The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft...
The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom ('Moth' from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and "gardien de sorts" (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients.
All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?
Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.
As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they're confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?
AMI McKAY is the author of three bestselling novels–The Birth House, The Virgin Cure, and The Witches of New York—as well as the novella, Half Spent Was the Night. Her memoir, Daughter of Family G was named a CBC Best Book of 2019. McKay is also a playwright, composer, and essayist. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Nova Scotia.
I listened to the audio narrated by the ever-wonderful Julia Whelan!
The story focuses on three witches 🧙🏻♀️ The first two, Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom open a shop called, "Tea and Sympathy" in New York City in 1880. It's disguised as a "tea" shop but many women come in looking for a little bit of something extra through "witchery." Beatrice Dunn is a young woman who comes into the shop looking for work after a posting for help wanted. She is just discovering her powers. The women find themselves caught-up in a mystery revolving around a fanatical clergyman.
This book unravels slowly almost mesmerizingly which is perfect for this story. It's full of spells, potions, ghosts and magical creatures. I can't wait to read the second book.
At the end in the after notes the author mentions that while researching this book she discovered that an ancestor of hers was tried and hung for Witchery on Gallows Hill during the witch trials in 1692. What a discovery! The author is American but also mentions that she now resides in Nova Scotia, Canada. That was interesting!
The Victorian age, late 1800's, a time when many were very attuned to their dead. They took photographs of them, fashioned jewelry from their hair, and tried to contact them in the great beyond. Many were there to take advantage of them, in any way and means possible. Charlatans abounded, but were there actually some who had the magic the power to see and communicate with the deceased?
In a little tea shop, three women know they can, all have powers to a different degree. One in fact Adelaide, was Moth in this authors novel, The Virgin Cure. These there woman are wonderful characters, the tea shop an intriguing mix of surprise and wonder. The dearlies, in charge of dreams, were fun and a giant bird, who is more than a bird, was knowledgeable and humorous. The characters are those on the fringe of society, the bird woman, who sits on a park bench and surprises with her wry but insightful comments, and others.
A delightful blending of witch-hunting by a Reverand who feels it is his mission to stamp out evil, and some real history.The suffragette movement and the arrival of an important artifact. This is a book with a glorious atmosphere, a sprawling endevour to lose oneself in, an amazing mix of history and magic. Loved the author's afterward where she explains how she came up with her ideas for this novel. I'm very glad she did.
On a windy, autumn day, Ami McKay's Witches of New York turned out to be the perfect seasonal read. Last year I was captivated by Rules of Magic, so there is something about witches and New York City that is just, for lack of a better term, magical. McKay takes readers back in time to 1880 New York where witches were no longer burnt at the stake but were still persecuted for being different, powerful women. This is the scenario that McKay has created for her protagonists as well as the secondary female characters as they struggle to assert themselves in a modernizing world.
The 1880s while modern still has room for plenty of Magic. New York City was not yet lit by electric light so did have the moniker the city that never sleeps. Yet it was home to the women's suffrage movement, temperance movement, and a slew of women looking for increased rights in a still new nation. Tucked near the bustling fifth avenue we find St Clair and Thom's Tea and Symphony Shop where witches Eleanor, Adalaide, Beatrice concoct potions, spells, and of course teas to assist women from all walks of life as they face the challenges of a modernizing society. Chastised for being witches, the women are powerful in their own right yet stronger together and draw on their magical families and friendship to overcome those who still thought of witches to be menaces to society.
McKay creates characters with rich histories and freely flowing story that I literally read in a day. The writing was not spectacular but the something about magic, witches, New York City, and the gilded age are elements that I always enjoy reading about. Together they create an atmosphere of hope that is electric, and I fell for the characters from the first pages. Having read Harry Potter countless times, especially at this time of year, I'm always on the look out for books that contain elements of magic to them. Witches of New York, while not the best of writing, for fit the bill perfectly, especially on a crisp, windy, fall day.
As a lover of all things witchy, this book is totally up my alley. I loved how McKay looks at women's histories in The Birth House and The Virgin Cure but I think this is my fave of her books. Adelaide, Eleanor and Beatrice are three independent women in a time and place (1880s NYC) when it wasn't exactly easy to be an independent women. They are brave, vulnerable, prickly, resourceful, stubborn, and utterly charming. I desperately wanted to visit their tea shop, have my leaves and maybe my pal read, and then leave with hibiscus tea.
