Thursday, October 7, 2021

Book Review: The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

Pages: 448
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Pub. Date: August 31, 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars  

Goodreads says, "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 year is 1911 and Frances lives a pretty normal life as a seventeen year old seamstress.  One night her boss, clearly intoxicated, tries to assault her, and ends up dead with her sewing shears in his neck.  The thing is Frances didn't attack him with her shears!  Much to her surprise, they flew across the magic.  Before the police take her into custody, two nurses whisk her away to Haxahaven Sanatarium. They tell everyone that Frances needs treatment immediately as she has tuberculosis.  Clearly Haxahaven isn't a hospital, instead it's an academy where girls like her can learn how to harness their magical powers in a safe way.  While there, Frances is excited to learn about magic, but instead is disappointed by the school's lessons. They focus on magical housekeeping and how to suppress their innate abilities.  She wants to harness her powers, not limit them and in turn finds herself gravitating towards Finn, a friend of her deceased brother, who has magical abilities. Finn says he can teach her how to perform the magic she is interested in as well as help her figure out how her brother died. Things get even more complicated when different magical leaders in the city learn about Frances's power and want her for themselves.  The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith is an enchanting witchy tale for fans of historical fantasies. It's a great book to get lost in, especially this time of the year.

Frances is a really fun heroine in The Witch Haven .  Despite the year being 1911, Frances is ahead of her time and finds strength with the other women at Haxahaven. It's interesting how the school wants her to to be a "good little witch," but Frances has bigger plans. She is motivated by the mystery surrounding her brother's death and wants answers as she is getting cryptic messages from someone at school about it. She hopes that magical Finn can help her get some answers, not to mention she has been seeing him in her dreams! Cue the drama!

There's a lot of action in The Witch Haven surrounding the various subplots and especially towards the end when it involves a big showdown.  The plot definitely kept me flipping the pages in addition to the historical setting of 1911. That definitely added to the drama and the atmosphere of the novel. Plus, The Witch Haven takes place at a boarding school, so if you are like me, you'll enjoy that setting.

Like I said, October would be the perfect month to curl up with this witchy tale. It was a perfect fit for me, because I wanted a spooky read, but nothing that would be fall into the horror genre. I recommend The Witch Haven to fans of Libba Bray.  So, have you read The Witch Haven? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 




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