Ill Will

by Michael Stewart

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Historical Fiction Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Ill Will

March 2018 Book of the Month

I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name.

A fiery, emphatic and intense glimpse into the missing years of Heathcliff. Leaving Wuthering Heights and naming himself William Lee, Heathcliff travels through the north of England, revenge forming on his mind. If you haven’t read ‘Wuthering Heights’ there is no need to look away, this could be the entrance to that fascinating world. I do feel you need to be aware that obscenities crop up, in fact sometimes litter the pages, and while this may put people off, I would advise looking beyond the surface to what lies beneath. The book opens with anger and deep rooted pain, William’s thoughts flare into being, the searing honesty and heat almost made me flinch. Michael Stewart allows William’s innermost being to spill onto the pages, William is so matter of fact about pain and suffering, about the world around him, the stark reality of the times seared their way onto my soul. And then there are the descriptions, the beautiful, eloquent descriptions of the countryside, the rural life, the old words. While rage, hurt and confusion swirl in a maelstrom of emotion, tenderness, love, and compassion lie waiting, biding their time. Yes ‘Ill Will’ is provocative, it is a disturbing, striking read, yet also strangely beautiful, and personally, I loved it.

Liz Robinson

Ill Will Synopsis

'An astonishing novel' The Independent I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name. Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights, and is travelling across the moors to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, from a whipping, and the pair journey on together. Roaming from graveyard to graveyard, making a living from Emily's apparent ability to commune with the dead, the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England. And towards the terrible misdeeds - and untold riches - that will one day send Heathcliff home to Wuthering Heights.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780008248192
Publication date: 1st November 2018
Author: Michael Stewart
Publisher: HQ an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 336 pages
Primary Genre Historical Fiction
Other Genres:
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Ill Will Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Through humour, horror and violence follow the rollicking adventure of two young rogues seeking answers, fortune and revenge!

Ill will by Michael Stewart is a beautifully crafted book which amuses, horrifies and intrigues in equal measures. 

The authors descriptive prose and use of the vernacular transports the reader to the early 18th century as we follow the story of ‘William’ and Emily on their journey to Liverpool, and to hopefully find William’s origins.

 The pair have to live off their wits and neither are afraid to cheat, lie or use violence to get what they want. The language is often shocking, they are both a product of their upbringing (which we hear more of as their journey continues), and neither seems to have any scruples whatsoever. However, the reader is reluctantly drawn to their side, and despite the murder and mayhem they leave in their wake, you can’t help wanting them to outrun the various people chasing them and realise the plans they make along the way. 

 William is better known as Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights fame, although even that wasn’t the name he was originally given. Apart from the names, Ill Will has nothing in common with the original book so don’t expect to read a modern ‘classic’. However I found the characters very engaging, and the plot went along at an interesting pace, and I would thoroughly recommend the book to anyone who doesn’t mind the over abundance to bad language!

Sue Packer

A fantastic novel filled with revenge and reminiscing that I couldn't wait to read and find out what happened. Although not for the faint hearted when it comes to the language used.

As we all know Heathcliff was portrayed in Emily Brontë's classic as a harsh and rude spoken character, but her writing was at a standard, and possibly from a time period when the implication of this was enough. Ill Will needs it's mouth washing out with soap and water, and not for those who get easily offended by expletives. Thankfully I am not.

This book had the tall order of trying to emulate and add to one of the greatest novels ever written. I applaud Michael Stewart for even attempting it, and I feel that he has, for the most part succeeded. I love Ill Will, it fills in the gap when Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights only to return a gentleman. Hell-bent on revenge, Heathcliff heads from the moors to the city to try and earn his fortune. Along the way there's trouble caused and friendships made, including a profitable one with the medium Emily. 

The shock and marvel shown when entering the city was charming, and Heathcliff's wild child companion brings out a different side of the well known, and in my case much loved, character. I am really glad I read this book, and makes me want to go back and read Wuthering Heights again.

Charlotte Walker

Forced out of his home, at Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff travels across Northern England, searching for clues to his past, on a journey filled with darkness, danger and deceit.

In the novel, Wuthering Heights, there is no clue as to where Heathcliff disappears to in the three years he is missing from the story; however, Ill Will provides a reasonable explanation for where he might have been, and fleshes out the violent world that Heathcliff so dangerously inhabits.

In despair over his tormented relationship, with Cathy Earnshaw, and with the need to discover more about himself, Heathcliff is determined to escape Wuthering Heights. He changes his name to William Lee, and sets about discovering his origins, but the journey through the northern countryside is fraught with danger, not just from the savagery of landscape, but also from his association with Emily, the strange and, at times, other worldly companion he meets on his journey.

In Ill Will, the author has conjured a rather bleak story. There is no gentleness within its pages, nor does the story make any apology for the coarseness of its language, which broods and grumbles throughout, and which is so much a part of Heathcliff’s dangerous personality and so evocative of his tortured life, that I came to tolerate, and understand, the need for such vulgarity.

