Review: The Witches of New York, by Ami McKay

Witches of New YorkSynopsis: 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?

Title: The Witches of New York
Author: Ami McKay
Publisher: Orion
Pub Date: 27th October 2016
Pages: 528
ISBN: 9781409143512

Rating: 3stars

I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw the cover and synopsis of Witches of New York, I had to have it. Who doesn’t love a good story about witches, especially when it’s set in the 1880s. And when I started reading it, it delivered on everything it promised to be.

However, a few chapters in, I realised who the author was and, I have to admit, I hesitated. I read The Birth House years ago and, though I loved the concept, it got just a bit too weird for me towards the end. Annoyingly, I spent the rest of the book waiting for something similar to happen so I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

That aside, this is a lovely read. The three female characters are vulnerable, prickly, stubborn, and utterly delightful. There were also feminist undertones – both dark and hopeful – that really brought the book to life. The real charm of the book is the connection to the reality of women’s struggles in the time period. Pair that with the quaint and enchanting bits of magic and you have a pretty damn good read on your hands.

This isn’t a fast-paced read but the story draws you in regardless. In fact, many a late night was spent promising myself I’d go to sleep after ‘one more chapter’, and many a morning wishing my commute was just a little longer.

My only problem was its lack of depth. There were numerous plot lines with too many questions left unanswered. As a series (which I really hope this is), you could get away with it. As a standalone, the book felt unfinished.

Overall an enjoyable read, and definitely one for those who love ‘witchy’ books.

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