Earlier in the year I was eager to start a book club, not finding one in my area that I was able to join. Invites had gone out, prospective members had responded, and then I was concussed. That put the whole idea on hold indefinitely. Thankfully, I had already started a two-person book club (buddy-reading?) with the lovely Rialta Erie.
I sent her a list of books I was interested in reading, and from among them she chose The Witches of New York as our first read. It didn’t take either of us very long to realize this was going to be a very long road.
I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while now, inevitably drawn to stories with witches.
I was certainly expecting magic to play a central role in the narrative. While that was indeed the case, this was an extremely slow-paced tale. The story centers around three women: Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice. I found all of them to be equally tiresome in different ways. Their good points often lost under frustrating habits or opinions.
The plot was loosely focused on each character’s goals, with Beatrice portrayed as a savior of sorts for a new generation of witches. Adelaide and Eleanor guided her towards that fate in different and sometimes conflicting ways. I thought that the secondary characters in this book were interesting and fleshed-out enough to jog the story along when our main trio lagged.
The main antagonist, Reverend Townsend, was a wicked and contemptible man whom I deeply wanted to see dead the entire book. His scenes were by turn disgusting and discomfiting, and I would rush through them as quickly as possible. I won’t deny that McKay can write a great villainous character.
This story really had a lot of potential to be gripping but I did struggle through a lot of it. It was undeniably lovely in places; the descriptions of the teashop and the Fifth Avenue Hotel were beautiful and interesting. McKay’s descriptions of ghosts, dreams, and all manner of magical things were bright spots in the narrative. I simply found myself wishing for more magic and more of a meaty plot.
I learned small things about Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice, but never enough to satisfy my curiosity. Had the story centered more on one of them as a main character rather than split between them, things may have been more fulfilling. I simply didn’t care enough about the wishes and goals of the main characters. I often found the plights and personal lives of side characters more poignant than the story itself. The most interesting side plots weren’t even resolved, to my dismay.
This isn’t a book I would re-read. If you enjoy a slow paced tale with magical elements, this may be for you. If you’re looking for something contemplative and like to fill in your own blanks, this is a winner. If you enjoy a fast-paced narrative with lore explored in more depth, this is likely not for you.
Have you read The Witches of New York? Care to recommend other witchy reads? Let me know in the comments below!