I received an advanced reader copy of this novel in exchange for a review.
Journey to New Salem is the second installment in Mark Rosendorf's The Witches of Vegas series. When I read the first book in the series, I wasn't sure what to expect. Knowing that it was a YA of the fantasy variety, I thought I might like the book, but I wasn't sure. If you read my review of that novel, you know I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the tale. This is to say, I cracked open Journey to New Salem with the expectation of a good yarn. I wasn't disappointed.
The story picks up with the witches back at their regular gig masquerading as ordinary magicians on the Vegas strip. Unbeknownst to them, Isis, a young and potent witch, is suffering from an undiagnosed disease. The ramification of this illness is that she has fits where she can lose control of her magical power––which is linked to her emotions. As the episodes get worse, the destruction she accidentally unleashes becomes devastating. Zack, an ordinary magician who is now a member of the coven and her boyfriend, warns her parents that something is wrong with Isis, but they cannot help her. They need help from medical experts with a flair for the supernatural; hence the quest to find New Salem, a hidden enclave of witches, begins.
Like in The Witches of Vegas, the narrative is primarily divided between Zack and Isis. As before, Zack is well characterized as a teenage boy. In Journey to New Salem, he tries to establish his identity as the one member of the coven who isn't a witch. As the story progresses, this struggle impacts the decisions he makes.
I found myself enjoying Isis more in Journey to New Salem than in the previous novel. Overall, her characterization is stronger. Despite spending a good portion of the story in the care of a "witch doctor" while suffering uncontrollable fits, she never seems like a damsel in distress or even a victim. Mark Rosendorf gets kudos for pulling this off. I don't think it was easy given that Isis is hospitalized for nearly half the story. Plus, looking at her character in the continuum of the entire series, I think her growth from a witch just learning to control her powers in the first book into a confident young woman with mastery of her magic is believable.
Hands-down Journey to New Salem is an excellent continuation of The Witches of Vegas series. It's a fast-paced read that is touching in places and has a few unexpected surprises that I appreciated. Highly recommended.