Thank you NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Julia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.
It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.
Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an ord assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?
Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.
The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.
Julia Vanishes is a historical fantasy in a Victorian England type world, where magic is real and suspected witches are publicly executed by way of drowning. What I found really different about this book is the magic itself. Spells are cast through the use of pen and paper rather than verbally. Because of this, any women found with writing implements are immediately suspect. Julia herself isn’t a witch (although her mother was), yet she has this unique talent of disappearing. As the synopsis says, it’s not like turning invisible. It’s, well…you’re just going to have to read this to find out. In this first book of what looks to be a trilogy, there’s not much in the way explanation as to why she has this ability. It’ll be interesting how it’s explored in the next story. Julia is a complicated character. She’s got plenty of courage, and loyalty to those she cares about, but she’s also greedy and selfish. Some of her actions are pretty immoral. However, when you take into consideration that she’s sixteen-years-old, as well as her circumstances, this is both understandable and believable. The way in which the author develops her in both maturity and morality is extremely well done. The secondary characters are also quite interesting. There’s one particular villain who at the beginning I thought was going to play a much larger role, but wound up being a small part of what happens to Julia and her family/friends. I have a feeling he’s going to be front and center in the other stories though, and I’m looking forward to any future interactions between him and Julia. I was also disappointed that her brother Dek, wasn’t more fully developed. Hopefully he’ll feature more prominently in the next story. The world-building is the best part of the book and it had me completely enthralled. I did find it slightly slow to start, but it didn’t take long for my attention to be captured. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it nicely sets things up for the next book. Overall, Catherine Egan has written a solid introduction to her Witch’s Child trilogy and I’m eagerly anticipating the next book.