THE WITCH HUNT, by Sasha Peyton Smith, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Oct. 11, 2022, Hardcover, $19.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
Return to a world of witches and magic in The Witch Hunt, the sequel to The Witch Haven, a historical YA fantasy by Sasha Peyton Smith.
Months after the devastating battle between the Sons of St. Druon and the witches of Haxahaven, Frances has built a quiet, safe life for herself, teaching young witches and tending the garden within the walls of Haxahaven Academy. But one thing nags; her magic has begun to act strangely. When an opportunity to visit Paris arises, Frances jumps at the chance to go, longing for adventure and seeking answers about her own power.
Once she and her classmates Maxine and Lena reach the vibrant streets of France, Frances learns that the spell she used to speak to her dead brother has had terrible consequences — the veil between the living and the dead has been torn by her recklessness, and a group of magicians are using the rift for their own gain at a horrifying cost.
To right this wrong, and save lives and her own magical powers, Frances must hunt down answers in the parlors of Parisian secret societies, the halls of the Louvre, and the tunnels of the catacombs. Her only choice is to team up with the person she swore she’d never trust again, risking further betrayal and her own life in the process. —Synopsis provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
The Witch Haven and The Witch Hunt are meant to be read together, so if you haven’t already read the first novel, do that first. And if you have read the first novel, I suggest rereading it before picking up The Witch Hunt.
At the center of The Witch Haven was the theme of female oppression. Author Sasha Peyton Smith’s exploration of it was strong and moving. That theme plays less of a role in The Witch Hunt, which explores atoning for transgressions, trust and extended familial bonds.
There’s less actual magic in The Witch Hunt, too, as Frances is holding back due to the hiccups in her magical powers. But when magic does make an appearance, it flows naturally within the confines of the world Smith has created.
Frances has grown as a character — still flawed — but she has a grounding to her. She pairs well with Maxine and Lena, who balance her well. Frances’ love interest, Oliver, could be more interesting, but he’s strong and steady in the way that she needs him to be.
The Witch Hunt is not as dark as its predecessor, however, there are still themes of death, murder and violence. Smith’s writing is smooth and comfortable and The Witch Hunt feels like a natural progression. It’s a fairly fast and engaging read that transports you straight to the streets of Paris.
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