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Escape to Witch City

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In a world ruled by fear of witches, some secrets are deadly. A thrilling new fantasy adventure set in historical London for fans of V.E. Schwab's City of Ghosts and Serafina and the Black Cloak.

Emmaline Black has a secret. She can hear the rhythm of heartbeats. Not just her own, but others' too. It's a rhythm she's learned to control, and that can only mean one thing... Emma's a witch.

In a world where a sentence of witchcraft comes with dire consequences and all children who have reached the age of thirteen are tested to ensure they have no witch blood, Emma must attempt to stamp out her power before her own test comes. But the more she researches, the more she begins to suspect that her radically anti-witch aunt and mother are hiding something. The truth about their sister, her Aunt Lenore, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances years ago.

The day of the test comes, and Emma's results not only pair her up with strange new friends, but set her on a course to challenge everything she's ever been taught about magic, and reveal long-buried family secrets. It seems witches may not have been so easy to banish after all. Secret cities, untapped powers, missing family members -- Emma is about to discover a whole new world.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published August 3, 2021

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About the author

E. Latimer

4 books289 followers
E. Latimer is the author of The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray and Witches of Ash and Ruin.

Her third book, Escape to Witch City, comes out from Tundra Books August 2021.

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5 stars
31 (25%)
4 stars
48 (39%)
3 stars
33 (27%)
2 stars
9 (7%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for Tina.
2,389 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2021
This is a Middle Grade Fantasy book. I really loved this book, and I loved the world in this book. The characters where fun, and I fell in love with them. The magic was fun and very different. I have to say the magic and the world is my favorite part of this book. There is some twists in this book, and I saw some of them coming and I did not see others coming. Great book. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Tundra Books) or author (E. Latimer) via NetGalley, so I can give an honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for Elyse (ElyseReadsandSpeaks).
769 reviews43 followers
September 13, 2021
Man, I just couldn't get into this one. I really tried hard to care, but there was some disconnect where my brain just refused to be taken in by this story. Seriously - I kept forgetting who was who and even what the plot was. The thing is - I don't think the writing was bad. I honestly think this is just one of those cases where a story or writing style isn't for me. (Though I will say - having three main characters with E names - Eliza, Emma, Edgar - did not help my confusion.)

There isn't much to write about this one because I just couldn't take it in. I didn't hate it so it's not a one star, but it just did nothing for me. I will most likely forget I even read this one.
December 2, 2021
What a witchy good story! The magic & this world were so great. I wish we could have explored the magic some more actually, because it was so intriguing! There’s 1 part of this world where I think maybe too much time was spent, & I was just ready to move on from there. But it’s because it started out so strong & I was flying though it, & I just wanted that same pace to continue-while also learning & see more things. I found Emma & her whole family & this worlds backstory so fascinating. I also loved the details to this magic/world. Like the thistle. Every aspect, like how they even use to test for magic at age 13, & everything else it does. Then witches & how each 1 can have a different % of magic, & each witch has a different ability. Then the train, the witch hunters, the In Between was interesting, & Witch City especially was phenomenal. Every detail about it from the crystals, to the well, & even just the shops, streets, & all the witches who live there-superb & all so atmospheric! I would love to know more about parts of witch city, certain things with Emma, & with her mom & aunt. I loved the story over all, & it makes me want to know MORE about certain things that weren’t developed more is all. Great messages in here too, like hate & what it can do to you. Especially the hypocritical kind of hate. Great characters too. I love the friendship & found family that forms between these kids. Incredible! The twists at the end were incredible, & I loved it. Not sure is there will be more, but I would love that. STUNNING cover by Jo Rioux too!💜
Profile Image for Alexis The Nerdy Bruja .
719 reviews83 followers
July 26, 2021
3/5 Stars

