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The Witch Haven

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The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.

In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?

442 pages, Hardcover

First published August 31, 2021

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About the author

Sasha Peyton Smith

2 books665 followers
Sasha Peyton Smith is the New York Times best selling author of The Witch Haven and The Witch Hunt. She’s passionate about well-curated road trip playlists, soup recipes, and stories about complicated girls. Originally from Utah, she now lives in Washington D.C. with her partner and collection of porcelain hands.

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5 stars
1,810 (18%)
4 stars
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3 stars
3,293 (33%)
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1 star
163 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,650 reviews
Profile Image for Sasha Smith.
Author 2 books665 followers
June 9, 2021
I believe Goodreads is fundamentally a space for readers and reviewers, so I promise to post this and then dip, (though if you enjoy the book, please feel free to tag me on insta @sashapeytonsmith) but I wanted to appear here briefly to thank you all for your excitement and kindness about The Witch Haven. Being a debut author is at once the culmination of all my childhood dreams and the most terrifying thing I've ever done. The way so many of you have warmly welcomed me has meant the world.

I began this book alone in my childhood bedroom, thinking of my grandmother. She was born before women had the right to vote, and spent much of her early 20s locked in a tuberculosis sanitarium in New York. As far as I know, her sanitarium was not a secret magic school like the one in my book, though they did tell her at 20 years old she only had 6 months to live. She died at 92, so she might have been at least a little bit magic. As a child, I thought a lot about how strange it must have been to be so isolated, but close enough to the city to see the lights sparking over the water. As an adult, I imagined a group of girls and young women, making a home out of a strange place, put there by something entirely out of their control. My grandmother’s sanitarium loomed large in my imagination for years, warped by time, until it became something else entirely.

The Witch Haven follows Frances Hallowell, a 17-year-old seamstress in 1911 New York who is taken to a school for witches disguised as a tuberculosis sanitarium after accidentally killing her predatory boss. The more she learns about the magical underworld of New York City, the more she begins to fear the strange, new world she inhabits may be related to her brother’s death four months earlier, the murder she’d do anything to solve.

Set in gritty, turn-of-the-century New York, The Witch Haven also features girls in capes, beautiful boys who can walk through dreams, and sparkly magic schools that aren’t what they seem. This is, of course, a book about magic and the question of who gets to have real power, but it is also a book about the isolation of grief and the anger of teenage girls. I wrote it for my 17-year-old self, I wrote it for my grandmother at 20, and now it belongs to you too.

I really hope you enjoy The Witch Haven. Thank you again for everything <3

p.s. you can find content warnings for The Witch Haven on my website: https://www.sashapsmith.com/the-witch...
Profile Image for Elle.
586 reviews1,313 followers
September 2, 2021
Witch stories are my fairytales, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of them.

There’s a lot of fascinating things going on in The Witch Haven. It takes place in 1911 New York City, which is either very cool or very not cool depending on what demographics you belonged to at the time. Frances Hallowell is a seventeen year-old young woman working as a seamstress, when a shocking act of unexplainable violence catches the attention of law enforcement. But instead of being arrested Frances is whisked away to a sanatorium in Queens that is more than it appears.

As it turns out, the sanitarium is a cover for a different kind of institution—a witch school for girls known as Haxahaven. Frances and her new peers are housed, schooled in their craft and most crucially, shielded from an outside world that wishes to do them harm. The more time Frances spends confined to her new home, though, the more she feels unfulfilled. A yearning to expand her powers and explore beyond Haxahaven’s walls and locked gates leaves Frances with no choice but to start making her own rules. After all, what’s the point in possessing power if you’re not going to exercise it?

Historical fantasy is an interesting genre to me because there’s so many different directions you can take the story. The only thing that’s predetermined is that at some point the historical precedent will diverge into the fantastical, but it’s up to the author to decide exactly when. What pieces of history are you going to use to build this new world, and which will be strategically left behind? The Witch Haven makes some early choices to view this time period through a more modern gaze. Discriminatory and bigoted opinions are challenged by the author and characters, no matter how common they may have been at the time. This kind of history-lite will be a less grating reading experience for fantasy fans who appreciate a historical atmosphere, but don’t necessarily want to deal with all the baggage that typically accompany it.

What this book really centers is the female characters, with the era being more of a backdrop. It’s a compelling story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world while searching to uncover the person(s) responsible for her brother’s death. There’s a focus on the power of women, both soft and hard, and how women have chosen to wield that power to protect themselves and the people they love. Sasha Peyton Smith also includes criticisms of the women’s movement of the time, not limited to: class, ethnicity, race, education, etc. Though still making the argument that women are stronger together, these plot details do add a much needed context to stories like this.

