Publisher: Obsidian (Penguin)
Date published: June 1, 2010
Genre: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
Book format: Paperback
Obtained via: Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address: Gina Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com
Newly arrived in San Francisco Lily Ivory has set up her vintage clothing story, Aunt Cora’s Closet in the Haight. That would be the Haight-Ashbury section of the City by the Bay. While she is in fact a consummate professional with innate talent when it comes to delicious gowns from by-gone eras, Lily has a few additional skills. The clothing speaks to her, in a manner of speaking that is. Lily is a witch. Not your everyday Wiccan but a natural born witch and a very powerful one at that. After years of being run out of town after town and never feeling quite connected to anyone, San Francisco feels like home. In the past few weeks she’s made some good friends who accept her for who and more important, what, she is. With her trusty familiar, Oscar, by her side she’s gained the courage to begin to truly learn her craft. She’s also opened up to meeting and dating some interesting men along the way.
But all of these new found connections may come to a grinding halt when she is called in to investigate a haunting at a local art school. The San Francisco School of Fine Arts has a fascinating history with its beginnings as a convent until it’s present incarnation as an art school. When Lily arrives at the school she is immediately assailed by the vibrations of the place and it’s not all from the eclectic group of students milling around or the vintage clothing the school wishes to donate to her. Oh no, something much more sinister lurks in the hallways of the institution and it will take all of Lily’s powers to set things right. Instead of being able to dig in and solve the haunting problem Lily is also confronted by her non-believer boyfriend, a suspicious police inspector and a male witch who is too good looking to be true.
I enjoyed Juliet Blackwell’s first book in her Witchcraft Mystery series, SECONDHAND SPIRITS and was eager to dig into book 2, A CAST-OFF COVEN. After all, what’s not to like about a book or series set in San Francisco? Unlike many authors who set a story in the City by the Bay, Ms. Blackwell takes readers into some little known and less popular tourist attractions. Natives will sit and say “oh yes, I know the place” and non-Natives will definitely want to check the venues out. She has a neat take on some of the neighbourhoods and definitely captures the ambience of the Haight and wharf areas.
I really enjoyed how description of and how Lily felt inside the wax museum in SECONDHAND SPIRITS. She definitely brought the creep factor to life. In A CAST-OFF COVEN some of that creepiness is still there with the addition of some interesting spell casting. I have to admit I’m rooting for Aidan and would love to see him with his own series. Max is okay as the non-believer sceptic, myth-buster boyfriend. Okay, Max is hot—I’m just really rooting for Aidan. There is romance and some alpha male testosterone going on, but this series is definitely not romance cantered.
So far I’ve enjoyed Lily’s progression from a shy, almost frightened introvert to a self-possessed and almost confident witch. Some of her naiveté is downright funny at times. And, I have to admit, Oscar is a hoot. I much prefer his potbellied pig to his true form but he is a character in more ways than one.
You do not really have to read book 1 to appreciate book 2, but I would recommend doing so just to meet the characters who are continuing on in the series. I can see quite the discussion starting on “Aidan or Max” among fans.
This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.