** I received this as an E-ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review, Thank you!**

You're in for a ride of Magic, friendship, and adventure with this book. I really liked how these characters came together in a time of need and really had to work together to survive and get to witch city. I thought the magic was really intersteing and would love to learn more. I will admit I was a little disappointed with this book because I wanted more. I feel like this book was very surface level. I wanted more detail about the world and it's magic. I wanted to learn more about witch city and all the politics happeneing. I would've also loved to see more family dynamics happening. Like I said I just really wanted more. Everything felt super rushed and I felt like I didn't have time to enjoy the world we were in. Overall I would say this is a great book for kids who are wanting to get into fantasy as it doesn't really need any explanation. It's a good starter book.
Profile Image for Alex | | findingmontauk1.
1,110 reviews97 followers
April 29, 2022
Oh, wow, this book has such a cool take on magic! ESCAPE TO WITCH CITY by E. Latimer builds magic and this new world in such a creative way that I think any fan of paranormal fantasy will enjoy. It's always good to shake things up a bit, and that's exactly what happens in this book. Friendship and family are on the forefront as well, and I really enjoyed Emma! This is a great read to introduce a MG reader into a world of witchcraft with a lot of real life themes and parallels. The writing is an absolute joy. And, again, the world-building is so good!
Profile Image for Severind Alexander.
639 reviews3 followers
September 27, 2021
3.5, to be precise.

I found this book on a whim. I was searching Libby's new releases for middle grade books and stumbled across this one. With a title like Escape to Witch City and a cover such as this one, it's no wonder I was immediately drawn to it. So much so that I put other books I planned to read next on hold. And while I did enjoy this book, I guess I didn't love it the way I expected to, which is a little disappointing. Nevertheless, if you're interested in a magical, witchy middle grade book, this is a good one to try and I would recommend it.

The story follows Emmaline Black and her friends in their search for Witch City. To explain why would be a bit of a spoiler, but Emma lives in a world where witches are considered evil, and to have anything over 15% witch blood is considered despicable. Certain...methods...are used when a child of 13 is tested with results that are over this 15%. It's actually pretty dark, and I was definitely drawn to that aspect.

The world is actually pretty creative. While part of the story takes place in real world London, the rest takes place in this curious In-Between land and New Londinium, a world of the author's own creation. The magic was also interesting, but I felt like there was a lot to this world and it's magic that was barely touched on. There's so much more to explore. I'm not sure if there will be a future installment to this book or if it's a standalone. For a while there, I suspected it just couldn't end with one book because there didn't seem to be enough time. But now I'm not so sure, given how neatly it wrapped up. If there is another installment, I'm not sure if I'll read it, but in a way, I hope there is so we can learn more about the witches.

Unfortunately, the pacing was a bit slow for me at times. Then at the end it all started going really fast, to the point where it kind of felt like it was going TOO fast. And admittedly, sometimes the plot was a little predictable. But I'm not the target audience so I'll let that slide.

The main cast of characters were pleasant, but in a way, I don't see why needed so many of them. At first it was really hard to keep track of them since three of them have names that start with E. There could probably have been a little more depth to them, and sometimes they felt very similar, but none of them irritated or bothered me.

The book has a really strong beginning, though. The author knows how to write a convincing story. And the main storyline definitely got my attention and kept me reading. I enjoyed it well enough. I guess I mostly just wanted MORE from this. It felt a little lacking in places. But I say that as an adult. For a child, I think this is perfect.
Profile Image for Jill Jemmett.
1,672 reviews22 followers
October 6, 2021
Emmaline Black is the niece of Queen Alexandria. The Queen’s mission is to find and destroy all the witches. When Emma turns thirteen, she must be given a test to see if she has any witch blood. Emma is nervous about it, because she suspects she is a witch. She has the ability to hear heartbeats of people who are near her. Emma is also curious about her other aunt, who was a witch and was banished from the city. After Emma gets tested, she teams up with some new friends to find the truth about her family and the witches.

I love middle grade books about witches! This was book with a spooky, Victorian setting. Their society has a history of hunting witches, but Emma doesn’t know the true reason why. Her aunt, the Queen, hunted out witches to find the Witch City. Emma and her friends had to be sent there to find the secrets of the witches.

The witches in this story had unique powers. Emma had the ability to hear people’s heartbeats. Another character can persuade anyone to do anything, while another has the ability to control birds. These were powers that were quite useful to them but I haven’t encountered them in a story before. I really liked these original abilities.