Overall I enjoyed The Witch Haven. As a standalone historical novel it’s not going to have the expansive world-building that you may find in other fantasies, but it is still a fun ride! Some of the plot twists were pretty easy to spot from a distance, but I like the final twist of the knife in the last chapter & epilogue. There’s also potential for a follow-up, but I think I like the open-endedness as is.

*Thanks to Simon & Schuster Young Readers & Netgalley for an advance review copy!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Hannah.
161 reviews97 followers
August 31, 2021

Wow! That was a rollercoaster of a book. This was a fantastic debut! I absolutely loved every second of this and I need more right now! I feel like The Witch Haven was a book made for me. It has everything I love: Historical fantasy (set in New York!), found family, dark academia, boarding schools, witches, and of course, lots of plot twists and betrayals. I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. I cannot wait for it to be published so that I can rave about it to everyone I know!

"Women are supposed to be competent at everything, but experts at nothing. Haven't you heard?"

The Witch Haven is a young adult historical fantasy set in 1911 New York City. When Frances Hollowell somehow kills a man, two nurses swoop in and tell her that she is ill and needs to be sent to the Haxahaven Sanitarium. The catch? The Haxahaven Sanitarium is actually the Haxahaven School for Witches.

"I intend to be so powerful, I won't need protecting."

This book kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. One of my favorite parts of the book was the worldbuilding. I'm a sucker for historical fantasies, and this one was particularly well-written. There was a spooky atmosphere of witches alongside the hustle and bustle of 1911 New York, where sexism and misogyny was rampant in everyday life. If I had to nitpick, I wish that the boarding school aspect was more defined, but I still loved it. The characters were also very compelling. I really enjoyed reading about Frances because I could really feel her emotions through the writing. I'm typically not a huge fan of the dead relative trope, but I could really understand her grief. Maxine and Lena were also great characters. I liked that Smith included diversity in her writing. I can't speak on behalf of Natives, but I felt that overall the book had good representation of LGBTQ+ and POC characters (however, I would recommend listening to other #ownvoices readers before me). The plot was also very engaging. There were a couple of slower moments throughout the book, but I felt that they were necessary so that the readers didn't feel overwhelmed. The ending is what really sold it for me! Although the plot twists were a bit predictable, I was still shocked by the ending and I cannot wait to read the second book!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for sending me this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Robin.
884 reviews199 followers
August 25, 2021

Thank you so much to Simon Teen and Netgalley for providing an e-arc copy. All thoughts and opinions are still my own.

I am clearly in the very small minority but this book unfortunately just didn't work for me. I'm break this into parts starting with what I did like.

What I Liked
This book started off with a serious bang! I was immediately gripped by the bleak and dark atmosphere and no holds barred opening scene. I loved how this story didn't waste any time and got straight into the magical world.

I liked that the magical world wasn't perfect. It was dark and messy and morally grey. The school and surrounding forest were really atmospheric and I my favorites scenes took place there. That coven scene in the woods really sticks out to me and wish we had gotten more moments like that!

What I Didn't Like
Unfortunately there was a lot of things I didn't particularly love...

First off, while this started off really strong, I felt like it lost momentum and focus around the 30% mark. There were so many scenes that I felt dragged or didn't propel the story forward. The pacing just dropped so substantially that I lost interest by the time the plot picked up again in the last 15% or so.

But what I struggled with the most is that this book is heavy on the world and magic and plot but not the characters. As a character driven reader I need to understand the characters I'm following and I could never pin these ones down. Because they felt so underdeveloped, I never understood their decisions or motivations. It felt like Frances' entire personality was the fact her brother died. Why did she mistrust her friends yet trust a stranger in the woods? Why did she overanalyze everything yet give in so quickly to Finn? The character personalities didn't seem consistent but were instead decided in whatever way advanced the plot...

My last qualm is a bit of a spoiler so read at your own risk:

In the end I was just so disconnected from the story that the final culmination didn't do much for me. The ending was really action pact and had a fun, open ended epilogue (which I always appreciate). I definitely enjoyed Sasha Peyton Smith's writing and want to read another book from the them in the future - this witchy, historical fantasy just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Kelsi.
126 reviews58 followers
June 24, 2022
The absolute unthinkable has happened. I read two five star books IN A ROW!

