Title: The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.
Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.
New Oldbury, 1821
In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.
The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.
All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…
This book captured my interest from the beginning. A dark, historical novel about ghosts and witches in 19th century New England sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver.
The main issue I had with this book was that I couldn’t identify the main conflict. Sure, there were ghosts and witchcraft and an eerie house, but that was all in the background of family drama and romantic angst.
The characters themselves are frustrating. Catherine (the main character Lydia’s older sister) is a complete nightmare who doesn’t seem to care how her actions affect her family and who constantly relies on others to clean up her messes. She is petty, mean, and selfish to the extreme. She couldn’t stand to see Lydia happy and did whatever she could to ensure that she wasn’t. Meanwhile, Lydia never stands up for herself or properly communicates with her sister. The sibling hate was the biggest conflict in this story, and it is never properly resolved.
Another issue is the romance between John Barrett and Lydia. There are some insta-love vibes in this book, as I’m still not entirely sure why John even liked Lydia. She was rude to him on several occasions because she didn’t know how to express her feelings or communicate with other human beings. There were so many misunderstandings and so much miscommunication that I just ended up frustrated during most of their interactions.
Some aspects of this story had a lot of promise and could have been interesting, had they actually had anything to do with the story. Instead, they just fizzled out. Creepy dead ghost sister? Nothing. Creepy dead ghost boy who threatens the main characters? Nothing. Creepy house that puts everyone on edge and seems to attract disasters? Absolutely nothing. It’s like a bunch of stuff was thrown in to create suspense and atmosphere, but never actually has any purpose. Even the fact that Lydia is a witch never really matters that much. We only actually see her “power” a couple times, and the ending was extremely anticlimactic. The people who found out she was a witch were way too accepting of her. In fact, the two “love interests” seemed to think of her as a rare commodity once they found out she was a witch.
Also, are we really supposed to believe that this is how people talk and act in the early 1800s? I’m no historian, but this book almost seemed like it could have taken place in the 21st Century, other than the occasional mention of propriety and social rules.
It all just seemed way too easy. There was never any real tension, no overarching problem, no character development to speak of. The Witch of Willow Hall is just a creepy book about boy drama and some family issues.