The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith would’ve had a lower rating than the 4.2/5 I gave it but the back half really bumped it up. This young adult witchy fantasy also crossed into a historical fiction category. Not all answers were fully discovered but I believe the author is currently writing a sequel. The only trope I can think of is “the chosen one.” This was a clean novel, but romance wasn’t the priority/focus anyways. I loved the concept of the sisterhood. By chapter four, I was a little worried since I’m not a huge fan of academia set books and this one reminded me of “The Black Witch,” which I DNF, but thankfully there was more to the story than classes and high school drama.
Here are some of my thoughts while reading:
The short prologue started in New York in May of 1911 of uncertain character with a possible murder completed and a planned upcoming murder. Chapter one jumped three months ahead.
Frances was a seamstress in a dress shop who seemed alone in this world. When her creepy, drunk boss physically assaults her late one night, she murders him without knowing how. By magic? At this point I’m interested in how old she is and her backstory that led her there and if she will get away with staging the murder as a robbery.
Chapter two gave us the hope of a romantic connection with Oliver. Chapter six and seven were kind of boring because the character is bored. The second note just arrived so hopefully something picks up with the action.
In chapter nine we learned more about her mother which increased intrigue, but I needed Frances to have more agency. She was letting things fall into her lap too much. She must take steps to go after her hunt for answers. The little coven outing in chapter ten was cute for forming friendships. It was interesting how there were all different forms of imprisonment shown. I love that Finn came into the story in chapter eleven, but I wished it was a bit sooner though.
Halfway- I’m glad she’s taking the initiative. I’m having a little tug that someone might be a traitor later, but I won’t reveal who I’m guessing to avoid spoilers. Chapter 19 had a great clairvoyance moment. I’m wondering if the theme is finding oneself or overcoming grief or trust or finding a home/friendship… it’s a bit unclear.
Until chapter 20, the novel was good, but felt “forgettable.” But I changed my mind after reading the rest. I flew through page 268-436 without stopping. There was so much more action than I anticipated and a twist that I (somewhat expected but) wasn’t confident about & had mixed emotions over. I can’t go into more details without giving spoilers. The second half was much faster, but the prose in the dialogue were somewhat confusing where I’d have to go back and reread a line to determine who was speaking since another character’s responses were shown on the same line.
Page 436- I was satisfied with the conclusion and the last page set up a sequel potential
Here is the blurb:
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?