The Witch Hunt (The Witch Haven #2) by Sasha Peyton Smith #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The lush and pulse-pounding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Witch Haven follows Frances and her fellow witches to the streets of Paris where family secrets, lost loves, and dangerous magic await.

Months after the devastating battle between the Sons of St. Druon and the witches of Haxahaven, Frances has built a quiet, safe life for herself, teaching young witches and tending the garden within the walls of Haxahaven Academy. But one thing nags; her magic has begun to act strangely. When an opportunity to visit Paris arises, Frances jumps at the chance to go, longing for adventure and seeking answers about her own power.

Once she and her classmates Maxine and Lena reach the vibrant streets of France, Frances learns that the spell she used to speak to her dead brother has had terrible consequences—the veil between the living and the dead has been torn by her recklessness, and a group of magicians are using the rift for their own gain at a horrifying cost.

To right this wrong, and save lives and her own magical powers, Frances must hunt down answers in the parlors of Parisian secret societies, the halls of the Louvre, and the tunnels of the catacombs. Her only choice is to team up with the person she swore she’d never trust again, risking further betrayal and her own life in the process. 

It’s not often that I like a sequel better than the first book, but it happened with The Witch Hunt.

I wasn’t crazy about main character Frances in The Witch Haven. She seemed to have no problem asking others to take risks without considering the consequences for them. In this followup, months have passed, Frances has matured, and now she’s worried more about her friends than herself. When her magic begins acting strangely, Frances is naturally very concerned – especially since she teaches at a school for witches. When an opportunity to visit Paris presents itself, she jumps at the chance. Besides finding a solution to the problems with her powers, she has a more personal reason for the journey.

The strong friendship between Frances, Lena, and Maxine was one of my favorite things about the first novel, and it continues to top the list with this sequel. Maxine stole my heart with her snarky comments. Oliver, Frances’s boyfriend, has been attending school in Paris, so she’s also excited to be reunited with him. And he’s such a sweetie – totally supportive of Frances in every way.

It’s no secret that Finn is reintroduced. He betrayed Frances in a horrible way, but still believes they’ll be together and he can persuade her to forgive him. Honestly, he had some pretty good moments, and it wouldn’t be the first time a “villain” redeems himself. Turns out the spell Finn and Frances cast to talk to her dead brother in the prior book had some serious repercussions. The veil between the living and the dead is open, strange things are afoot, and power-hungry people are taking advantage of it. Someone has to close the veil, and it’s not going to be easy – or accomplished without a few dead bodies along the way.

I really enjoyed the 1913 Paris setting – I love this time period, and the high stakes kept me flipping the pages. Although some reviewers aren’t happy with the ending, it felt right to me. But I admit to thinking about it a couple days before I decided.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee #bookreview #YA #thriller #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

I’m a fan of this author’s Feverwake series and had the pleasure of meeting her at a local book event a couple years ago. When I saw she had a new release coming up, I jumped to request it on NetGalley.

Dark, twisty atmospheric thriller is a perfect description for this novel, and a centuries old campus is the ultimate setting. The story begins with the MC, Felicity, returning to campus to repeat her senior year after dropping out the previous year due to the tragic death of her girlfriend. The house Felicity and four other students reside in is rumored to be haunted by the Dalloway Five – women who were supposedly witches. All died hundreds of years ago on the grounds under mysterious circumstances. The story of these women enthralled Felicity enough that she researched them extensively for her thesis prior to leaving the previous year. She immersed herself in their history and experimented with witchcraft – maybe a little too much – and began seeing a therapist after leaving school. Upon returning, she’s determined to steer clear of anything involving witchcraft and concentrate on her studies. Things change when new student Ellis arrives. Felicity is immediately drawn to her, and Ellis has a way of pulling – or pushing – Felicity into questionable situations using logic that sounds reasonable.

It’s clear early on that Felicity may be an unreliable narrator, and I love that angle in a novel. She’s convinced the ghost of her ex-girlfriend is haunting her, and eerie things happen that may send chills up your spine. After she and her ex used a ouija board to contact one of the dead witches the previous year, Felicity also wonders if she’s cursed. Is she being haunted or is someone trying to manipulate her?

The students at this boarding school are on a different level from your average high school students, and their conversations are intellectual and thought-provoking as they lounge around and drink Old Fashioneds. Honestly, the complexity of their school assignments gave me a headache. The characters read much older than they are. Ellis, at only seventeen-years-old, has just won a Pulitzer Prize for her first novel (some suspension of disbelief is required). She’s working on her second novel and the research she invites Felicity to help her with is morbid and unsettling. Did I mention this book is dark?

The ending is comparable to a strategic chess match, but I’m surprised one character, usually several steps ahead of everyone else, didn’t see it coming. If you’re a fan of dark tales, morally gray characters, and potentially unreliable narrators, find a cozy reading space where you won’t be disturbed and allow yourself to sink into this novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.