There is an abrasive quality to the story telling, particularly in terms of content which is disturbingly graphic, and yet, at other times there is such a rich lyricism to the language, that the landscape and its variety of people come gloriously alive. 

Heathcliff’s missing years have always been a mystery, and there is no doubt that Ill Will gives an electrifying account of what might have happened.


Josie Barton

An enjoyable, original and adventurous account of what happened to Heathcliff during his absence from Wuthering Heights and how this shaped the dark and troubled man who returned there.......

This is an enjoyable and interesting account of what happened to Heathcliff during his absence from Wuthering Heights and how that would have shaped the man who returned there.

This is a very visual book, describing in detail the North of England around the time of the Industrial Revolution. We travel with Heathcliff from the Moors of rural North Yorkshire to the burgeoning ""towns"" of Manchester and Liverpool with their canals and factories and hints of the slave trade. I thought that the author painted a very detailed picture of the North at this time which really interested me.

Heathcliff gains a travelling companion, a young girl Emily and their shared adventures are the backbone of the story. They are both coarse and violent creatures with few morals between them.There are some dark moments.....

It's an original idea which should appeal to Wuthering Heights fans but is also a good standalone story.Would make great Sunday night telly!


Jan Payne

Ill Will tells the story of Heathcliff's adventures during his 3 year absence from Wuthering Heights. Any fans of the original should definitely consider reading this.

Ill Will tells the story of Heathcliff's adventures after during his 3 year absence from Wuthering Heights. As a huge Wuthering Heights fan I was really intrigued to read this but also had a sense of trepidation as I did not want this book to ruin the original story and image of Heathcliff I had created. I needn't have worried as I really enjoyed this! Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights determined to take his revenge on Cathy and Hindley. He travels across Yorkshire to Liverpool and makes a friend in young Emily who accompanies him. Emily is the daughter of a highwayman and together they scheme their way across the North of England. Michael Stewart's' research in the industries and characters of the time period is evident. The language and prose used to describe nature and the landscape is. My only issue is that Ill Will portrays Heathcliff as a kinder person which was at odds with the selfish and calculating figure in Wuthering Heights. Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed this and it was a pleasure to read more about a familiar character and particularly to read Stewart's spin on the circumstances which led to Mr Earnshaw originally brining Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights. I recommend this to any fans of the original novel.

Jo Marie

Hitch a ride with Heathcliff as he journeys into his past to find hope for the future. Blood, anger, deceit and passion leap from the pages in a likeable romp through the North of England.

Ill Will aims to fill in the blanks of Heathcliff's life omitted in Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights and is certainly successful in conjuring a credible life for him. Full of brooding menace and at times alarming violence, Michael Stewart breathes new life in to a well-loved character. Stewart's Heathcliff is so consumed by his need for revenge that at times it is difficult to empathise with him, but the tender relationship that develops between the narrator and Emily allows for a softening of the reader's perception. This love that emerges is perhaps the antithesis of the primordial lust and passion that drives the relationship of Heathcliff and Cathy, there is no pretence only a deep-seated will to protect.

The relocation of much of the story to the industrial ports of the west coast provides a different kind of barren landscape, every bit as dangerous and desolate as the Yorkshire moors that Heathcliff has fled. The very real juxtaposition of haves and have nots permits a deeper understanding of the drive of the characters from their humble beginnings and their desperation not to return to the lowly status that bore them. 

The descriptive prose of Stewart is appealing, transporting you to the eighteenth century. Fans of historical fiction will not be disappointed in joining the journey of two orphans as they strive to snatch a fortune for themselves.


Helen Precious

A very dark interpretation of the missing years of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

The idea behind this book is to pick up Heathcliff's story from Wuthering Heights.  Having not read Wuthering Heights, I wondered if this book was really for me.  BUT it didn't matter, you quickly catch up with Heathcliff's story so far and very soon are a captive passenger on this dark and violent journey.   I really enjoyed the unfolding of this story and I'm now keen to read Wuthering Heights, to see what happens next....

The only negative I can say about this book, is there a lot of swearing. Which I don't always feels was necessary. 

Nonetheless a great read!

Alison Greenacre

Where do I start with this book? I originally put myself off reading it because I'm not a fan of the classics. I'm so glad I persevered!!!

Yes there is a lot of bad language but I genuinely think that helps the reader to truly connect with the character. It is easy to get into and a great read for someone who just wants to escape and doesn't want to think too much!

Jennifer Flanagan

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780008316068
Publication date: 29/01/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780008248192
Publication date: 01/11/2018
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780008248154
Publication date: 22/03/2018
Format: Hardback

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About Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart is a multi-award winning writer, born and brought up in Salford, who moved to Yorkshire in 1995 and is now based in Bradford. He has written several full length stage plays, one of which, Karry Owky, was joint winner of the King's Cross Award for New Writing. His debut novel, King Crow, was published in January 2011. It won the Guardian's Not-the-Booker Award and has been selected as a recommended read for World Book Night. He works as a is senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield, where he is the director of the Huddersfield Literature Festival.

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