ARC Book Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
ashley | As much as I’m tired of the usual supernatural vampire/werewolf books, I don’t know if I will ever tire of a book about witches. It’s a topic I’m always fascinated by and I can never pass up an opportunity to read a new telling. When The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox crossed my path, I snapped it up immediately, intrigued by the premise of yet another witch who doesn’t know she’s a witch and an old house with lots of lost secrets.
I was immediately charmed by the entire feel of this book. Three very different but lively sisters, isolated in a beautiful old house in the middle of nowhere, traipsing around the forest and then out of nowhere comes a handsome stranger. It was all very whimsical at first and I was swept away.
The story itself seemed kind of slow at first, focusing solely on the three sisters as they settled in to their new home and tried to win the affections of their father’s business partner and his house-guest. Usually parts like this seem a bit too Austen-like for me; I love Austen, don’t get me wrong, but a book that promises witches and secrets doesn’t seem like the right atmosphere for this.
But Fox created such intriguing characters and the dynamic between them all was so chemical that I couldn’t help but be swept away before realizing that the hints of darkness were only just starting to creep in about mid-book. It was a very subtle build that managed to burrow itself deep under my skin before I even realized it was coming.
However, the story seemed to be more of a ghost story than a witch story, not that I’m complaining. The Gothic haunting and dark mystery totally engrossed me and I ate up every tiny breadcrumb that was laid out for me until it all finally made sense, which it finally did towards the end of the book.
That said, this turned into more of a ghostly romance novel than anything else and while I was very swept away with it all, I was definitely expecting a bit more witchcraft and self exploration throughout it. I was kind of disappointed with this during the read, but reflecting on it now, I actually kind of like that it didn’t dive into the stereotypical finding-out-you’re-a-witch story and focused more on Lydia as a growing girl trying to keep her family together, with just a little hint of something else happening to her.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book I just couldn’t put down. I really enjoyed this story a lot. It was almost magical. For there being darkness to it, it almost made me feel light and calm. It’s hard to believe this was a debut novel; it was beautifully written and very well crafted and didn’t shy away from the dark secrets that anyone can bury deep within them, witch or not.
october 2, 2018