McKay sprinkles a fast-moving narrative with her vast wisdom of spell books, herbal remedies, and witchy traditions and superstitions. News stories and moon phases add context to the story as well. There is evil afoot in the form of a religious zealot rounding up women for the purposes of conversion and a scorned husband who wields his financial power as a tool for revenge, but ultimately this is a story of women's power and there is a lot of playfulness in McKay's text. Love, love love. I'm off to watch Practical Magic for the zillionth time now....
This could have been awesome... but it was too preachy for me. Preachy about everything in it, from the "religion" side to the "clairvoyants" to the "feminists" and "he-man woman-haters." Is there truth in this? Appallingly so, however, the presentation could not have berated the reader in the way it did. Instead of letting a reader get immersed in the story, I felt as though I was constantly being poked to rouse myself into a state of anger, shock, and frothing of the mouth.
Were there good parts of this book? There was some excellent character portrayal and vivid illustrations, but they were lost in the author's obvious personal feelings. While painting the horrors (that occurred numerously by the "church"), the author did the same thing. I am far from a religious zealot and am predominantly out of tune with organized religion, but this was supposed to be a story, not a sounding board to air grievances. It felt like an opinion piece from a place of hurt and anger instead.
To that end, I cannot find it in myself to rate this above a 3.
The Witches of New York (Witches of New York #1) by Ami McKay Wow, I really loved this book! Going in my favorite folder! The odds were not in favor for women in this historical fiction time piece, as in real life at that time. But being a witch could get you dead! Extremely well developed characters, good and despicable! Wonderful plot and a perfect mix of paranormal. I can't wait to get book 2! I got this on sale from Chirp. The narration was exactly what this story needed!
3.5 stars. I enjoyed this one; the characters are well developed and the plot is interesting. The book is beautifully formatted, with lots of drawings throughout and pictures of old newspaper clippings inserted between the chapters.
This is a pro-witchcraft, feminist tale about two witches, Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom, helping a new witch, Beatrice Dunn, find her place in the world. Beatrice comes to New York in September 1880 to make a new life for herself, little knowing she has acquired unique gifts that will steer her life in an unexpected direction.
It was a bit slow in places, (lot's of tea making and chat that doesn't move the story along) and there's tons of information about the rituals and lore of witchcraft which sometimes distracted from the story. There are also a couple of characters who could have been eliminated as they're completely unnecessary.
This book is both a charming magical realism tale and a creepy, suspense thriller. Some sections read like an episode of Criminal Minds.
All in all, well worth a read for those who enjoy magic and good witches.
I loved this book . It welcomed back the main character of The Virgin Cure Moth, as an adult. I read The Virgin Cure and I loved it , and this book is just as good if not better, it is the story of 3 women witches in 1880s New York as they work in their shop Tea and Sympathy. As the city welcomes Cleopatras needle. A overly zealous preacher has got his beady little eyes on The Witches . There’s a side romance or 2, some ghosts, some dream fairies called brightlies and a pet raven and dog as well. This book had it all and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I enjoyed reading THE WITCHES OF NEW YORK by Ami McKay and found it interesting, engaging, informative and well written. I liked the historical references, and was intrigued by the three main characters and Perdu, who looks like a raven, but is not a bird. Adelaide Thom, claiming to be a mind reader, and Eleanor St. Clair, a keeper of spells, have a tea shop specializing in cures, potions, and palmistry and cater to Manhattan's high society ladies. When Beatrice Dunn, a girl of sixteen and interested in magic, shows up at the tea shop, something happens! Having enjoyed reading this book and The Birth House by Ami McKay, I wish to read The Virgin Cure also written by her.
A little tune that Eleanor's mother used to sing at the onset of a thunderstorm,'a reminder of the dangers of getting caught in a tempest.' 'Beware the oak, it draws the stroke. Avoid the ash, it prompts the flash. Creep under the thorn, it saves you from harm.' Page 357
Some more of my favourite quotes from this book :- "They'd lived there, just the two of them, in a house so large that even their shadows occasionally got lost." Page 13
'May you rise with the sun, ready to make hay. May the rains come at night to wash your cares away. May you sleep with the angels sittin' on your bed. May you be an hour in Heaven a'fore the Devil knows you're dead.' Page 31
"Careful what you wish for, lest you receive it." Page 504
I am excited to add that I did get to meet Ami McKay and hear her read from this book! I think that everyone present enjoyed listening to her talk about her interest in witchcraft and extensive research in preparation to write this book. She welcomed and answered questions until there were no more. As an aside, that same evening, I had the pleasure and surprise of a private encounter with Ami McKay. She is lovely!
The story New York City 1880. Highly enjoyable. Three witches that become the target for a fantatical member of the clergy and demons all around.
