The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.
In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.
Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.
Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?
The Witch Haven takes place in New York in 1911. Frances works as a seamstress and is still dealing with the murder of her brother, William. Frances wants to figure out who murdered William and why. She thinks that will help with her grief. When Frances is attacked by her boss, something strange happens and her boss ends up dead. Instead of going to jail, two women show up and say that Frances is being taken to Haxahaven because she has tuberculosis. Frances knows she doesn’t, but figured it would be better than jail, so she goes with. When Frances arrives at Haxahaven, she learns that it’s really a school for magic users, witches. The trauma of being attacked unleashed Frances’s magic and now she needs to learn how to control it. But the school just teaches them how to use small amounts in housekeeping ways. It’s much less exciting than Frances thought it would be.
Frances finds notes written in her room about her brother’s death. She decides to sneak out and meet with the mystery writer. Two other girls end up sneaking out, too. Both Maxine and Lena grow close to Frances. Maxine finds a powerful magic book buried in the woods and the girls decide to sneak out and try spells. Frances finally meets the boy who was writing notes and he introduces her to another world with powerful men. Some have magic and others have money or influence. Once they realize how powerful Frances is, they want her to join. She’s torn between the new girls she loves as family and the excitement of this boy and having more power. But in the end, Frances will just do whatever it takes to find out what happened to William. Especially when other young men start ending up dead.
I gave this book 4 stars. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for my review copy.
Warnings for blood, death, dark magic, sexual assault, manipulation, and control.
Have you read this yet? Is it on your TBR?