I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
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.