Sunday, February 16, 2020

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft...

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they're confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Paperback, 504 pages
Published July 4th, 2017
by Vintage Books Canada
** 1/2

Be forewarned I am going against the flow with this book. I didn't read the blurb before I started, it’s on my shelf meaning at some point in time I did read it and decided this was a book for me. This book is over 500 pages long and covers so much of life in New York City, yes I got to know these 3 women but I also felt that I was given snippets of what was happening around them, though they might have been relevant to the story there were just too many that thinned out the actual plot.

I liked these women, which saved this from being a DNF, I liked the atmospheric feel. The Cleopatra’s Needle was an interesting tidbit of historical fact. But I found the story itself very slow-moving.

There is a lot of magic that takes place, some eerie, some interesting and others spooky. Spells and incantations and of course there are those that support these witches and those that don’t. I finally read the blurb only to discover plot points mentioned that didn’t happen till the last quarter of the book (to me that is a spoiler - a pet peeve of mine).

I just felt Witches lacked suspense and emotion, it was a slow burn where the ending didn’t really satisfy me. I understand there is a sequel that I will most likely pass on.

This book is from my personal library and part of my 2020 Reading of my Shelf Challenge.

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