This is the first book that I’ve read by Lousia Morgan, and I really enjoyed the combined feel of sorority and kinship, alongside something unobtrusively mystical.
Title: The Age of Witches
Author: Louisa Morgan
Publication Date: 23rd May 2020
My Rating: 4 stars
This book is set in 1890s New York. Harriet Bishop is descended from a long line of ‘practitioners’ and uses her knowledge of herbalism to support women in need. But when her distant cousin, Frances Allington, and stepmother of Annis, her estranged niece, threatens to use her own abilities for personal gain and manipulation, Harriet decides that she must step in. The journey takes her to England, where she must now save not only Annis, but also James, Marquess of Rosefield, from Frances’ machinations.
The three main women, Harriet, Frances and Annis are all excellent characters. They loosely represent the three ages of witches from popular culture (old, middle aged and young) but they also have their own passions and motivations. Annis is desperately fighting to bring in her own new century, one where she can breed horses and live independently. Harriet is more of the ‘old guard’, having learnt to live cautiously, whilst Frances’ ambitions are a result of her own helplessness and experiences as a woman.
I had a small epiphany whilst reading this book – at the time that it’s set and, given the context of what she’s experienced, Frances rails against the behaviour of men and how they have controlled every aspect of her life. But a worse betrayal is a woman controlling another woman’s life and taking away her own autonomy, particularly in an age when men find that particularly easy to do. And truly making Frances the evil stepmother archetype villain of this novel.
The story is good – the plot is quite exciting and pulls you in, whilst the pace is sedate and relaxed. It’s not a hurried read, instead you’re here to enjoy the journey and well-researched power of the natural world.
Something odd happened though – at around 65% this novel felt essentially done for me. There were loose ends to tie up but it didn’t particularly worry me that they were trailing. Sometimes I like a book that finishes that way. Instead I was staring at the remaining 35% thinking ‘how can the things that need wrapping up take up another third of this novel?’. I don’t mind, largely because I enjoyed the story, writing and herbalism/witchery. And sometimes it’s nice to read a story without that sense of urgency. But still, it would have been ok to end it there. And in fact, some of those things that I assumed would be resolved by the very end where still not quite there.
Overall the novel felt very … balanced. The actions the witches take are to balance and unbalance situations, sometimes in their favour, or as a counterpoint to someone else’s actions, but no one comes away from the story as a clear ‘winner’, in the end, the ending is exactly that – balanced, but poised to tip one way or another.
I received and ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.