Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an review.
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Synopsis: Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one.
This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic…where she’s been walking the deck with first- class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship.
Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her even further into the dream ship…and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers.
We always think that history is fact and literature is fiction. But the truth is, they are all stories. And the people who tell them influence our understanding in various ways.
Haunting the Deep is the sequel to How to Hang a Witch, and while you could read this without having read the first book, I don’t recommend it as it references previous events. If you have read How to Hang a Witch, this is even better!
Before starting my review, I just want to tell you a little about the author, because her intriguing family history gives her a unique platform which to write her books. Ariana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America. Her family has been part of some of our history’s most memorable times—the Salem Witchcraft Trials, the Revolutionary War, and the Titanic. While the first book was based upon her research of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and ancestor Cotton Mather, Haunting the Deep is inspired by a discovery she made a couple of years ago while going through some old letters in her grandmother’s desk. She happened upon a manila envelope with TTITANIC written across it. Hoping there were more than newspaper clippings inside, she was shocked to discover a letter from 1912 that began, “Aunty Myra and Uncle Harry are both home safe and fairly sound considering all they have been through…” Incredibly this was a letter to her great-great-great grandmother detailing how her relatives survived the sinking of the Titanic, and with their dog as well! I wanted to relay this to you, because not only is the story inspired by this, but Ariana includes her ancestors and the letter in the story. This gives it a uniquely personal feel that I honestly don’t think anyone else could have brought to it.
I absolutely loved every single thing about where Ariana Mather took her story and characters. This new mystery begins six months after the earlier events. Sam is reunited with her dad and still living in Salem, MA, but she’s having difficulty dealing with the trauma her stepmother Vivian, inflicted upon her, and is avoiding the Descendants because they remind her of what happened. She also hasn’t heard from Elijah and is broken-hearted over his absence. This is where I take a small break from my tradition of not including spoilers. You see, Elijah is a ghost, and if I didn’t tell you that, I fear some parts of my review wouldn’t make sense. That’s the only spoiler though, I promise.
Sam isn’t your ordinary high-schooler. A descendant of Cotton Mather she has ability to interact both verbally and physically with the deceased. Her gift is even more fully developed in this story, as she’s accepted what she can do. Now, it’s more about her learning how to control her gift and use it, as well as her interest in magic, and to decide what she wants to do with them. Helping and supporting her are her previous “enemies”, the Descendants: Alice, Mary, and Susannah. It turns out that the girls have a lot more in common and I absolutely loved watching their friendship evolve.
There is a love triangle *rolling eyes*, and you all know by now how I usually despise these, but surprisingly, this one didn’t really annoy me. First, I love Elijah and Jax. Because Elijah is from the 1600s and has suffered through more than one tragedy, there’s an air of solemnity about him. Sam and her vibrant personality is a good match for him. He curbs (at times) her tendency to run headlong into danger, and she brings him out of his shell and makes him smile. Despite the logistical problems of a romance between a spirit and someone who’s alive, theirs is a sweet romance and the ending of this book leaves me hopeful that somehow there will be a future for them.
Jax is the opposite of Elijah in some respects, although they both love and want to protect Sam. He’s funny and on the surface seems to not take life seriously, but he has hidden depths and more is revealed here about what his life was like in Salem before Sam entered the picture. I think the reason why this love triangle didn’t bother me is because while Jax definitely harbors romantic feelings toward Sam, she’s in love with Elijah and clearly sees Jax as her best friend. There’s no dithering, or going back and forth between both boys. She’s also honest with Jax which leads to another difficult chain of events, but I’m not going to expand upon that as I promised no more spoilers.
There’s two other characters who not only play a big part in the story, but also in Sam’s development: her dad and Jax’s mom, Mae. While her dad was in a coma for the entirety of the first story, they’ve now been living happily together in their lovely house for six months. While it was already obvious how much Sam adored her father, here you see it beautifully reciprocated. They’re not just father and daughter, they’re also friends, and although that relationship is strained in the latter half of the book, it’s because they’re keeping secrets while trying to protect each other, which never works out.
Mae is a wonderfully sweet woman who has taken Sam under her wing. She’s a perfect mother figure to Sam when she needs it the most. I’m hoping, given their childhood friendship, that Sam’s dad and Mae develop a romance of their own in the next book. Meanwhile, I have to warn you that reading about Mae and the incredible desserts she makes is going to have you drooling by the end of the book!
And now for the plot. To be honest, I was a little nervous when I read the premise for this sequel. I loved the first story with its connections to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, and I wasn’t sure how adding the Titanic was going to work. Well, I needn’t have worried because not only do you still have the very real setting of Salem and its continued ties to witchcraft, but Mather somehow meshes in seamlessly, the history of the Titanic. She’s meticulously researched the history of the ship and its passengers, both the wealthy and those in steerage. Several historical characters and some wonderful details are introduced including the famous Mrs. Margaret Brown aka “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. Although I’ve read a few books on the sinking of the Titanic, both fiction and non-fiction, I didn’t know that Mrs. Brown was known as “Maggie” to her friends, and that it was only the Broadway musical and movie that renamed her “Molly”. Mather also includes the societal norms of the period in regards to the way immigrants and women were treated.
The descriptive details really bring this book to life. Whether its the lovely historical family home Sam and her father live in, or the scrumptious food her father and Mae cook up, or the extravagance of the Titanic, I felt as though I were part of the story. That Mather was able to include all these without taking away from her characters, and that she accomplished this in less than 400 pages is amazing!
And finally, building upon the supernatural and magic already introduced, there’s more with warlocks and love spells and…Tut, tut! No spoilers!
With both How to Hang a Witch, and Haunting the Deep, Ariana Mather has proven herself to be an amazing historian and storyteller. I highly, HIGHLY recommend these for YAs and adults who love magic, mystery, and history. Both books with their factual ties to past events would make great book group selections for teens. As for me, I’m completely addicted to this series and I cannot wait for the next installment!