Monday, March 12, 2018

A Cacophany of Magics - The Witches of New York

Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom run an unassuming tea shop in turn-of-the-century New York. Eleanor brews teas, potions, and other concoctions to encourage dreams, ease heartaches, and stop/start female fertility, consulting her mother's grimoire all the while. Adelaide reads tarot, deducing people's fates from their demeanor as much as from their cards.

Their cozy little independent shop in The Witches of New York is in for some changes as a third young witch, Beatrice Dunn, travels from upstate New York to come live with them. Her specialty? She talks to ghosts.

I wanted to like this tale of the strange and supernatural in New York, a place with an illustrious haunted history, but there was just much too much going on, and all the little threads never really fit together quite right. The tarot-reading witch with a sideshow past, the grimoire-reading cunning witch, and the Spiritualist witch (if indeed you call such people witches) seem an unlikely trio, thrown together by circumstance, not common experience or talent. And if it wasn't enough to be juggling multiple definitions of such a broadly overused term, there were also demons, fairies, and oriental mystics thrown into the mix. It was simply too much all at once, and the story suffered from lack of cohesion, and too many little passages or concepts thrown in that didn't lead anywhere in particular. They were good flavor text, and usually described quite well, but they lent nothing in terms of narrative tightness.

The characters themselves, for the most part, were well-developed, but the structure of the entire book felt imbalanced. More than halfway through the book, the tone that something was about to happen prevailed, rather than that something was actually happening over the course of the book. And while it did feel that the author had taken some pains to lend each of these thematic layers (witches, wisewomen, demons, etc.) a degree of authenticity, in other places it felt like a cursory amount of research, which might lead you to the most expected terms and references. (However, that could simply be my take on such things, since I've made my academic career on such topics).

The plot came and went without much consequence, feeling like the weak start of an episodic series for these women, though there's no indication that any subsequent titles are in store. Harsh as it may seem, the hint at more interesting stories and more complex plotting that never happened left me wondering about the reason for the book's existence. I can't really be more blunt about my reaction to this book than that.

K Rating: 2/5

Image result for raven on a fence
While the Raven Perdu was interesting, it was a little too Sabrina
for me. Never liked that show.

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