Readers are once again introduced to Moth(from The Virgin Cure) going by the name of Adelaide Thom. Adelaide has opened a shop with another witch by the name of Eleanor St. Clair. Both are relieved to have the help of Beatrice Dunn, a young witch just learning her powers.
My thoughts I love Ami McKay's storytelling and the way she infuses a little bit of humor into her magic and history. Although I think that The Birth House will remain my all time favorite book, I do love her strong female characters and the way she McKay weaves a tale.
The Witches of New York was too fluffy for me to love. I adore this kind of witchcraft and was charmed by the herb lore and spells but there is no grit to this book. I'm pretty sure New York City c.1880 had some grit. 2.5 stars rounded up.
There is so very much to love about this book. Magic, witchcraft, mayhem, hope, mystery, and it all takes place in 1880 New York. That's the recipe for a great read, and this one delivers on all counts.
Historically, it truly is a time that people became quite curious in the unexplained, the paranormal, and seances were big entertainment at that time. Some people working as mediums were the genuine article, and some, of course, were charlatans in it for the money. The trick was figuring out who was who.
Adelaide and Eleanor run a quaint little shop called "Tea and Sympathy". Beyond the normal offerings you would expect at an establishment with that name, asking the right questions or requesting the right things would get you a genuine experience with a genuine medium.
Deciding help is needed in running the business, they welcome young Beatrice to their fold. Beatrice answers their ad looking for help that says "those adverse to magic need not apply". Beatrice believes she is a regular, small town girl, up for some adventure. She is anything but. Her entrance into the store definitely brings some unexpected changes - some great, and some dangerous.
I loved the characters in this book from start to finish.
DNF at only 16 minutes in. A first! Screeching 1880s preacher complaining about women acting unseemly, a demon in the congregation whispering a spell that starts the witch hunts, and a couple of cutesy witchy women who sell charms from their tea shop. No offense, but NOT my cup of tea. Chick lit, magical realism, and at least one cartoonish character.
What was I thinking?? Somebody put the mojo on me :/
It was a very mediocre read for me. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. It was jus all right, and I'll probably forget about this book soon. It had it enjoyable moments, and at the beginning of the story I was hooked, the writing and the scenery were marvelous and I just wanted to read and read about those three witches of New York - Eleanor St. Clair, Adelaide Thom, and Beatrice Dunn. Eleanor and Adelaide run a tea shop in NYC, and Adelaide secretly posted a job announcement in a paper to look for help for an overworked Eleanor. This is when Beatrice joins their tea shop, a girl that appeared too late and after all the other girls that wanted the job were dismissed by Eleanor. But she's different, she was let into the closed shop by a ghost of Adelaide's mother, an event that truly scared Beatrice who is yet to discover that she can see communicate with ghosts.
The story seemed really interesting at the beginning, but then it all just lost it's charm and ended up being quite boring. The blurb for the book spoils the event that is supposed to be the main plot point that fastens the pace of the story towards the end and brings some tension. But I know about it from the beginning and I was just confused till the third-fourth part of the book why does this didn't happen yet?
The three main characters are likable and I enjoyed reading about them, but the plot was just weak and very predictable. There is a preacher that is excusing his horrible actions toward women who he believes to be witches because of his faith and believe that he is doing the God's work. This man was the most infuriating character in the story, I got so angry every time he appeared. I must say that he is a very well written villain.
Overall, quite boring and predictable read. Ended with a lot of unanswered questions which brings the possibility of a sequel? If yes, I won't be reading it.
An atmospheric read about 3 witches in the 1880's in New York City. Having opened a small tea shop, Adelaide and Eleanor had their own style of witchery. Then Beatrice enters the picture as an apprentice and all hell breaks loose.
I enjoyed parts of this novel. The descriptions of New York in the 1880's, the explanation of a womans life during that era, the account of the gritty city during those years, all made for a great read. The development of the three main characters was very good and made for easy comparisons and visualization. The magical realism was able to carry the story and helped to keep you turning pages. I do however think that the novel was much too long. There were many many side stories, all of which had to introduce a few more secondary characters. Most of these characters, which muddied up the overall story, in my opinion, seemed to pop in and then back out with no real relevance to the ongoing story.
Having read Ami McKay before - The Virgin Cure - and enjoying that book, I must say I am disappointed in this book. I think that the excess extra stories diluted what could have been a much tighter and more character driven story. I tired of all the extra side stories and new characters that were really not pertinent to the main plot. Not one of McKays better novels.