Escape to Witch City is a fun middle grade witch story!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Erin.
264 reviews21 followers
September 15, 2022
Emma has reached her 13th birthday - which in her London means it's time for The Testing, the blood test all children must go through to ensure they don't have too much witch blood in them. She knows that she can hear others' heartbeats, so it's really no surprise to her when she fails and ends up on the train to Scotland, where all the witch children are sent to live happily ever after. But she soons becomes suspicious that maybe it's not so peaceful after all. With the help of her 3 fellow witches, they will need to escape the train and find their way to Witch City, which may or may not exist. It won't be easy, but at least they have each other.
A bit slow at times, I found myself drawn in to Emma and her adventures. I'd love to hear more about Emma and her friends - dare I hope for a sequel?
Profile Image for J..
Author 1 book56 followers
September 25, 2021
This is an adventure with new friends and an outcast family member. There are family secrets and a dark past. There is royalty and there is power. There are spooky vibes, adventures, and magic.. The themes toward the end get very dark, but still age appropriate as it is a 9-12 aimed age group. I loved the world-building and thoroughly enjoyed the story. Definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Kathy.
18 reviews4 followers
March 27, 2022
Witchcraft is feared and forbidden in E. Latimer’s Escape to Witch City. This delightful story depicts the Queen of England’s hatred of magic and her persecution for those who are accused of witchcraft. If you were related to Queen Alexandria, you would carefully avoid showing any type of magical tendencies or physical reactions around thistle, which is known to cause weaknesses in witches.

Twelve-year-old Emmaline Dorathea Black (Emma) is Queen Alexandria’s niece. Emma is anxious and nervous, along with all the children in the kingdom who are turning thirteen, because that is the mandatory Testing Day for exposing witches. When Emma’s turn is approaching, she feels “a little like she had swallowed a number of live eels,” and she places a hand on her chest as she tries to breathe deeply. Emma is afraid that her weakness around thistle and her ability to recognize people by their heartbeats will identify her as a witch. She tries to lower her own heartbeat before the test, but the result still indicates that Emma is 40% a witch. Therefore, she must immediately board a train that will banish her and other offenders from London. She recognizes the girl she allowed to go ahead of her in the testing line, and she is shocked to discover that Queen Alexandria’s son Prince Edgar has also tested positive. Even the Queen’s son cannot avoid exile for breaking this law.

During the train ride, Emma, Edgar, and other offenders of the law wreck the train, causing them to be stuck in a land called the In-Between. It appears to look like their homeland, but it is different. They face several obstacles trying to escape this make-believe London on their way to Witch City. They are hopeful that the land of witches really exists.

I liked the way Latimer gave each of the children different abilities that helped them leave the In-Between and arrive in Witch City. I enjoyed the timely integration of Emma’s family background so that the reader will understand the frictional relationship between the Queen and her two sisters. Prior to the Testing Day, Emma thumbed through a few history books in the Eastern Library and discovered there were missing pages in all of them that documented her family history. She begins to investigate with the help of Lenore, her mother’s and Queen Alexandria’s sister, who was also banished years ago for witchcraft.

I liked Emma’s character development from a lonely, rebellious twelve-year-old who stole desserts from pastry carts and entered forbidden rooms in the castle to a leader who saves her friends and is unafraid to use her powers.

The only negative comment that I can make is that I stayed in the In-Between too long. I read 70% of the book before I ever reached Witch City. Latimer’s book is a fun read that I enjoyed, and middle grade readers will love it.
Profile Image for Tonja Drecker.
Author 3 books178 followers
October 23, 2022
A rich world reminiscent of kingdoms and magic embraces family secrets, a powerful queen, and friendship.

Emma is royalty, but that doesn't mean she wants anything to do with frilly dresses or the royal court. While hiding from all of it as long as she can in an abandoned wing of the castle, she hears the witch hunters discussing their latest target...and it happens to be her aunt, who disappeared years ago. But Emma has little time to dig into the mystery as Testing Day arrives. She's not a witch. She refuses to be. But the thumping in the back of her mind, when she gets upset, tells her otherwise. As her blood is tested, she has no idea of the secrets and adventures the results are about to expose.

This is a well written tale with tons of wonderful world-building. From the castle, where Emma's aunt rules as Queen...to the train....to Witch City and all the other places beyond, everything takes on a amazing vividness, which made it feel as if the scenes were coming alive. It was enjoyable to experience and visit.