The Witch Haven is truly everything I love in a book- magical realism, a secret society boarding school (in NEW YORK!), an angsty love triangle and a climactic magical battle. Yesyesyesyes! I cannot wait for the sequel, especially after reading that it’s going to have a London setting.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,433 reviews828 followers
October 19, 2021
This was *ok* but not as good as I expected it to be. On paper it had all the ingredients I love in a historical fantasy book about witches and magic. But somehow the magic fell flat for me. I think there was too much emphasis on the murder mystery. I thought the way Hexahaven taught magic and why, was an original point in the book’s favour.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,153 reviews1,513 followers
October 16, 2022
The Witch Haven and The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith are the first and second books in the young adult fantasy The Witch Haven series. As with most fantasy series the story in The Witch Haven series begins in the first book and picks up in the second so they do need to be read in order to be completely understood.

The story in The Witch Haven begins in 1911 in New York City where young Frances Hallowell is staying after the loss of her family. Frances is working as a seamstress with other young girls when one night she finds herself alone in the shop trying to finish up after the other girls have gone.

That night forever changes Frances’ life when her boss attacks her and ends up dead with Frances’s scissors protruding from his body. Luckily for Frances she finds herself heading to Haxahaven Sanitarium with two nurses instead of prison. Frances soon finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all but a school for witches.

When beginning The Witch Haven series I immediately found myself transported to the dingy, dark side of New York in 1911 and fell right into the story. The first book wasn’t without a few flaws in my opinion but it did hold my attention and make me want to come back for The Witch Hunt, the second of the series. Picking up The Witch Hunt however wasn’t the same engaging beginning as I found in the first book. The pacing seemed to be even slower than what I’d found in the first and I only found it to be so-so for me.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
September 10, 2021
This was an okay stand-alone but I kept asking what is the point of this book? I hate when I am reading a book and I feel the protagonist doesn't have a purpose or like there isn't a structure to this novel. I get she wants to solve her brothers murder but what's the plan? she didn't have one. Serial murder? No plan to find them. Doesn't belong at the witch academy? FIND somewhere else. She finally did at the end but I felt like she wasn't too indecisive through out the book.
Profile Image for cossette.
291 reviews234 followers
September 1, 2022
there’s so much to love about the witch haven — the worldbuilding, found family, dark academia, boarding schools, witches, historical influences, plot twists and betrayals, dynamic characters, among many other things. but at the end of the day, what stood out to me most of all was how grief can impact you in so many ways, how powerful friendship is, and the quiet power and strength that we carry within us. frances’ journey is particularly shaped by her grief, and her trauma. it’s a reminder that grief is something that doesn’t just go away, but something that we get used to, and something that is always in the back of our minds. i love how sasha peyton smith writes about grief and trauma, how the healing process isn’t linear, and how the book has a good balance of lighter + heavier moments. sasha peyton smith’s prose is haunting and lyrical, in a way that is bound to stick with you forever.

full review here

content warnings: grief, attempted sexual assault, blood, murder both on page and off, stabbing, vomiting, drowning, absentee parents, mutilation of corpses, the main character’s mother resides in an asylum for assumed mental health issues, mentions of asylums, alluded child abuse, discussions of Native American boarding schools, and underage drinking and smoking
Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
680 reviews45 followers
July 14, 2021
Thank you Netgalley for this Arc!!

This was an incredible read that had me in it's clutches from the very beginning to the last page!

I loved following Frances from shopgirl to murderess and then to a school of witchcraft. Six months prior Frances lost her brother. He was murdered but the whole scenario remains mysterious and plagues Frances daily.

I loved The group of friends surrounding Frances, not to mention a plot that made me keep turning pages throughout the whole story. The setting is 1911 in NYC and to watch all of this unfold at that time was simply remarkable.

I cannot recommend this book enough! It really does have something for everyone and will keep you on your toes! Do yourself a favor and don't miss out on this one!
Profile Image for Natalie.
2,445 reviews52 followers
September 25, 2021
2.5 stars, rounded down because that was one seriously clueless main character.

This started really strong and the first 20% or so was great with lots of action and excitement. Then something fizzled and it never really gained momentum again. I think it felt slow to me for a few reasons:

Frances was clueless

It just seemed like she made bad decision after bad decision and when someone would speak to her about it, she would throw a tantrum and be a snot and then do whatever she wanted. Of course, her ideas were terrible and basically everything bad that happened was her fault.

lackluster romance

Maybe it’s because I’ve read Lair of Dreams, where the villain visits his victims in dreams, but Frances should have seen red flags flying everywhere when it came to Finn. He basically told her he stalked her in dreams for 5 years, and she was ok with it??? That was creepy. It wasn’t surprising at all that he turned out to be the bad guy.

undeveloped characters and plot lines that fizzled

Once Frances found out that her mother was locked away in a sanatorium, I thought for sure she would work to rescue her. Nope. Apparently she’s fine with just letting her mother rot away. Neither Frances nor any of the other characters were particularly well developed. Frances’ only characteristic/personality trait was that she wanted to find out who killed her brother. She didn’t have much dimension beyond that. There are also a lot of secondary characters that are introduced basically only by name so that made it very hard to follow.

