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Parents' Guide to

The Witch Haven

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Riveting historical fantasy offers thrills and romance.

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What you will—and won't—find in this book.

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Kids say (2 ):

Character-driven page-turner is part thriller, part historical fantasy, and its story about young woman learning to claim her magical power is hard to resist. Frances isn't always the traditionally lovable "chosen one" protagonist. She can be alternately impulsive, stubborn, selfish, and unthinking at times, but she's also clever, skilled, loyal, and protective of all she's loved. Frances is surrounded by fascinating friends at Haxahaven, and Smith does well by the supporting characters giving them all interesting backstories and motivations. Lena is particularly compelling as a Native American witch who appreciates what she's being taught but more than anything would like to return to her own community. As a young woman of color, her experience stands apart from the "White ethnic" witches and sorcerers.

The romance, which sets up a fairly obvious love triangle, seems skewed in favor of brooding and mysterious Finn (what love triangle doesn't favor the intense and edgy guy over the clean-cut and kind one?) rather than "Ivy League Oliver," who's neither magical nor gifted with a sexy accent (Finn boasts a memorable Irish brogue). While this isn't strictly speaking a romance, the love story features prominently in the plot. One of the best parts of the story is how well the author weaves in researched facts and details about life in 1911 New York City, whether it's the tree-lined streets of Forest Hills, Queens or the blue-collar bustle of the Lower East Side. The sisterhood of the young witches will appeal to readers who appreciate feminist-themed books, and the ending is just open enough to hint at the possibility of a sequel.

Book Details

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