Title: The Witch Haven
Author: Sasha Peyton Smith
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Witchcraft, Mystery
Gisselle's Rating: 3/5
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for The Witch Haven.
I'll be perfectly honest, I stopped reading this book about halfway through. As I type, it's open on my Kindle and I am planning on finishing it for sure, but I've been trying to finish this book for two weeks now. I'll come back with edits to my review once I finish it.
I'll start with what I enjoyed so far. I love fantasy and magic and witches in my stories, and that's primarily what drew me into this story. I LOVE stories that focus on the gritty and grim side of magic and those that world it, and with this story's setting in early 1900s New York, there is plenty of grim and gritty to go around. Sasha Peyton Smith does a great job at illustrating the darkness in the city and in the emotions of our protagonist, Frances. The pacing of the beginning was incredibly well done, and the beginning packed a powerful punch (warning for distressing themes such as sexual assault and murder).
Unfortunately, the beginning is mostly where my enjoyment of the book has been limited to thus far. As the story progresses, the pacing becomes a little more erratic and uneven in compassion to the beginning. The introduction of characters such as Maxine and Lena felt half-executed and their development did not feel complete. As a result, I didn't find myself relating to anyone or really caring for them.
Additionally, it feels as though the author dances around a lot of great topics that are introduced but never fully explored. For example, the concept of feminism, especially during the early 1900s with the women's suffrage movement, is mentioned through the book in pieces, and Frances finds that even the fanatical world of magic was submissive to the world of men; she learns only what she can use to make her life as a housewife and lady easier, such as how to clean, sew, and arrange flowers with magic. Yet, for the first half of the book, that plot point felt like it was acknowledged, but never actually discussed it the confines of the characters' voices. There was even a mention of acknowledging the existence of transwomen and non-binary people in the academy, but there is no attempt at further exploration.
Also, maybe it'll get better in the second half of the book, but Finn having the ability to dream-walk and the revelation that he had been visiting Frances in her dreams felt more like a violation than anything romantic to me. He felt like an Edward Cullen archetype, just Irish and with magic. I just wasn't sure of him or his motives.
I'll continue reading to give this book a fair shot, but these are my thoughts after the first half of the book. The rest is still to be determined.