Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.
Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.
Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.
I really enjoyed this unique historical fantasy book. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and the author has an amazing vocabulary, often creating sentences that I stopped to re-read.
Bridie is a fantastic character. I love her no nonsense attitude. She’s smart and unconventional and the kind of character I enjoy. She does things on her own terms. I also especially liked her housemaid. The supporting characters added so much to this book.
The author also does an interesting job in weaving in myth and the paranormal into Victorian life. She has clearly done her research on early medicine, which I found it fascinating.
The pacing of the book did suffer a little in the middle, but all of the wonderful characters amply made up for that.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
This is a gorgeous book — starting with the enticing cover and finishing with beautiful, luxurious writing and an engaging, imaginative story. I love it when publishers put a lot of thought into a cover and this one is stunning!
I was captured by the story, the mystique of January and her life with Mr Locke, the way the doors open into different worlds, her notebook, and the sinister overtones and mystery to what is going on.
The different story lines and points of view really drew me in and kept me wanting more, eager to find out how they all came together. I was so invested in January and her desire for self discovery, her courage, and her plight. However, one of the most memorable things for me is her dog! I keep thinking about him.
This is a wonderful portal fantasy that weaves together past, present, and even different worlds in a beautiful way. It was a book I luxuriated in and was sad when it was over.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft…
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.
As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?
I enjoyed reading this book and getting to know the three great main characters, Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice. They each brought interesting aspects to the book and shone a light on how women, especially women outside of the norm, were treated in the 1880s, something which appeals to me.
McKay has created a wonderful and rich world in this book and has brought historical New York to life with interesting detail, but not so much as to get in the way of the compelling story. There were a times where the story dragged briefly, but not enough that I wanted to put the book down — I was invested in finding out what would happen with our heroines, and Eleanor’s pet raven whose mystique I loved.
I love books that portray friendships between women and this one did not disappoint. I am anxious to pick up the novella that comes after this book so I can immerse myself in this world and its characters again.
Magic for Liars
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.
But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
Magic for Liars was a fun read, complete with a protagonist, Ivy, who is a hot mess and has to investigate a brutal murder at the exclusive school for magic where her estranged twin sister works.
I enjoyed the world that Gailey created and how she merged magic into the everyday world and even explained how it worked. I also loved how the teenagers were teenagers, despite their magical ability. Her writing is lovely and is full of vivid descriptions.
Ivy is a great character — fallible, self doubting, messy, drinks too much, yet smart in her own way. It is interesting to watch her navigate this strange world of magic as an outsider, as the reader is, and try to solve the murder.
I did feel like it all ended very quickly, like there was something more that would have brought us to the ending in a more satisfying way, though I did enjoy the twist at the end.
Thank you to NetGalley for a review copy of this book.