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Book Review: ‘An Intrigue of Witches’ (A Secret Society Mystery, 1) by Esme Addison

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Sidney Taylor likes uncovering the past. As a historian for the Smithsonian, she’s gone on digs all around America to reveal our history. But on her last dig she found something she shouldn’t have somewhere it shouldn’t have been. That made the powers that be uneasy, so now Sidney is “laid-off” because of “budget cuts” and her discovery has been buried deep within the Smithsonian’s archives. Unsure what to do next, Sidney decides to go stay with her Grandmother while she considers her next step. While she’s there, an opportunity is presented to her. If she accepts, she’ll embark on the biggest and most important treasure hunt of her life, if not, she’ll stay stuck right where she is. Sidney never could turn down a good mystery, though, so she says yes and begins to uncover An Intrigue of Witches. Check out the mystery and adventure in Esme Addison’s newest book, out now.

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Severn House for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of An Intrigue of Witches contains some spoilers!]

A 200-year-old mystery uncovered in An Intrigue of Witches

As soon as Sidney lands in Robbinsville, she receives an unbelievable offer from an old acquaintance. The owner of the local history museum, Abner Robbins, wants Sidney to find something that has been missing for centuries. He doesn’t know what it is or where it could possibly be (or if it’s even real). All he has is an old letter written by President Madison when he visited Robbinsville centuries ago that supposedly has clues to the object’s location hidden in it. Oh, and he’s offering her a million dollars if she finds it.

Intrigued, Sidney agrees and starts the search. She doesn’t really believe she’ll find anything, but a million dollars is hard to turn down. To her own surprise, she finds several potential clues in the letter. As she begins to investigate, the clues actually start leading to things! Sidney is shocked and excited by her discoveries. But just like in the past, someone wants her discoveries to stay hidden. Sidney is threatened and even attacked!

What could be so important that someone would kill to keep it buried? Instead of being dissuaded, the attacks and threats have the opposite effect, and Sidney becomes determined to uncover the mystery behind the Madison letter. But the further she goes, the more unbelievable her discoveries. Just what is she actually looking for, and what will it mean for the world, and for her personally, if she finds it?

Esme Addison has crafted an amazing treasure hunt

It’s never easy to create a puzzle laid out hundreds of years in the past. How can you ensure that all the clues will still work so far apart, how will the places still be there? How will the pieces stay uncorrupted? Addison finds the simplest way possible to ensure this, money. The puzzle was laid out by people with money, and they used that money and the law to make sure certain things were never changed, even if the reason why they couldn’t change was unknown. 

Aside from this simple solution, the treasure hunt itself was well laid out. I really enjoyed going through the puzzles with Sidney. I was super excited when I figured out the answers before her, but was happy to lean on her historical expertise when I didn’t.

Sending Sidney all over Robbinsville, its surrounding area, and even out to Washington, D.C. was fun. Addison could have made things easier on herself in An Intrigue of Witches by keeping the hunt contained to a smaller area. But that would have made the hunt less exciting. It also would have made it more likely that someone would have stumbled upon the secret before Sidney went looking. By having the clues be more spread out it greatly lowered that likelihood (obviously since no one was able to do it before Sidney). 

An Intrigue of Witches by Esme Addison

One thing I really love about stories like this is how it makes history come alive. The past reaches through time to become relevant to the present. It also gives a feeling of hope that what we do will endure into the future. Seeing puzzles that are still relevant after hundreds of years and everyday objects that have stood the test of time is inspiring, thanks Esme Addison, for the shot of joy it brought!

Positive and negative messages in An Intrigue of Witches

Another thing that Addison’s story did was to show just how connected we all are. Sidney is a young black woman on this hunt, and she largely connects with other people of color during her search. But she finds allies with all different shades of skin. And we learn that most of these people are related, even if distantly. Addison also writes about how people of color weren’t as absent from European history (and even royalty) as we tend to think they were. That history has just been whitewashed over time. 

Her revelations bring humanity back together into what it should be, a huge group of people with different amounts of melanin who are otherwise the same, instead of little groups of people that are completely different. I don’t mean to downplay cultural differences, and Addison doesn’t either. I simply mean that when you get down to basics, we’re all part of the same family, and that’s exactly what Esme Addison shows. 

As much as I loved An Intrigue of Witches, there was one part that I wasn’t sold on. Throughout the book, I got this message of harmony and connection and togetherness. But then the “good guys” ended up sounding not all that different from the “bad guys” in the end.

The Daughters are all descendants of Scota, the only living heir of the House of David. And for some reason, they’ve decided that this means only they have the right to be in places of power. They’ve kept track of the bloodline throughout the centuries and do everything possible to put their people in power. Now the Apophis do the same thing on their side while trying to destroy Scota’s bloodline. 

The Apophis are set up as the bad guys and the Daughters are the good guys, but to be honest, I didn’t see much of a difference between them. Sure, the Daughters are painted as benevolent and as having humanity’s best interest at heart, but let’s be honest, a bloodline doesn’t guarantee such things. That’s why we have democracies instead of monarchies. So the whole, “we must get rid of Apophis and get our people in power” didn’t sit right with me. I think Addison could have had a better way of doing the powerful bloodline thing.

An Intrigue of Witches is an intriguing mystery worth checking out

Despite my grievances with the born-to-rule storyline, I really enjoyed An Intrigue of Witches. Addison crafted a first-rate treasure hunt with plenty of mystery, adventure, and danger to keep it interesting. The pull between groups wanting to uncover the past and keep it hidden was exhilarating. And the extra surprises at the end made it that much better.

It is interesting that a book with witches in the name has hardly any magic in it, but that made it even better to me. The characters didn’t use magic to solve their problems, they used hard work and brains. Which means absolutely anyone could be Sidney! Who knows, maybe I’ll find a clue in my grandmother’s old recipe book that could send me on a life-changing journey just like Sidney? Want to come along? Wait, read An Intrigue of Witches first, then we’ll get started. 

My rating: 8/10

An Intrigue of Witches (A Secret Society Mystery, 1) by Esme Addison is available on Amazon and most places books are sold. Are you going to check out this new series? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 220 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier