Review: The Running Wolf by Helen Steadman

Posted December 10, 2020 by Stephanie in Reviews / 12 Comments

Title: The Running Wolf
Author: Helen Steadman
Publication: December 1st 2020 by Impress Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo
Rating: 3.5/5

When a German smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne’s powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest?

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising.

Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Germany who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason.

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

Aside from The Running Wolf having a really beautiful cover, the story itself was also a fascinating one to read. It was near impossible to put down the book for the last 150 or so pages and those I read in only a few sittings. I just had to know how it was going to end.

The only reason why I didn’t give it a half star more and round it up to four was that the start was a bit rough for me. It took me some time to really get into the story and actually connect with the characters. It all had to grow on me for a bit. Once I did get into the story and connected with it, though, I was thoroughly hooked and excited as well as scared to see where the story would lead and what would happen with the characters, especially the main character, Hermann.

I thought it was really interesting to read about a master sword maker because I don’t think I ever read a book featuring someone with that skill and knowledge. I also enjoyed reading about Hermann’s family and how close they were. They warmed my heart, they really did. Even Griselda the dog stole my heart.

Set near the end of the 17th century and the start of the 18th century with dual timelines, The Running Wolf by Helen Steadman is a well-researched and intricate historical fiction like no other.

About the author:
Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf will be published by Impress Books on Tuesday 1 December, 2020.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.

The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who left Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.

Helen is now working on her fourth novel.

The Historical Novel Society said of Widdershins:

“Impeccably written, full of herbal lore and the clash of ignorance and prejudice against common sense, as well as the abounding beauty of nature, it made for a great read. There are plenty of books, both fact and fiction, available about the witch-trial era, but not only did I not know about such trials in Newcastle, I have not read a novel that so painstakingly and vividly evokes both the fear and joy of living at that time.”
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