I had high expectations for this book, but the more I read, the less I liked it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lindsay (pawsomereads).
675 reviews374 followers
June 26, 2021
Witches, magic and historical fiction combined to make an exciting and captivating read in The Witch Haven. This was a really atmospheric read and I felt so transported to early 20th century New York City. The setting was utilized so well and I feel like it was the perfect choice for where this story should take place. I loved the incorporation of schools for witches as well. So many readers enjoy academic settings for books so I think this really benefitted the story.
The mystery aspect was very engaging and I moved through the story quickly, wanting to know what was going to happen next. There were so many surprising twists and turns along the way that made this super difficult to put down.
The whole cast of characters were so inviting and I loved reading about the friendships as well as the slow burn romance that was going on.
This is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys both historical fiction and fantasy, or is looking to give either genre a try!

Thank you to Netgalley, Simon and Schuster and the author for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for gauri.
180 reviews393 followers
August 20, 2021
read full review on my blog!

Buckle up friends a new secret boarding school for witches in a city with murderous happenings just dropped is going to drop soon!! I love books that surprise me—even though this one was on my radar ever since it was announced, one can never be sure if they like their anticipated releases can they? I don’t know what drove me to rate this 5 stars but I honestly had so much fun consuming The Witch Haven.

The best thing about this book was the steady pace that kept me hooked and engaged. I didn’t feel bored, just sat there and witnessed all the twists as the story took off. The worldbuilding is fairly simple. Sasha brings 1911 New York to life with simplistic, beautiful writing. I love that she chose this setting and gave justice to it. The magic system, mainly spells and control of a witch’s power were super intriguing too. I haven’t read this kind of a book in a long while so the witchy aspect was definitely refreshing.

The mystery aspect was pretty good too, kept me guessing. The Witch Haven also throws light on the inherent misogyny present in the society—how witches weren’t supposed to be too powerful. Frances and witches like her are taken away to be protected and trained meekly in a school disguised as a sanitarium. I like the way the feminist and unjust undertones were included and essential to the plot.

Throughout the entire book, Frances grieves her brother William. This is what drives all her decision, however rash they were. It’s written and explored so well with Smith’s writing bringing out her emotions to the page. Frances is full of hope and desperation, wanting one last chance to see her brother and perhaps get the closure she’s seeking.

I absolutely loved Frances, Lena and Maxine’s friendship! They form an interesting support system, helping her figure the mystery behind her brother’s death and looking out for her. Being a YA novel, I appreciate Smith capturing a teenager’s want for not only romantic aspects but also a strong friend group. found family / found friendships have my heart. The Witch Haven brought out the power of female friendships. This trio of witchy best friends who sneak out to learn magic was so fun to read about.

Apart from this, The Witch Haven has good Irish rep. I’d recommend reading this article by an Irish reader on Smith’s research and inspiration for the Irish character in The Witch Haven! I’m glad Lena’s character, as a Native woman and witch was included and brought light to, along with the inclusion of queer witches.

If I had to critique, I’d say I wish the book stressed on the 1911 New York and boarding school setting a little more. We get glimpses of it, especially of the academic setting when Frances first gets admitted to Haxahaven but I would have liked if we got more scenes relating to those aspects. There’s also a love triangle… of sorts and one of the love interests didn’t sit right with me because he was barely in Frances’ life. But overall, these points didn’t hinder my enjoyment while reading the book.

While I eagerly wait for the next book to know what happens after that turn of events and betrayal in the end, I recommend you give The Witch Haven a shot!! If historical fantasy, feminist themes, a swoon worthy boy, witches and magic interests you then this is for you.

thank you simon & schuster for the arc!
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
804 reviews98 followers
September 9, 2021
The Witch Haven had potential and a very interesting universe, set in the 1900's, in New York. Witches, magicians, schools, gangs, and a murder mystery are the main elements of this story that uses the historical background brilliantly, making full use of it. However, at times it felt rushed and almost like it needed more time to mature. Considering, however, that this is the author's debut novel, she shows potential for a true upgrade in the next book (will there be the next book in this series? the last letter kind of suggested as much).

