The Witches of New York
By: Ami McKay
Expected Publication Date: October 25, 2016 by Knopf Canada
Format: eARC courtesy of NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Adult, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Literary Fiction
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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?
First off, if you’re looking for a book with a strong plot and a fast pace, then The Witches of New York is not going to be the book for you. However, if you’re in the mood for something more atmospheric, then you’re going to love this one.
The Witches of New York followed the tale of three witches: Eleanor St. Clair, who came from a long line of witches; Adelaide Thom, a seeress; and Beatrice Dunn, a 17-year-old with a strong curiosity for anything supernatural who had just moved to New York. The book featured witch hunting, ghosts, and lots of magic.
This was my first Ami McKay novel, and I loved her writing style. As I said above, she created the most incredible atmosphere. From the first page I was completely transported to another time and place – specifically, New York in the year 1880. I found the pace of the book to be a bit on the slower side, with a lot happening right at the very end, but I enjoyed the feel of the book so much that the slow pace didn’t bother me too much.
One thing I loved about the book was how McKay intertwined her fictional tale with the arrival of Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk, in New York City (an actual event that occurred during the time in which the book was set).
The format of the novel also made the book something special. Throughout The Witches of New York were beautifully designed newspaper articles, tracts, spells, and stories.
The main problem I had with this book was that I felt it lacked depth. It touched on a lot of different topics and plot lines, but many of them weren’t explored as thoroughly as they might have been. There were just too many questions left unanswered.
So, if you’re looking for a book that, despite being a little slower-paced, really draws you in, The Witches of New York is a book you’re going to want to add to your to-read list.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.