#BookReview: The Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta

Historical Women's Fiction
Translated Historical

Die heimliche Heilerin #1

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

In the fourteenth century, opportunities for women are limited to the home. But spirited young Madlen finds her calling as assistant to the city’s trusted midwife, Clara. Working alongside Clara, Madlen develops a surprisingly soothing technique and quickly becomes a talented healer.

After Clara’s tragic death, Madlen alone rushes to assist the birth of a local nobleman’s child. But rather than the joy of birth, Madlen walks into an accusation of murder and witchcraft because of her extraordinary gifts. Forced to flee her own town, she establishes a new identity in the home of her aunt. Yet even though it endangers her life, she cannot resist the urge to help the sick patients who seek out her miraculous treatment. When she meets handsome Johannes—an investigator hired by the Church to bring her to justice for sacrilegious acts—she becomes drawn to the very man who could destroy her.

Will Madlen’s gifts bring about her downfall? Or can love and reason prevail in a time of fearful superstition?

My interest in Ellin Carsta’s The Secret Healer began with its sequel. The Master of Medicine intrigued me, but I have trouble reading books out of order, so I chose to backtrack and pick up the initial volume of the Die heimliche Heilerin series.

First and foremost, I want to note The Secret Healer is not immersive historic fiction. Carsta’s worldbuilding is thin and there is virtually no meat to the story. I hate turning anyone off a novel, but I genuinely feel this volume is best-suited to readers who prefer lighter fare.

Carsta’s cast is large which might have been difficult if the characters had been more complex, but I found them easy to keep straight. Each has a very defined role in the novel and while I’d have personally liked a greater degree of development and depth, I feel the simple characterizations appropriate to the style and tone of the narrative.

Thematically, the novel reminded me a great deal of The Whaler by Ines Thorn. Carta’s work takes place in the 1300s while Thorn’s takes place in 1700s, but the subtext of both novels tackles the social disparity that existed between men and women for the vast majority of German history.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Unlimited
Read: September 5, 2018

"Let me heal, and I swear by the Lord God Almighty, who’s always been by my side, that I will only do good things for the people as long as I shall live.”