Another thing that I've appreciated was the feminist premises of this book. Mostly all of the characters are strong females who know that their current position is of the lower ranks and they want to gain the power they deserve. The indigenous representation was also a great choice. It showed a bit of how a girl like Lena would feel in a society full of white people.

Francis was, in addition, an enjoyable character, most of the time. She was quite a delight in the beginning and she was truly a broken soul that was trying to get it together. However, she was acting selfishly most of the time. She was asking a lot of questions as well, but, alas, never the right ones, the ones that would have explained a bit about the magic in this world and such. She also trusted people like Finn way too easily, even though she had a strong repulsion towards any other male around her. Plus, she kept acting like she wanted to say yes but she kept saying no. Like, she wanted to be part of the sisterhood, but she kept sulking in her room alone.

Maxine, on the other hand, was quite a delight, though she had her moments when she was simply being impossible. Finn was sketchy right from the start, though the ending was, somehow, one of my likings, even though the twist was a bit rushed.

Finally, the writing was pretty great and the pace was pretty smooth.
443 reviews14 followers
September 1, 2021
I don’t normally write reviews on books I DNF but I really can’t let this go. I was done by chapter five, but continued reading until chapter eight, where I stopped after the following titillating conversation:

“I felt something different.”
“Different how?”
“Different as in DIFFERENT.”

That’s A+ writing quality right there, y’all.

I don’t know how this got such good reviews, but I’m here to tell you not to waste your time. The book started out with such promise, and I was here for the atmosphere and the creepy tension and the mystery surrounding her brother’s death. Frances seemed to be the start of a great heroin, smart and cunning and badass.

But then! When she finally gets to the academy, she suddenly turns into a freaking toddler. She is whiny AF and if it had started this way, I probably would’ve believed you if you had told me she was twelve and not seventeen. All she does is ask question after question instead of, idk, LISTENING, and then gets upset when there are rules and the classes aren’t what she wanted to learn about magic. At the first sign of boredom and the academy not exceeding her expectations, she wants to run away.

I’m going to pretend that she did like the child that she is and that that’s where I finished the book. I’d like to think this is a case of me just getting older and not tolerating YA, but honestly…it’s really just that writing quality is going downhill.

I could go on, but seriously, I only read eight chapters, and this is already a long review. I will not be wasting my time with the other 400 pages. Save yourself.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 13 books1,656 followers
May 25, 2021
THE WITCH HAVEN is a dazzling debut -- a wonderfully thrilling, sinister take on a secret school for witches. Sasha Peyton Smith deftly balances a nuanced exploration of loss with a page-turning magical romp through 1911 NYC. I grieved, raged, and swooned right alongside Frances.
Profile Image for ~ a foray in fantasy ~.
270 reviews260 followers
January 7, 2022
The main character, Frances, lacks agency. The only plot point in this book is a murder mystery, and a poorly executed one at that. Also, I really did not like either of the love interests.
Profile Image for Amanda .
432 reviews154 followers
September 27, 2021
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You can also read my review here: https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress....

Review: 4 Stars

As soon as I saw the cover of this book I wanted to read it. I picked it up as soon as I was granted a review copy and by the end of the first chapter I was completely absorbed in this book. The Witch Haven is a historical fantasy set in New York City in the year 1911. The book starts with Frances killing her boss when he attacks her and then being whisked away to a school for witches that is disguised as a tuberculosis sanitarium. In a time when women are fighting for equality Frances is trhilled to find out she has magical power, but the Haxahaven school for witches teaches the girls to control their power rather than teach women how to be powerful.

Following Frances as she makes friends and the girls seek to learn how to use their power feels like the perfect story for the time period. The book was character driven, but it also had a compelling plot. Frances and her friends find a spellbook and start training to do magic with Finn, who was a friend of Frances’ late brother William. Frances is driven by grief from the loss of her brother and works to become powerful enough to perform a spell that will let her speak to her dead brother. Most of the book follows the girls as they secretly train to become stronger and their quest to find all of the items needed for the spell.The plot is compelling and had a few twists that I didn’t expect, but the characters were what made this book so good.

Frances was a well written main character. Watching her grow into someone powerful and struggle with moral decisions was one of my favorite aspects of this book. Frances’ grief over losing her brother drives a lot of her choices and I feel like her grief is written so well. She is so emotionally raw that you can’t help but empathize with her. I also really loved the friendship between Maxine, Lena and Frances. Maxine was so passionate and full of life, Frances’ friendship with her was quite a roller-coaster. Lena was more gentle and kind, but also easy to love. The three of them became so close and I loved the found family vibes. I wanted to know a bit more about them though, especially Maxine as I found her more interesting than Lena.

