Hey book slayers!
It’s been a while since I have had the chance to write a review, I’ve read some great books and just didn’t sit down to blog about them, and I really need to start setting time aside for this, because I truly do love sharing my opinions on these great books I read. This time, I was sent another ARC through NetGalley in the form of The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox in exchange for an honest review. The book was released at the beginning of October, and you should definitely go to your local bookstore and pick it up, it’s definitely BookishWiccan approved!
My Rating: 4.5 / 5
First, let me say, there will be spoilers. SO, if you don’t want the book ruined for you before you read it, close this post, NOW. If you keep reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Now, let’s dive on in to the review.
Honestly, I was expecting something completely different when I picked this book up. I am not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what I read, and I think I am more thankful for that than not. I wasn’t expecting to love this book so much; to connect and develop such a love for these characters. Between Lydia, and Emeline, as well as Catherine, John, Ada, and all the others, I truly felt like I was a fly on the wall of the early 1800’s Boston family.
To start, this book is based in the 1820s, starting in Boston, Mass., with a little story pre-cursor in 1811, giving you a slight insight into the background of the story and why it begins as it does.
When the book begins, we are greeted by Catherine, Lydia, Emeline, and their mother, as they travel from Boston to New Oldbury (what a town name!), after the family has been shunned from the Boston social society – but more on that later. Catherine is complaining of having to be so far away from the place she called home, and moving to “the edge of the world”, Lydia is drowning in her own thoughts, and Emeline just cannot wait to get out of the carriage and explore her new surroundings, while their mother is just trying to hold things together. The Montrose ladies are traveling to meet their father/husband at the new home he had built – intended originally to be a summer home, turned into their new permanent residence. What they don’t know, is the history of this massive estate, and what it will mean for their family. But more on that in a bit…
The Montrose girls are learning to adjust in a new, very small town, and it’s quite the change from the hustle and bustle of Boston. Their father had moved them to what was supposed to be their new summer home in New Oldbury, and they took up permanent residence. Father was in the milling business and there was great prospect for new mills and a chance to make great money. Seeing as the rumors about the Montrose girls continued to swirl around Boston, the family decided it would be best to uproot and move to a new home, away from judging eyes. New Oldbury doesn’t have the same feel to Catherine and Lydia, both young women in their late teens/early twenties. It’s missing the shops and the social aspects, despite being an elaborate home, the city wasn’t necessarily what the girls pictured, and they are trying to figure out how to best live their new lives.
Willow Hall, nestled on the outskirts of New Oldbury, in the midst of a forest full of secrets, has been home to many tragedies, and the Montrose girls slowly learn of the mishappenings on their new property from their father’s business partner they have a chance encounter with. One day while Catherine, Lydia and Emeline are exploring their new surroundings, Emeline’s dog, Snip, gets away from her and runs off. A storm begins, and Lydia takes it as her duty to return her younger sisters best friend, and off she runs through the forest to find the dog. It is on this walk where Lydia first meets Mr. John Barrett, her father’s business partner. Over the course of the next few weeks, Lydia learns that Mr. Barrett is actually not only her fathers business partner, but he owns half of the land their property sits on, and just out of view, deep in the forest, is where Mr. Barrett calls home.
Now, Willow Hall is known to locals as a haunted place, and after the tragedy that happened in the home prior to the Montrose family purchasing, the hauntings of Willow Hall became stronger once the Montrose family moved in. The first hints of witchcraft and the supernatural were those of voices and ghost sightings, a message in a fogged mirror, all chalked up to being coincidences, or family members trying to frighten others. As time goes by, more and more supernatural happenings take place at Willow Hall, and eventually, the worst imaginable, a death.
This book had so much to offer, from a strained relationship between siblings, a father absent to his children, and falling in love with a handsome stranger – to death and heartbreak, joy and self discovery. It offered beginnings of life and ends of life, dreams dreamt, dreams crushed, and dreams achieved. The journey Lydia (our main character) takes from the beginning of this book through to the end is one that drew me in completely. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her, and what she would choose to do. She is loyal to a fault to her family; and I frantically flipped through the pages wondering what decision she would make next.
The curveballs this book threw at you were amazing, and for the most part, quite unexpected. It took a long time for the mention of witchcraft to surface, but, the subtle hints at it throughout the book definitely add to its ambiance. The way Hester Fox created such an atmosphere I could lose myself in was something that I have had a hard time finding in many of the books I’ve read recently. It was refreshing, and not something I normally find myself reading (historical fiction), but the added supernatural elements drew me in.
There were parts of this book that moved me to tears, whether it has to do with touching on my own personal past experiences, or just becoming to attached to the characters that my heart literally breaks when theirs does. I cried tears of happiness, tears of sadness, and even tears of anger. Whatever it was, I am so thankful Hester Fox resonated such feelings in me, this book was a welcome change from the major fantasy books I have been reading (though that will always be my favourite genre!).
I had so much more I wanted to add to this review, but, I decided to try to take a bunch of the spoilers I had written out, because I truly believe you should read this book to get its full effect. It was well written and very enticing, and definitely something I will read again.
Creep it real, witches.
Stay spooky, and stay wild, moonchild.