Today, Ami McKay’s new historical magical realism novel, The Witches of New York, was released in the US. I managed to get an early copy in exchange for a review. The story follows three witches in New York City in 1880 and covers the darkness of mental illness and sexism in that period. While that part of the tale was fascinating, I do wish that the story had worked in more character development as well as possibly leaving out some unneeded individuals.
Eleanor and Adelaide run a tea shop in Manhattan complete with apothecary cures, birth control and fortune telling. They are later joined by young Beatrice who finds she can speak with ghosts. When Beatrice is supposed to speak at a scientific symposium, she is instead kidnapped by an evil man hiding behind the cloth. The clock is ticking for her friends to find her before she becomes a ghost herself.
This story moves slowly, but all the information worked in about that time is captivating. I had no problem meandering through the book. The thing that bothered me was that the characters didn’t have much growth. Evil men and demons stayed evil. Adelaide who was supposed to have this great epiphany really didn’t change much, nor did steadfast Eleanor. The only character that really grew was Beatrice – from mousy and unsure to more confident in her powers.
Also, certain characters, like Palsham, seemed unnecessary. The book was left open, so maybe he’ll come into play more if there’s another novel in the series. The Bird Lady, the Dearlies and the prisoner in the ladies asylum also seemed extraneous.
Overall, this was a tale that I enjoyed. I found out after I read it that Adelaide was the main character in McKay’s novel, The Virgin Cure. However, I could read this book as a standalone without that knowledge. If you’re interested in 19th-century mediums, the darkness of the witch hunts and women’s rights, you may find this novel worth reading. I’ll definitely be waiting to see if it turns into a series.
3.75 out of 5 stars