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Magical Histories of New York: Witches of New York and The Age of Witches

15 Jul

Sometimes when I’m at my desk in our library building with its tin ceilings and ornate woodwork, I wonder what it would have been like when the building first opened in 1897 or even earlier in 1890 when the library was first created. Back at the turn of the century when Ami McKay’s Witches of New York and Louisa Morgan’s The Age of Witches were set, Hoboken was just taking shape evolving from a pleasure resort for the wealthy to a popular shipping port and a place of invention by the newly created Steven’s Institute.  I enjoyed both the magical fantasy aspects as well as the insight these books give into history. 

The Witches of New York
by Ami McKay
The Witches of New York is set during 1880 and focuses on 17-year-old Beatrice who newly an adult, leaves her Aunt’s home near Sleepy Hollow to answer an ad for a shop girl in New York City which includes the mysterious phrase “Those averse to magic need not apply.”  There she meets Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, two witches, who help Beatrice find her own powers and inner strength.  Here witchcraft is used as a metaphor for the power of women and the way in which that power was often suppressed and maligned in history.  I found the characters very enjoyable and there were enough hinted at possibilities for future storylines I have the impression it is likely not the last we will be seeing of these characters.  The three women’s story continue in the novella, Half Spent was the Night.  Adelaide also was featured in an earlier novel by McKay, The Virgin Cure

The Age of Witches
by Louisa Morgan

Set in 1890’s New York and England, The Age of Witches also looks at a group of three woman and the magic they possess, although in this case they are not all working in harmony.  Annis Allington is a young woman who wants nothing more to ride her horse and have the freedom not often given to woman of her age; her social climbing stepmother, Frances, however, sees a good marriage for Annis lifting them from their noveau riche social circle and into the highest levels of society.  Frances had previously used her magic to snag Annis’s father so that she could be lifted out of poverty.  Added in to this mix is Annis’s Aunt Harriet who wishes to keep Frances from manipulating Annis and awaken the young woman’s own power. The characters are strongly written and even when Francis falls into the evil stepmother trope there are still sympathetic aspects to her as a woman looking to rise above the limited circumstances society allowed her at the time.

Want more fantasy stories about witches?  You can read some more of my witchy picks here including Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches.

Check out The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and join us for a Zoom book discussion (online or you can call in with your phone) on July 20 at 6 PM. You can email hplwriters@ to receive a Zoom invite.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

Writing Prompt: Music Inspiration

12 Jun

Music is often a soundtrack in our lives, the music playing on the radio the last day of school before summer, the song we dance to at our wedding, the lullabies our mom sang to us and that we sing to our own children.  Some of my favorite author’s like Carrie Vaughn in her Kitty Norville series include playlists of music that was inspirational in writing the story or that goes particularly well with different scenes in the book.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of her picks including Mr. Brightside by the Killers in Kitty Takes a Holiday.

For this week’s Writing Prompt listen to some of your favorite music and see what it inspires.  What type of romance does your favorite love song put you in mind of?  Maybe that Metal Ballad will inspire a dark fantasy story or that quirky pop hit could have the next great American novel hiding in it.  Don’t just think about the lyrics, but also the sound of the music, what could you imagine happening that would accompany it. Let your imagination go wild.  You do not necessarily need to have the story be what one would necessarily expect from the music.  Look at how the pop music of Scandinavian band Abba became a hit musical set on a Greek Island.  You can have each song represent a chapter of a novel or simply let the music play in the background as you work on a short story.

Of course, this writing prompt works great in reverse too. If you are a musician you can take inspiration from an author’s book or poem.  What type of sound do you imagine accompanying your favorite novel; break out your favorite instrument and create the perfect soundrtrack.  You could even think of transforming an older, no longer in copyright, poem into a song.  You can hear two very different versions of Poe’s Annabelle Lee, one rock and one classical available from Freegal Music.

Hoboken Library patrons can find inspiration in the many ebooks and streaming music the library provides.

We hope you have enjoyed our Friday Writing Prompts! As the library gets ready to ramp up to our reopening we will be going back to one weekly post on Wednesday, but for those that have enjoyed our Writing Inspiration posts we will continue to feature them occasionally. Best luck on all your writing endeavors!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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