It’s New York City in 1911. Frances Hallowell is an ordinary seamstress who lives with the other girls she works with. Her life changes forever when she kills a man who is trying to attack her. Except, she never moved a muscle.
Afraid of the impending murder investigation, Frances tries to lay low when a couple of women whisk her away from Manhattan to a place called Haxahaven Academy located in Queens.
Once she arrives at Haxahaven Academy, she starts receiving mysterious notes about her brother William. To make things worse, everything she knew about her family growing up was a lie. Desperate for answers, Frances sneaks out late at night to meet a mysterious guy, who claimed to be friends with William.
Frances doesn’t know much about Finn, except she doesn’t have much of a choice. With his unique ability and her strong determination, Frances is drawn to him and the secret society that he belongs to in Manhattan. The society and Finn might help her have a chance to fix the past, but is it worth sacrificing her future?
We didn’t know what to expect when we started The Witch Haven. All we knew was that it was advertised as perfect for fans of The Last Magician series. We could definitely understand the comparison considering both take place in similar time periods and are NYC urban fantasy books.
Frances was an interesting character throughout the story. We understood her desire to learn what happened to her brother, which leads to a fascination with dark magic. At times she can be a bit selfish and naïve, especially when it comes to her two best friends Lena and Maxine, who pretty much follow her lead. Overall though, she’s just trying to keep everyone in her life safe.
Another interesting aspect of the book was the love triangle between Frances, Finn and Oliver, another friend of William’s. We became team Oliver from the start! Oliver was so sweet and truly had Frances’s best interest in mind.
We also enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book, especially the secret dark magical society. There were times we had no idea where Smith was going with the story and that made us excited. She gave us a few great twists near the very end. We assumed this was a standalone, but since it ended on a cliffhanger, we’re waiting for news about a second book.
One problem we did have with the book was that it felt overwritten. We think some of it could have been cut, making the reading experience more enjoyable. There was too much fluff in the middle, leaving us a little bored until we got back to the action near the end of the story.
Overall, we had a lot of fun with The Witch Haven’s setting and mysterious plot. We look forward to the next installment to see what Frances does after the bombshell in book 1. Looking for an autumn read full of magic and suspense? Check out Smith’s debut YA novel.