The Burning Time

Robin Morgan’s historical novel on women who fought the Inquisition.

Robin Morgan - Books - Fiction - The Burning Time (2012)

Melville House Books, 2006

UK/Commonwealth edition published by Onlywomen Press, April 2008.

“A fantastic page-turner. Readers are drawn into this gripping story of the Inquisition and forced conversion of the Irish from the Old Religion to Catholicism. The plot shifts between Lady Alyce and Bishop de Ledrede and keeps the tension at a fever pitch. The characters are well developed and so believable that one can’t help but side with them both . . . highly recommended for the story it tells and the way Morgan tells it . . . readers can’t help but fly through the pages.” THE HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW »

The Burning Time is typical of Robin Morgan’s work: always beautifully written, always passionate, always interesting. It’s also rich in splendid imagination—a quality very rare in American fiction writers nowadays.” —GRACE PALEY

“Robin Morgan’s riveting novel The Burning Time may be about the Inquisition—the guts of it we never learned in school—but it’s also frighteningly relevant today. And it would make a hell of a movie!” —JANE FONDA

The Burning Time is a literary potion, a finely written and deeply wise book.”—EVE ENSLER

“Must reading for all women’s studies students and professors. Morgan’s extensive research and vivid reincarnation of misogyny by organized religion can inform our response to current times and challenges.” —ELEANOR SMEAL

“Like a torch thrown into a haystack, this book illuminates the dark political night we seem to be slipping into today.” —VERGE

“Morgan researched the life of Alyce Kyteler and then recreated this little-known woman’s brilliant and brave resistance in . . . a fascinating story. And the endnote clarifies the historical facts. It’s an easy way to access this part of women’s history.” —BOOKS TO WATCH FOR

Based on the true story of one woman’s remarkable fight against the Inquisition, this compellingly written saga is set against the vivid tapestry of the 14th century and drawn from court records of the first witchcraft trial in Ireland: the tale of an extraordinary noblewoman, Lady Alyce Kyteler of Kilkenny.

When the Church imports its Inquisition—known as “The Burning Time” to followers of the Old Religion, or the Craft of Wicce—to Ireland, it does so via an ambitious, sophisticated bishop acting as Papal Emissary. But Alyce Kyteler—educated, wealthy, and a Craft Priestess—refuses to cede power to the Church over herself, her lands, her people, or their ancient faith. She and the bishop engage in a personal battle of wits, and when she outmaneuvers him she provokes his obsessive enmity. He pronounces her followers heretics and gambles his Church career on breaking her.

But Kyteler has power, connections, courage, and the loyalty of her people—especially her shy yet fierce, strange maidservant, Petronilla de Meath. So Lady Alyce persists in defying the Church’s imposition of religion, papal law, and blatant land seizures. Battle plans are laid. Finally, risking death by burning at the stake, Kyteler invokes a mysterious, possibly otherworldly ally in a shocking, dramatic climax. This lush, enthralling story of memorable characters based on actual historical figures is an unforgettable tale of power, guile, bravery—and passions both earthly and spiritual.

  • 2006 Paperback Pick by Book Sense (The American Booksellers Association)
  • 2007 Recommended Quality Fiction List by the American Library Association Feminist Task Force
  • Highly Recommended by the American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project recognizing distinguished fiction for young people