these woman converge and I was wondering what the catalyst for that would be. The author did a brilliant job at pulling each strand together and there were plot points that I never guessed at. This was a worrying time for everybody, but particularly for women, as the witch trials were gathering pace. There are some shocking scenes in this book and it’s hard to comprehend that anyone with an ounce of sense could have believed any of it. Sadly, history tells us that it’s all true.

After loving Kate Foster’s debut, The Maiden, last year, I was really looking forward to The King’s Witches and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s so well-written and the kind of historical fiction that I like, where it’s full of atmosphere and true to the time it’s set in but has a contemporary feel to the language used. This story of three strong women, determined to survive in turbulent times, had me completely gripped from start to finish. I needed to know what would happen to them and hoped so hard that their outcome would be a good one, although it often seemed impossible. Foster has become a favourite author of mine and I’m now very much looking forward to book three.

Kate Foster has been a national newspaper journalist for over twenty years. Growing up in Edinburgh, she became fascinated by its history and often uses it as inspiration for her stories. The Maiden won the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect 2020 prize for new writers. She lives in Edinburgh with her two children.


  • Great review Nicola! I’m going to another event for this book tonight. Slightly worried I’ll be getting a reputation as a Kate Foster stalker! 😄

    • Thank you. Hope you enjoy the event. I bet she did some really interesting research for this book.

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