I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Haunting the Deep (How to Hang a Witch, #2) by Adriana Mather
Also by this author: How to Hang a Witch
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 3rd 2017
Pages: 368 •Goodreads
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 ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers.
One of my favorite things in the YA genre has always been paranormal stories, especially ones focusing on good, old fashioned witches. It seems like the genre has moved passed paranormal in many ways after the “Twilight” years, so I was excited last year when I found out about How to Hang a Witch, which focused on a witch and ghost story set in the infamous Salem and inspired by the Salem Witch Trials. The book gave me so many Halloween-town esque vibes (albeit much darker). When I found out that the author was writing a companion novel about the Titanic, I became instantly curious about how it would all tie together, and then Max managed to score a copy for me at YallWest. I tried to save it for a fall read, but I just couldn’t resist diving into it before the end of summer!
Like it’s predecessor, Haunting the Deep takes place in Salem, a town that is pretty much obsessed with all things paranormal and fantastical all year round. Even though this book was set in the Spring (appropriately so, since the Titanic sunk in April), it still evokes an eerie fall vibe. While you can definitely read Haunting the Deep without having had to read How to Hang a Witch, they do mention the events of the first book and the emotion toll they’ve take on the characters, however the mystery in this second novel is completely new and original.
Sam continues to see spirits in this novel, and continues to hide her magical abilities from her father, who has a deep mistrust of any and all magic. However, this repressing of her magic leads to her further ostracizing herself from her family and her town, and once again she becomes susceptible to a haunting of sorts- this time being transported in her dreams to the Titanic before it sunk, living an alternate life aboard the luxury ocean liner while asleep until elements from the cruise start appearing in her waking life as well. She forms an alliance with Alice, Mary and Susannah from the Descendants (who have been character developed from the quasi-antagonists of the last book to an empowering and supportive circle in this one) as they try to figure out why Sam is being haunted by spirits from the ship, what her connection to the boat is, and why Salem has suddenly caught Titanic fever, with the school’s spring fling dance being themed after the tragedy.
Like How to Hang a Witch, Haunting the Deep draws upon a lot of historical facts (many from the author’s own family!) and I found it fascinating to learn more about the Titanic, from information about famous passengers and their fates to eerie happenings before the ship departed (people who mysteriously had a feeling they should NOT get on the boat and didn’t board at the last minute, the ship’s cat taking all of her kittens to shore before the cruise departed. etc.) These unsettling facts created an atmosphere where it was totally believable that the Titanic could be wrapped up in a paranormal haunting, and I felt the use of the Titanic as the anchor of the plot (haha, boat puns) was really clever. I’m curious to see if Mather writes another book set in this world (I hope she does) because I’m fascinated to learn what other major historical events her family is connected too!
A lot of the elements that bothered me in How to Hang a Witch felt improved upon too. The writing felt much improved (though the chapter titles felt unnecessary) and the love triangle, while still sort of there, really took a backseat to the more important, dangerous, and magical stuff that was happening (as it should!).
Overall: Haunting the Deep is an intriguing mystery that keeps the wonderful setting of Salem and creates a creative plot around yet another historical event. Part sequel, part companion novel, I thoroughly enjoyed this installment and hope Mather continues to revisit the world she’s created.