There was a love triangle in this book and the romances were a big part of the story, but they didn’t overshadow the rest of the book. I was hoping Frances would wind up with the other character and felt like the love interest that she did wind up with wasn’t written as well. This led to me having some mixed feelings about the ending of the book, but overall I really liked the book as a whole. The book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it did end in a way that leads me to believe that there might be a sequel.

The Witch Haven was a historical fantasy book with some feminist themes. It’s set in a time period where women are fighting for their rights and there is an interesting contrast between the historical events and the witches at Haxahaven secretly working to become powerful. It’s a great story about women, friendship, grief and morality. If you enjoy feminist themes, witches or historical fantasy I would definitely recommend you give The Witch Haven a shot.
Profile Image for ♥Milica♥.
886 reviews260 followers
October 5, 2021
A historical fantasy with a magical boarding school disguised as a sanatorium and a murder mystery waiting to be uncovered? Sign me up!

Our main character, Frances, works as a seamstress for an awful man. One day he gets too handsy and Frances defends herself by using magic for the very first time. Next thing she knows, she's swooped up into an ambulance car and taken to Haxahaven sanatorium, which isn't all it seems.

At Haxahaven, Frances makes friends and learns very basic magic that would help her adjust to life outside of the enchanted building. But what if there's another kind of magic outside the walls? A darker, more dangerous kind? And what about William, her dead brother who still hasn't gotten justice? If Frances doesn't solve the mystery, who will?

This was a wonderful read, from start to finish.

Parts of the story (mainly Finn's role in Frances' life) were predictable, but I didn't mind. I still fell in love with Finn and I can't be mad at him, no matter what he did.

Oliver was a nice character too, although I wish that .

All the girls were great. Of course, Maxine and Lena were my faves. The others could've had more development, especially the mean ones (who we never saw do a mean thing).

The world building magical and realistic at the same time. Like a perfect blend of both. I'd love to learn more about it.

The book ends with a slight cliffhanger which leaves room for a sequel in the future, which I hope will happen because I haven't had enough.

4.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,906 reviews5 followers
June 7, 2021
More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

Witch Haven is a nicely atmospheric historical urban fantasy that, while diverting, had some frustrating inconsistencies. As a milieu, 1910s New York is only a side character when it should have shined. The heroine (and most of the other characters) are oddly ambivalent and the magic is never explained. It can be very dark at times and the plot holes/character motivations frustrating. But there are some nice twists and certainly it keeps you reading to solve the mysteries.

After her beloved brother's untimely death, Frances is just getting by as a seamstress. It is a thankless job and she is miserable but she sees no other opportunities in 1911 New York. Until the night the company's owner accosts her and she suddenly finds herself with a dead body at her feet, her scissors firmly planted in his neck. The next moment she is whisked away to a 'sanitarium' for tuberculosis, the police hot at her heels. Turns out, Frances has magic powers and the sanitarium is actually a secret school for witches. Frances chafes at the curriculum - using powers to sew, clean, cook more efficiently. When a former friend of her brother's shows up and offers to teach her and her close circle of friends how to use their powers for more, she is all in. But who is Finn and why is he helping them? Surely not only because he was her brother's good friend......

The setting here is very atmospheric - you'll picture a gloomy old world NYC/Queens. But we only really see the witch school and warlock nightclub and I couldn't help but feel so much was missing. Sights, sounds, smells - everything that 1911 City life would have been. Frances seemed more to be just passing through this world rather than having grown up with it.

As a character, Frances was frustrating. She is very unhappy most of the book, always wanting more and to do things her way, regardless of the repercussions. It meant she rushed off most of the time and did brainless things. I will always prefer a heroine who can use intelligence and wit to get out of situations, rather than needing luck or a hero to save her from her own stupidity. Granted, throughout the novel, things are not always as they appear and Frances' escapades just a bit too easy to be safe. But seeing the same YA archetype (willful, energetic, spontaneous, and mouthy/rude) is getting tiring: a heroine can be quiet and thoughtful and still be very empowered. She doesn't have to run out and do stupid things to be 'brave'. In the end, she just felt selfish and foolish.

The other clichés are here: unique snowflake, a harem of boys all wanting her, the usual escalation of her powerful abilities, and people hiding important facts from her that would make life so much easier. The writing is decent enough to mitigate some of the frustrations with those tropes, though.

