An exclusive British girl’s school has an eerie history, and I was expecting (hoping for, actually) witches. Haven’t done witches in such a long, long time and was not in the mood for anything that smacked of reality. Well, it’s not witches– exactly, nor is it reality – exactly. The school is Elm Hollow, and, yes, there were witch trials there in the seventeenth century. As a result, Margaret Boucher, the school’s founder was burned on the spot where the wych elm now stands, and there have been rumors of sorcery at Elm Hollow ever since. OK, witches, maybe. The reality? Modern day adolescents. Lest you’re starting to think Harry Potterish, oh, no, it is not. These kids are the good, the bad, and the ugly: drugs, drinking, sex, spite, revenge, gossip. And sorcery? Sort of.
Violet, the narrator and central figure, is the new girl and something of a loner who is drawn into an existing clique. There’s wealthy Alexandra whose mother studies the occult; Grace, the academic one; and Robin — daring, artsy with piercings and hair dyed a garish red. There was Emily, also, but she’s disappeared, feared to be the victim of a predator. Violet is brought into the group by Robin, and, while she has doubts and wonders if she is replacing Emily, she wants so much to belong. All four are the chosen acolytes of Annabelle, a gifted teacher, who leads them in an extracurricular class focused on women throughout history who have used force and fury to right wrongs as only women can. Leaders, followers, wannabes – and sorcery. But is it really? More accurately, maybe it’s just experimentation with sorcery – an adolescent fascination. Oh, yes, to be sure, there are five deaths with links to these four, a range of deaths from gruesome to bizarre and one that is mysteriously serene. Possibly murders, maybe accidents, or perhaps natural causes. Is it coincidence that these are linked to the girls? Could be. Or sorcery. Let’s put it this way, if it’s not sorcery, it’s not for lack of trying because these girls have secrets to hide and scores to settle. A pretty good read, this, fierce and entertaining, and you’ll be glad to know that, like most beloved old school traditions, Elm Hollow’s is in good hands and will continue passing to future generations of girls.
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.