The plot is well woven with unexpected twists and turns, tension, secrets, and heart. The characters' actions were understandable, and each one had their own personalities and hopes. The whole story flows smoothly and is well done. And yet, I really didn't get pulled in. While the first scene is grabbing, and Emma, the political situation, and her family situation are laid out with care. There weren't description or information dumps, and yet, some areas moved slow. I found myself skipping paragraphs here and there. The entire thing does pick up by the end to bring a tense and exciting finish.
I won a copy through Library Thing and enjoyed the amazing world.
Profile Image for Jordan Moore.
95 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2021
I was very excited that I got accepted for this novel even though I am not normally a middle grade reader, and I must say I am so happy that I requested it.

This novel was a lot more than I was expecting from a middle grade novel and it created a new and interesting witch setting dealing with friendship, companionship, and found family. It follows a group of unlikely friends in a world that despises witches and when Emma and her cousin Edward test with a high percentage of witch magic an adventure ensues with their two new witch friends to find the Witch City. This novel reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, but with a little more unexplained magic system that I enjoyed. I enjoy when characters have a different magic that they are the best at and have to learn to control on their own.

One major aspect that this novel touches on is that found or chosen family is a thing. Our blood families do not always mean love and acceptance but can also be extremely toxic. This is something that takes people a long time to learn if they can ever learn it. This seemed to be a perfect way to introduce this theme to children who are always taught to respect and love their all their family members no matter what. For someone who has worked with kids and dealt with family abuse of my own this is an important life lesson.

E. Latimer has easily become one of my favorite authors over the last couple years. I read her adult/new adult novel and absolutely adored it and cannot wait for the next installment. Her writing is easy to enjoy, and the story is always entertaining.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Random House Canada, and Tundra Books for the E-ARC for a honest review.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maura.
73 reviews
October 3, 2022
***3 and 1/2 stars***

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

In this story of an alternate mid-1800s London all children have to be tested when they turn 13 to make sure they have no witch blood. If they do test positive for magic they are sent away forever. Our main character Emma Black knows she’s a witch because she can hear other people’s heartbeats. What makes things worse is that Emma’s mom is the sister of the queen and Queen Alexandria is leading the charge to rid their city of witches forever. On testing day Emma finds out that she is a witch, along with her cousin Prince Edgar Black who is the queen’s son. Both are sent away on the “Witch Express” along with two other young witches to the unknown. This starts their journey to Witch City and the unraveling of the mystery of the Black family’s magic abilities.

It was a good fantasy story and would be perfect for middle grade readers who want a spooky story that’s not too scary. There are some mildly scary and tense scenes as the kids make their way to Witch City. The story gets really good once they reach Witch City. It would be interesting to have the story continue with the kids learning how to use their newfound powers.
Profile Image for Al Pagnotta.
86 reviews
August 6, 2021
Escape from witch city was, in my opinion, the perfect book.

Exciting and witty main characters with their own personal goals, a plot that was easy to understand and follow along, and despite being a novel with war themes and action, it felt calm. It felt like the characters actually had a chance. And that was huge for me.

The writing was gorgeous, to start. The worldbuilding was amazing and I absolutely adored how the magic system worked. The background was established without being shoved down your throat and the characters had actual raw and biased feelings. 13 year olds felt like 13 year olds should feel in dangerous life saving situations.

Our story follows Emma in a kingdom where witches are exiled and sent away. Emma is the niece of the queen, and she senses magic in herself. Then comes the testing and she's pushed together with other young witches to discover the truth. And discover a place. Witch City.

I think my favorite part of this book is how ageless it feels.
Younger viewers can enjoy Action and excitement without feeling overwhelmed by scary themes.
Older viewers can enjoy the gothic themes and amazing story. It's incredible.

So go add this to your TBR.
Profile Image for Jessica.
29 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2021
Escape to Witch City is a fun magical adventure that anyone who has dreamed of having secret powers will love.

In Emmaline Black's world magic is in your blood. And it’s also forbidden. Witches are tested, hunted, and killed. So when Emma gets tested and discovered as a witch she and 3 other witch children have to escape from being taken to their deaths and find Witch City - a secret haven for all witches.

