In 2017, my book club read Ami McKay's The Witches of New York and we (mostly) all loved it. Personally, I loved it because it was well-written and such a good story about witches as they could have existed. Harry Potter is great and all but that kind of magic never really seems real (no matter how many of us hope(d) for a letter from Hogwarts ourselves). The magic in the world McKay has created seems entirely possible. When my book club learned there would be a novella that would allow us to see what Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice were up to, we were ecstatic and immediately knew Half Spent Was the Night would be our December 2018 pick.
Here's the novella's (it's only 92 pages!) description:
Beloved author Ami McKay is back, bringing us a magical follow-up in the tradition of Victorian winter tales to her mesmerizing bestseller, The Witches of New York.The book is subtitled A Witches' Yuletide and I had thought (before reading the synopsis) it would take place at Christmas. Instead, the story begins on December 29 and ends on New Year's Day, with an epic New Year's Eve party in between. (A quick Google search of yuletide also provided some background information - yay, learning!)
During the nights between Christmas and New Year's, the witches of New York--Adelaide Thom, Eleanor St. Clair and the youngest, Beatrice Dunn--gather before the fire to tell ghost stories and perform traditional Yuletide divinations. (Did you know that roasting chestnuts were once used to foretell one's fate?)
As the witches roast chestnuts and melt lead to see their fate, a series of odd messengers land on their doorstep bearing invitations for a New Year's Eve masquerade hosted by a woman they've never met. Gossip, dreams and portents follow, leading the witches to question the woman's motives. Is she as benevolent as she seems or is she laying a trap. And so, as Gilded-Age New York prepares to ring in the new year, the witches don their finery and head for the ball, on the hunt for answers that might well be the end of them.
The book opens with a line I absolutely love and thought of often during the same time frame last year:
Is that not perfection?
As you'd expect, this book was as well written as the first Witches book. The world McKay has created is so interesting and the characters, the three main witches especially, are so multi-layered and fascinating.
All that being said...I know it's a novella and it isn't supposed to be long buuuut I found it way too short. I could have used more time with the women to really feel like I understood how they were feeling about their lives at that moment and about the mysterious New Year's Eve party. The story almost felt surface level and there wasn't quite the depth I wanted and expected from McKay. Even though it was well written. Am I even making sense? The best I can figure is this story was published to fully wrap up a storyline from the first book and to introduce the next twist. (And holy is it ever an interesting twist!)
The magic at the party was much more...grandiose, let's say, than what you normally encounter with these witches. But, once things wind down and you realize what really happened...you know why it was such a spectacle. I wish that explanation had been explored a bit more because I felt like I was missing something.
I am glad I read Half Spent Was the Night and think that anyone else who loved The Witches of New York should read it as well. It didn't quite satisfy my need for a sequel though so I will continue to impatiently wait for the next full length novel (oh, how I hope there actually will be a next) about these witches from Ami McKay.
*A copy of this book was provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*