Spotlight & Guest Post: The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith!

Hi everyone! Today on the blog, we're shining a spotlight on THE WITCH HAVEN by Sasha Peyton Smith, a fantastic YA fantasy read that we think you're going to love. So without further ado, let's get into it!


Title: The Witch Haven
Author: Sasha Peyton Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 448 Pages
Publication Date: August 31st, 2021 

 Summary: In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there. Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother. Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?


Sasha Peyton Smith grew up in the mountains of Utah surrounded by siblings, books, and one very old cat. She attended the University of Utah and the George Washington University where she studied biology and public health. She is not a witch, though she does own a lot of crystals and always knows what phase the moon is in. She currently lives in Washington D.C. with her partner and collection of porcelain hands.
Keep up with Sasha: Goodreads / Website / Twitter


As a kid growing up in Utah, New York City sounded like the most magical place on earth. It had an American Girl Doll Store, the News Year’s Eve ball drop, and it’s where my cousin had gotten married on a boat (a boat! My seven-year-old self couldn’t imagine such luxury.)

It’s that sense of wonder that led me to write a book set in the city. My debut novel, The Witch Haven, is about a seventeen-year-old seamstress named Frances living in 1911 New York City. She’s working late one night when her boss attacks her and ends up dead at her feet, her sewing scissors in his neck without explanation. She’s then whisked off to Haxahaven Academy, a school for witches disguised as a tuberculosis sanitarium where she learns more about her strange new powers, and about the magic underworld of New York City. I’ve always felt that way about New York, that there was something strange and weird and wonderful happening just around the corner, if only someone could show me what it was.

The truth is, I didn’t know how to tell a story about New York without magic.

When writing The Witch Haven, I began with the setting. I could see the classrooms of Haxahaven, the shop where Frances worked, the basement of a secret society for magicians so clearly in my head. It was the scaffolding onto which I built a murder mystery. The more Frances learns about the magical underworld of the city, the more she begins to suspect it might have something to do with the murder of her beloved brother just months prior.

I’m not the first writer to re-imagine a New York rippling with an undercurrent of something, Libba Bray’s brilliant The Diviner’s series imagines the city as a place full of secrets, some darker than others. Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician tells of a city home to a secret society of time traveling magicians. There’s ordinary magic in the city too, tethers of it, glowing gold in the small spaces in between people all packed into such a small space. Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon tells an interwoven story of love (which you can’t tell me isn’t magic) all spread over the city in a single night.

As an adult who has since spent a great deal of time in the city, I still think New York City is magic. There’s magic in the lady with green hair who told me she liked my boots on the subway, and in bodega cats, and in the mangos I bought on a street corner then ate on a Grey Hound Bus. It’s also gritty and strange and I once got gutter water in my eye and I don’t think my body has ever been the same.

It’s that dichotomy, I think, that made me want to write about New York. It’s that you never know if that thing glinting up at you from the ground is glitter or broken glass.

Being a teenager in suburban Utah in the early aughts couldn’t have been more different than being seventeen in 1911 New York, but I gave Frances my teenage anger, my longing for something more, my belief that something magical could be coming at any moment. The halls of a secret school for witches and the lobby of The Hotel Astor just seemed like a slightly more fun place to start than an Auntie Anne’s at the mall. Not that I wouldn’t read a murder mystery set at an Auntie Anne’s, because I totally would.

New York City has always felt like a mystery to unravel. I want to know more about the lady with the green hair who complimented my shoes. I want to know what lurks in the river. I want to know why I every time I get on the subway I always seem to accidentally end up on an express train to Queens.

That’s another thing about New York, it doesn’t love you back. Except sometimes, in short, glimmering moments it does. For Frances in The Witch Haven, the city gives her magic, and pain and friendship and a place to belong. For me? I’m still figuring it out.

The Witch Haven is less a love letter to the city than my own attempt to peek under the surface. Like many writers, I suspect I’ll never stop trying. Glitter or broken glass? Sometimes it’s both. I just wouldn’t recommend touching the sidewalk to find out.

We'd like to thank Simon & Schuster for inviting us to share this spotlight today, and to Sasha for contributing this excellent guest post about the magic of New York City -- if you're interested in THE WITCH HAVEN, don't forget to add it to your TBR!

No comments

Please note that if your comment doesn’t appear right away, it’s because we have to approve it. Make sure to click the Notify Me box so you can check back once your comment has been approved! ❤️