I LOVED this book! It's magical, alluring, beautifully plotted and full of fabulous characters, both human, and not-so-human (Oh, Perdue, you lovely raven you!). Plus, let's not forget that Victorian setting. Think of the child Edith Wharton might have had with Charles Dickens. In fact, McKay has used many of the Victorian Penny Dreadful tropes to splendid effect.
Three women -- witches all -- in their shop, "Tea and Sympathy", a marvelous confection of place, as full of fairies (Dearies) as herbs and potions (some for 'regulating the womb' if you know what I mean). The shop is a place of refuge and care for the women of the neighborhood. Frankly, I want one of these shops near me. Now, please.
And of course, there must be a villain. For that, we have a group of religious fanatics who pluck the very worst from their teachings and apply them with murderous, misogynistic intent. (Shades of Jack the Ripper anyone?)
At the heart of this novel is something deliciously subversive: These women, who have suffered terrible loss and heartbreak, and who struggle under the yoke of Victorian patriarchy and hysteria, live with a quiet resolve and autonomy; they assist other women, they stand tall in their truth, and never deny who they are.
A joy to read from beginning to end and it kept me up at night reading far later than I'd planned. Enjoy.
Set in New York City in the 1800's this novel focuses on the lives of three witches. Eleanor, descended from a long line of witches, Moth (now Adelaide) a see-er, and 17 year old Beatrice who is just beginning to realize her powers. Although flawed, the witches are enchanting and heroic. They cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions. They support one another and their secret potions to support women's health concerns. With many threads to follow this is a supernatural story full of magic, ghosts, fairies and a talking raven. I do hope the author chooses to carry on with their story.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about time in New York during 1880. This story involves three ladies who are discovered to be witches who run a tea shop and the problems they encounter with those wanting to rid the world of witches. Besides the three witches in the tea shop there are also the Dearlies who are in charge of dreams, a raven named Perdu who can talk and says he is not a bird and of course a ghost or two! The story is very cleverly written and it kept me engaged throughout the whole book. There is a small love story (or 2) within which is nice and a lot of mystical happenings.
The author incorporates news stories of the time into the story and historical events which were quite interesting. For example, I never knew the Statue of Liberty's arm and torch resided in Madison Square Park for several years before being attached to the rest of her body. Fascinating!
i really like and respect ami mckay! i love how she digs deep into history, then spins it for fictional purposes. she's great at creating evocative places and times, and interesting characters. her previous novels - The Birth House and The Virgin Cure - were books i deeply enjoyed. The Witches of New York has us revisiting main character, moth (now 'adelaide'), from the virgin cure. so... all of this to say i was, of course, hugely and keenly anticipating the new novel. i tried very hard to keep my excitement and expectations in check, but sometimes it's difficult - excitement just bubbles up, you know?
beforehand, i did manage to maintain very little awareness about the new story (all i knew was 'moth is back!' hahaha), so didn't know if i was in for spooky, creepy or eerie, or what? if you have concerns about this, there is a sinister side to TWoNY, but it's not super-scary or creepy. overall, i did like the novel. not quite as much as the previous two... but i felt engaged and entertained. the story was a little predictable for me, but i was still eager to turn the page to see what was coming next. i think my hesitations in truly loving TWoNY are down to two issues:
1) it definitely feels like a set-up for a series (or at least a second, followup, book). though the novel ties up nicely enough at the end, there are aspects which are left undone, foreshadowing more to come. so some of the book felt like 'set-up' instead of a fully and completely realized whole unto itself. this was surprising to discover as i was reading. but i will read whatever mckay publishes - with hope i am not way out in left field on the series idea (i really don't think i am, heh). it would definitely be nice to get some resolutions to a couple of storylines within TWoNY!
2) the style of writing felt a little bit too YA-y to me. - not quite as mature or... insightful, perhaps, as mckay's style in her previous works. it felt a little more simplistic. the content of the novel is not something i would recommend to younger readers - it's definitely a book for adults or very mature readers in their late-teens. one of the primary characters is 17yo, so TWoNY could definitely be an attractive consideration for older teens. there is some sexuality (no too heavy at all), and sinister tension/mystery, so just be aware of those if you are considering the book for your mature teen readers.
oh - another small point: moth/adelaide. i feel like i should go back and re-read the virgin cure. i loved moth in the book. in TWoNY, she's a bit older and a bit more jaded. though always street smart and cunning, there was a sensitivity to her in TVC which, though not totally absent was lessened in some ways in TWoNY. this is one of the areas that could be expanded if a second book or series is coming. i definitely would have liked more depth to moth/adelaide's arc. though we are left with imagining the possibilities to come, which can be quite enjoyable! :)
so... to sum up: i did quite like the story, characters, and mood mckay gives us in TWoNY. (and it's an absolutely perfect read for late-october!) i am also reading The Witches: Salem, 1692, by stacy schiff at the same time. this has actually been a fantastic paired read, with each book benefiting from the other, and overlapping with one another. yay! so i highly recommend that strategy, if you are into pairing a NF work with fiction.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
First off, if you're looking for a book with a strong plot and a fast pace, then The Witches of New York is not going to be the book for you. However, if you're in the mood for something more atmospheric, then you're going to love this one.