In all, this is currently a stand alone but it finished in a way that was satisfying but still left some doors open. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Jennie Damron.
466 reviews60 followers
October 24, 2021
I was hoping to love this book. It had the elements of all I adore. Witches, Magic, school setting, murder, family, and friendship. But, something didn't click with me and I can't place it.
Frances is reeling from the murder of her brother. She works as a seamstress for a swarmy man named Mr. Hues. She stays late one night finishing a project and is attacked. Somehow scissors end up in his neck and Frances has no idea how it happened. Two mysterious women arrive the next day claiming she needs to come with them to a sanitarium to heal from tuberculosis. Only when she arrives Frances discovers it's an Academy not a sanatarium to teach witches.
Parts of the story I enjoyed. The friendship with Maxine and Lena was great. I was touched by the love Frances had for her brother William and the depiction of the grief she endured.
There was something missing. Maybe it was Finn and that plot line that didn't sit well with me. I just don't know. I should have loved this book and it was just ok.
Profile Image for renee.
86 reviews61 followers
September 25, 2022
3 ⭐️

it took me more than a month to finish this book but we’re finally here. the witch haven was a good book but i somehow expected much more from it.

the plot of the book is definitely not unique in any way. we have our main girl frances who gets enrolled in a school for witches after discovering that she is one of them. we have a murder mystery and a love triangle. there are betrayals and many twists and turns and all of this actually sounds amazing but the beginning of the book was so damn boring i almost dnf’d it multiple times.

from all the characters we meet in this book my favorite was maxine and i didn’t really enjoy frances as a character. she was too naive and whiny in my opinion. also, oliver is the best boy and i love him so much. finn i don’t even want to discuss. a walking red flag and i hate how frances was still enamoured with him even after all the horrible things he had done.

even though i can’t say that i loved this book the ending felt promising and i’m starting the sequel straight away just to see what happens next.
Profile Image for Elodia.
220 reviews10 followers
September 12, 2021
This one is hard to review because while I appreciate how atmospheric it was, everything else fell flat.

It promised a witch academy and a battle between witches and wizards, and while it half-heartedly delivered on the latter, it was not enough for me to like this. The Witch Haven mainly focuses on Frances trying to figure out who killed her brother, but that isn't even interesting. All we get is Frances complaining about things. She makes horrible decisions, and if things don't go her way or someone disagrees with her, she gets mad and doubles down on her bad decision. Finn was annoying, and I knew how his character was going to go within his first few appearances.

Frances claims to understand how others feel but doesn't actually show it. It's as if she thinks saying it over and over will make it true. Also, there was no 'sisterhood'; it's just Frances going around bullying the others into doing what she wants just because she doesn't like school.

I wish I had more positive things to say about this one, but I just didn't like it. I still think you should give it a chance if the synopsis is something that intrigues you.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Page Pest.
98 reviews
September 28, 2021
A couple of things:
-not enough world building in this magical society; how does their magic system work? what are the rules? what are all the types of magician that exist in this realm?
-what is the main character's attributes other than whiny, motivated by finding her brother's murderer and not getting her way?
-where was the magical war that I was promised? The only "war" that really seemed to happen was the magicians really didn't want the witches to interfere with business, but there was a treaty? No war until like the last 15%?
-how were all the women in this book unlikeable except for like two?
-what happened to all of the teachers?
-how is everyone just okay with murder? like forgiving people for actual murder and saying "you are not irredeemable" and "she probably deserved it"? Excuse me, what?
-How long was Finn plotting his plot because it seemed to come together remarkably well with what seemed like very little effort expended.
-Is Frances in love with her brother? He treated her like shit, but she loved him like... an uncomfortable amount. Also what about her mom? Her mysterious father that was just conveniently left forgotten?
-How did stabbing Finn get rid of their magic?
-What was the point of Haxahaven? Genuinely? Jut to hoard witches? Teach them to do basic magic and then get them married? I am so confused by both the brotherhood and witch school?
-Nothing seemed to matter because over half the plot was spent trying to appease Frances talking to her dead brother to find out his murderer and then what? What was the motivation here? Murder the murderer? Get him brought to justice... but how? How would you go to the police and say "Here is the guy that murdered my brother. I found him via magic." Also what was the point of anything that happened in this book? It just felt like hopping from one thing to the next.
-Frances' inability to think of anyone but herself. It's a no from me dog...

