“The Witch Haven” Casts a Powerful Spell

Don’t expect it to feel like going back to Hogwarts

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Because October and Halloween are generally synonymous with witches, I decided to read all the witchy books on my TBR this month. First up? The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith. 

This book follows Frances Hallowell, a young woman living in London in the 1900s. She’s working as a seamstress for a cruel (and creepy) man, while spending all her free time at the police station trying to encourage them to solve her brother’s murder. Then one night while working late, Frances is attacked by said creepy boss, a moment that awakens her inner magic, which fights back to protect her. 

Suddenly, Frances finds herself part of a whole new world at Haxahaven school for witches. Except it turns out that even magic can prove too good to be true for a young woman, and perhaps too dangerous, as well.

I will avoid spoiling specific plot points in this review but may vaguely hint at them throughout as part of my discussion about the book. So, read on with caution! 

Photo by the author, originally posted to Instagram

Oh my goodness, friends. This book!

I expected some Hogwarts-style vibes from a teenage girl winding up at magic school, so was surprised when the tone was much darker and more mature than the early books in that particular wizard-at-school series. 

Frances is older, wiser, and deeply grieving her brother’s death when her magic wakes up and the world as she knows it falls further apart. Because magic, apparently, is real after all.

And magic for girls is, apparently, rather boring. Because Haxahaven isn’t raising young witches to stand out, but to let off their magical steam in useful, practical ways so they don’t go insane. What are useful, practical magics for a young woman in the 1900s? Threading a needle, kneading bread, and other household tasks, of course.

This is, in my opinion, the most realistic take at how society would treat the existence of magic that I have ever seen. I mean, of course the clandestine organization of witches exists to help girls blend in and find husbands and become fine, useful, married women while the magical men in the city hobnob with the wealthy and politically powerful. 

And of course teenagers are going to be bored by schoolwork on occasion, magical or not. Frances and her peers aren’t interested in being useful, married women. They want to learn real, powerful magic and are willing to engage in some casual rebellion to do so. 

Her trio of friends is smart, mischievous, and strong in spite of or perhaps because they are all so different. I enjoyed getting to know them and seeing them each decide how far they’re willing to go for freedom, knowledge, and power. 

And of course, there’s a boy. Or really, boys. Because every powerful young woman in a YA novel needs herself a love triangle.

Though this dash of romantic love is woven throughout the book, this is primarily a story about women’s strength and friendship. Frances and her friends felt real and vibrant and wonderful, and I appreciated how different they all were, how their struggles and strengths and desires were varied and sometimes in contrast.

I’ve been reading a lot of romances this year and really enjoying the predictability and the promise of a happy ending. The Witch Haven was a gripping and powerful departure that surprised me at every turn.

I highly recommend it for anyone who loves a story about magic, friendship, and women stepping into their power. The general mood somewhat reminded me of A Great and Terrible Beauty, so I’m going to guess you’d like this one if you enjoyed those books. 

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7 thoughts on ““The Witch Haven” Casts a Powerful Spell

    • That’s a great question! I think the book is marketed as YA, so should be ok for mature teens. There are some darker and mature themes (on the page violence and death, closed door sex) so I think it depends on the teen.

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