Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)
“Something bad is coming”
Frances Hallowell is mourning the recent death of her brother. Her life gets a lot more complicated when her super slimy boss attacks her after hours and she sorta kinda accidentally kills him. Oops!
When it looks certain that Frances is going to be convicted as a murderer, salvation comes to her by way of an ambulance. She’s told she’s very unwell and is promptly taken to Haxahaven Sanitarium to be ‘treated’. Only Haxahaven isn’t what it’s advertised to be. It’s actually a school for witches…
The premise of this book hooked me: secret witchy school, murder mystery, underdog battling the Big Bad. The reality of the book surprised me, and I’m still conflicted.
I was entirely engaged until I learned that the witchcraft that was being taught at Haxahaven was limited to producing good little wives and domestic help. I switched off a little at that point and was even able to put the book aside for a few weeks without any trouble.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish reading but figured I’d give it another try. I found it easy to get back into. I hadn’t forgotten who the characters were or what was happening for each of them when I pressed pause. It didn’t take me long to get into the rest of the story, the parts that didn’t involve magical bread-kneading.
While I wasn’t the hugest fan of Frances, I absolutely adored Maxine and Lena. I wanted to get to know Oliver better.
I think perhaps this is how we survive in the world. Passing little bits of our magic back and forth to each other when the world takes it from us. It’s survival. It’s love. It’s family.
Content warnings include attempted sexual assault including suffocation, domestic abuse, mental health and a character who was removed from her home and taken to a residential school. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
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?