There are so many unanswered plot points (dare I say some are holes) that just frustrated me to no end. The majority of the book felt so boring and even infuriating with Frances' attitude that the last part of the book just underwhelmed and didn't make up for any of the anger or frustration I felt. There was a strong finish, but the main character being unlikeable and the rest of the book falling flat just made it an overall underwhelming and disappointing read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rachel & Lindsey.
77 reviews3 followers
September 23, 2021
ugh okay, this book was incredible and a perfect spooky season read.

i think i liked this book so much because it subverted a lot of the expectations i had going in.

when i went into this book, i thought it would be about a loving school where the main character was taught by her teachers how to hone her abilites and become more powerful. but haxahaven wasn't the witch school i thought i was going to be reading about, and i loved it!

the way that the social issues of the time period were interwoven into the story. it was made clear that sexism and racism were happening instead of them being brushed over, and the author was critical of them in the narrative.

i'm trying to think back on things i didn't like about it, because there were so many things that i did like. the only thing i can think of is that Finn wasn't always my favorite character and that he was very much romanticized for a while (not surprised, given that Francis was narrating). but the last few chapters turned my view around on him.

definitely make sure to check out all the trigger warnings before you read! - lindsey

Profile Image for Gemma.
242 reviews19 followers
September 25, 2021
No offense but did the editor give up at the end of the book? There are grammatical issues and dropped punctuation in my finished copy.

This book started off strong and with a feminist vibe, but it went nowhere quickly. I had to force myself to continue reading because it's only about 400 pages, but the more I read the more I wanted to DNF. Frances is selfish. At no point does it cross her mind that she is manipulative and demanding of her friends. She is a seamstress at the beginning of the story and there is a weird obsession with capes at this school, so I would have enjoyed a bigger role in fashion or sewing somewhere in the book but this is completely dropped after the first third or so of the book (with one mention to her altering a dress later on). As in, she had a personality and then it was gone?? I have no idea why there are two boys in love with her. Oliver has charm but the main love interest, Finn, has zero personality other than being obsessed with Frances until we learn of his motivates at the end, but by then I was completely over the story.

The only thing I liked about the story was that Haxahaven turned out to be evil, which is a departure from what was expected. The book strived to be feminist and a tale about sisterhood but it really bothered me that in order for the girls to learn magic, they had to learn from a boy. Additionally, there is very little world-building around the magic system and no explanation as to why Frances is so powerful. She just was. This is not development and does not add interest to the story to make all the other girls jealous of her (even in a friendly way!). We are introduced to the resurrection spell pretty early on, which states that it's best done while the death is fresh but we been knew that her brother died a while ago, so the whole time I was wondering what I was missing here. Did Frances just conveniently overlook that note bec if we're in her head, we shouldn't be learning information separate than her.

At first I thought this book was just meant for a very young audience, which as a YA reader I always keep in mind, but being YA isn't an excuse for lazy writing. I really wanted to like this book. I received my edition from The Bookish Box a few days ago and it is STUNNING and I wanted to love this book, but I don't understand how I can be so frustrated at a character that's as exciting as cardboard.

Anyways, Finn is creepy and has been since he first stepped onto the page and I'm glad that at least that played out to him being creepy in the end. Side note that may be a spoiler: there's a letter from Finn to Frances on the last page with no explanation or why it's there or what it's for but since it's dated for after the story takes place I am now concerned that there will be a sequel.

This book also needs a hecking trigger warning for attempted sexual assault at the beginning of the book. It is kind to warn your audience of potentially distressing situations, especially when targeted towards a younger demographic.
Profile Image for Lisa Mandina.
1,864 reviews417 followers
August 30, 2021
This book had a lot of really interesting details. I loved the whole historical aspect of New York City. I also really enjoyed how the author kind of related different well-known things from that time period, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, as well even just how women were treated and sent to sanitoriums and asylums for things that men didn’t like. All of the mystery behind the magic and what was going on between all the different people who had magic was well done with this story. Even though there were certain people in the story that I always had a little inkling of doubt in my head as I read, that they couldn’t really be as good or as sincere as they seemed, the author was able to keep me guessing and twisting my opinion so it went back and forth. There was even a couple twist moments at the end that I didn’t see coming, and then when something happened that totally blew those parts out of the water, wow.

Now I feel like it would have been nice to have a little more time with one of the characters that turns out to be the good guy in the end. And honestly, there were times when maybe I felt it was a little long? But since it all wrapped up in the end and there was so much that fit into the bits and pieces to complete the story, that I ended up being okay with it. There was a note at the very end though, and there definitely needs to be a sequel, because there is one very big loose end left to be tied up. So hopefully there will be a book 2!

Review first posted on Lisa Loves Literature.
Profile Image for Amanda Belcher.
332 reviews13 followers
October 8, 2021
I really wanted to love this one. I felt like it started off strong but my interest definitely waned a little toward the middle. It's also just really frustrating when the main character makes so many dumb, shortsighted mistakes. There were some decent twists and I was happy with the ending but it overall fell a bit short for me.
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