By Katherine Howe
Katherine Howe weaves fictional magic involving tales of ancestral bloodlines, curses, ghosts, and witch trials. All of this spun amid solid historical fact. In this book, Boston at the turn of the last century, anchors the story of Sibyl Allston, a woman who is resigned to her role as family caretaker after she loses her mother and younger sister on the Titanic.
Once a society debutante, Sibyl’s circle now includes a medium with whom she hopes to reconnect with her dead family members. When her younger brother is dismissed from Harvard for reasons he won’t disclose, Sibyl seeks out a former romantic acquaintance for help. Professor Benton Jones, who is recently widowed comes to her aid. Sibyl gets caught up in the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown as she falls increasingly under the spell of the medium she has come to trust. Can Benton help her to solve what’s going on now and in the family’s past?
The book is character-driven and slow in places. The period descriptions and blending of the paranormal with an investigation keeps things interesting overall. The author uses multiple points of view to frame the story. Sibyl has her tale but so does her father Lan, her mother Helen, her sister Eulah, and her brother Harlan. Ultimately, this is a story about Sibyl finding her truth after much searching. A good book to be enjoyed for its characterization, setting, and the thoughts it provokes on fate versus free will. And just for fun, the author provides directions on how to do your own scrying!
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