The Witches of New York followed the tale of three witches: Eleanor St. Clair, who came from a long line of witches; Adelaide Thom, a seeress; and Beatrice Dunn, a 17-year-old with a strong curiosity for anything supernatural who had just moved to New York. The book featured witch hunting, ghosts, and lots of magic.
This was my first Ami McKay novel, and I loved her writing style. As I said above, she created the most incredible atmosphere. From the first page I was completely transported to another time and place - specifically, New York in the year 1880. I found the pace of the book to be a bit on the slower side, with a lot happening right at the very end, but I enjoyed the feel of the book so much that the slow pace didn't bother me too much.
One thing I loved about the book was how McKay intertwined her fictional tale with the arrival of Cleopatra's Needle, an Egyptian obelisk, in New York City (an actual event that occurred during the time in which the book was set).
The format of the novel also made the book something special. Throughout The Witches of New York were beautifully designed newspaper articles, tracts, spells, and stories.
The main problem I had with this book was that I felt it lacked depth. It touched on a lot of different topics and plot lines, but many of them weren't explored as thoroughly as they might have been. There were just too many questions left unanswered.
So, if you're looking for a book that, despite being a little slower-paced, really draws you in, The Witches of New York is a book you're going to want to add to your to-read list.
For some reason, I’ve procrastinated reading The Witches of New York, but with it due at the library in three days, I decided the time had come! I blitzed through it in a few hours, and did not come out any the worse for wear. Really, kind of fun and published prior to Alice Hoffman’s “Magic Lessons”, the books are both very similar with witch hunters, good witches, lovely spells and total fantasy trips - while thoughtfully pointing out the hypocrisy of the times, the lack of freedom of expression and very real oppression of women (in the Victorian era in The Witches of New York). An mouthy woman might be a witch- or “hysterical”- and banished to a psychiatric facility.
I’m quite happy to have taken the time to read Ami McKay’s action-filled, detailed and suspenseful tale of the three witches, Eleanor, Adelaide and Beatrice.
There was the hint that a sequel might be in order.
I read this book to fill the Spellbound square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.
I first became aware of Ami McKay last Christmas, when I read the novella Half Spent Was the Night: A Witches' Yuletide. That little taste of this world convinced me to choose this book for Halloween Bingo. I am pleased that I was able to include it.
I really love the atmosphere of this book and the novella. The magic is so much an accepted part of this world that you don’t even question whether it exists or not. It does and all the characters believe in it without reservation. The writing is deft and delicate without being fragile, which is good as serious topics are dealt with. One of those is the continuous relationship between witchcraft and organized religion. Another is the nature of friendship and other bonds between people. Also, the nature of life after death.
It makes me want to plant an herb garden, to spend more time outdoors, to write in my journal. It makes me wish that I could go to New York to visit these women and have tea in their shop. I do hope that there may be more books to come, as I would happily re-visit this version of New York again.
I went into this pretty blind and I’m so damn happy I did. The entire mystic of turn of the century NYC, of seeing a new age for women all centered around magic was kinda stunning.
Adding to that the very real system of oppression set up for them and it really gives you this compelling look at both women empowerment and everything already in place to destroy that.
I would suggest this being a binge book. There’s so many POV that it can feel a little disjointed if you only read a chapter at a time. But consumed in large chunks it actually helps keep the story moving and fresh while it does move.
There is a note of religious fanaticism included here that I’d be weary of for people sensitive to such things.
I waited a long time for this book to come out as I am an Ami McKay fan, however it simply did not capture me. I found the book very broken up by all the ads and historical material, whether fictional or not, interspersed with the story. It made, for me, a very choppy read. I also felt the author was attempting to write a book about how intellectual, sexually independent, strong, women were mistaken as witches- but we also got into the supernatural. I would have liked her to stick to one storyline- preferably the one that did not touch the supernatural, as this I think has not been really explored in a book of fiction.