I enjoyed the story. It was fun, fast-paced, and filled with magical surprises that kept me wanting to know more about the world. Witch City is a place I’d love to visit! Honestly, my only complaint is that it took so long to reach Witch City that I didn’t get to spend enough time exploring all the magical nooks and crannies.

I definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers, Harry Potter readers, and anyone dreaming of having powers of their own.
Profile Image for Ashley Dang.
1,144 reviews
June 17, 2021
Forbidden magic, friendship, and adventure await as Emmaline Black’s secret of having witch powers lands her in trouble. In a world where witches are feared and forbidden, every year there is a testing for witches and if they are found out they are exiled. Emmaline’s time is here and her testing reveals her deepest secret...that she’s s witch. Soon she is meets other witches and finds out the real abilities of being a witch and what is actually happening. As she discovers new friends, new powers, and a whole new world she will have to survive all the darkness that is closing in on her. This was a fun read and a nice story about friendship and magic.

*Thanks Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Perla The IB Teen Book Blogger.
499 reviews35 followers
August 2, 2021
Emmaline Dorthea Black has a terrible secret. Ever since witches destroyed much of her city, the Aunt the Queen has banished all witches on pain of death! But life as she knows it unravels at the age of thirteen, when all children are tested to ensure they have no witch blood.

On the run with new friends, on a desperate search for the fabled Witch City, a haven for all magical people, Emma encounters amazing new places like the In-Between and the parallel Londons. This story is rich in substance, the magic system is beautifully descriptive, and the depths of the world created by Latimer are fascinating to read.
Profile Image for Andi Solana.
45 reviews
November 7, 2021
I was really disappointed by this book. It seemed to start out strong for me, but once more characters were added, many of them were woefully underdeveloped and indistinguishable. I also thought the story spent too much time on the wrong things, and as a result the plot was either too slow or too fast.

Emma Black is a witch in an Edwardian London where witches are persecuted if they cannot escape to a safe haven for witches - Witch City. Emma eventually teams up with three other 13 year old witches to find their way to Witch City. But before they reach Witch City they have to pass through the dangerous In-Between world.

Probably for middle school age-ish.
1,142 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2021
There is going to be a second book right? Because I need a second book to be written!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Emma has a strong suspicion that she is a witch and is going to fail "The Test". Emma is not wrong and the adventure that she embarks on after failing "The Test" was interesting and magical.

A great book for young readers that enjoy a story about friendship, adventure, and magic.
44 reviews3 followers
September 25, 2021
A perfect autumn Middle Grade/historical fiction read. The writing was great, the characters loveable, plus the whole story is a journey from our world to different realms. The magic is palpable at every corner and prepare for some exciting twists!
I'd definitely recommend this if you're looking for a exciting,witchy story!
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,966 reviews7 followers
December 30, 2021
A thriller with lots of desperate chase scenes, plus issues a police state, minority persecution (witches), constant surveillance, history revisionism, and the value of forgiveness (for both yourself and others) and self-acceptance. This is a rare book in that the mothers themselves are absolutely horrible (not just step mothers or mother-like figures, or missing altogether)
Profile Image for Melaine.
139 reviews
September 4, 2022
Decided to read this one because it was on a check out receipt left in another book. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be “descriptive”.
So much description, in fact, that it took away from the story and made it dreadfully dull!
A cross between The Wizard of Oz and the Miss Peregrine series.
Profile Image for Courtney.
1,538 reviews21 followers
September 14, 2021
This is an adventure with new found friends and a family member who is viewed with animosity for a good portion of the book. There is a family secret and a dark past. The themes toward the end get very dark. I loved the world-building.
435 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2022
This is a fast moving story about a group of children trying to escape from a world where they aren't wanted. I appreciate there's a lot of gray in this story - the characters aren't all bad or all good when we learn their backstories.
Fun read for middle school
Profile Image for EM MA .
4 reviews
October 18, 2021
This was such a fun read! Reminded me of Harry Potter! I want more of this world and it's fantastic, sweet, troubled, enduring characters. What a great time!
Profile Image for Jester Caln.
5 reviews
January 6, 2023
Great pacing, superb character development. The plot twist was unexpected. It's a joy to read. Looking forward to the next installment of this series
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews

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