Apparently, I’ve been very drawn to witchy historical fiction over the past couple of years, and The Witch Haven has been an absolute treat to read. Set in 1911 New York City, this is the tale of Frances Hollowell; a young girl mourning the recent loss of her brother while trying to scrape by a meager existence as a seamstress.
Then the whirlwind begins.
Fending off a drunken attack, Frances’ sewing scissors end up in the man’s neck, killing him. The thing is, Frances has no idea how those scissors got there.
In the midst of being interrogated by the police for murder, two mysterious women show up in an ambulance to announce that Frances is gravely ill and needs to be whisked away to the Haxahaven Sanitarium: a clever ruse concealing a school for witches.
Thrust into a shocking new life, Frances begins learning the basics of domestic magic, but also begins to learn that there are other magicks out there: even one that may allow her to bring back her murdered brother.
The rest I will leave to the reader because it moves quite quickly, and there are many surprises along the way.
Ms. Smith really knows how to set the tone of a story. I often find it hard, especially in the intro of a multi-book series, to get into a smooth rhythm of character introduction, world introduction, and character/story progression. The Witch Haven, however, flowed quite well into a steady beat of what was going on and where it was going. I think the manner in which Frances was learning what was happening around her at the same time as the reader really lent itself to this endeavor.
In fleshing out the world of The Witch Haven, Ms. Smith did a very nice job introducing a wide variety of girls from very different walks of life as Frances becomes more and more familiar with Haxahaven. In this, as well, Ms. Smith builds a very strong sisterhood that, to me, will become the foundation of the subsequent books. Frances’ strong-willed personality really helps push the story in directions that become more and more thrilling, and opportunities for her to really build her magical knowledge.
Book two is slated to release in October 2022, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how much more Frances develops as a young witch.