The Sisterhood of New Amsterdam* is a two-book series (so far) from Urban Fantasy author Craig Schaefer. If you enjoy this genre and haven’t picked up his books, now is your chance. He explores a new world in an alternate New York City with ties to ancient myths, witchcraft, literature, and a hearty dose of intrigue.
The Ghosts of Gotham
Lionel Page is an investigative journalist with a nose for scams. His goals in life include sussing out fraudulent claims and swindlers of all kinds. So when the mysterious Regina Dunkle offers him the chance to find a previously unpublished version of an Edgar Allen Poe story, his antennae go on high alert. And Lionel admits part of the investigation’s appeal is the chance to visit New York City for the first time.
We also learn that Page is hiding secrets of his own, including spending his early childhood in a commune. Or was it a cult? He was too young to remember, so part of the story is hidden even from Lionel. And a tragedy left him an orphan, so asking family isn’t an option.
Shortly after he arrives in New York, he meets Maddie Hannah. His attraction to her feels unexpectedly strong. And as the days pass, Lionel discovers that the two halves of his life—investigations and his unclear past—have more in common than he realizes.
Schaefer plays all of these elements against each other. We learn about Lionel’s past and the truth of the Poe mystery as events unfurl like a flag whipping in hurricane-force winds. Schaefer never lets up as the story presses forward. And the more we learn, the further back the mystery reaches.
A Time for Witches
In this Sisterhood of New Amsterdam sequel, Lionel accepts a whole new reality. He realizes that what he once considered a hoax is now a major part of his life. Plus, he and Maddie are still risking everything while also investigating nefarious hucksters and frauds. This time around they must also save hundreds or maybe thousands of humans from untimely death. No pressure, right?
It’s a lot for a former professional skeptic to take in, but Lionel handles it well. On the lighter side, he and Maddie continue with their tensions and communication issues. Woven through the runaway freight train plot is a strong connection to ancient mythology. This aspect gives the story a more complicated picture than just one coven’s magic.
I’m definitely still a Schaefer fan after reading these two books. In his afterword to the second book, he mentions that 2020 was such a “dumpster fire of a year” that he wanted to write something comforting. If death spirits and ancient magic make you feel better, then these are the books for you.
Since I recently read Circe by Madeline Miller, the story’s mythology aspects were readily accessible. But if you need a refresher, the Internet will happily oblige. It’s fun to think about the progression of immortal beings into our century, considering their vast experience dealing with humanity, foibles, and all.
I recommend the escapism of these urban fantasy tales since 2022 isn’t much less of a dumpster fire than 2020. My vote is for more books from The Sisterhood of New Amsterdam series. Lionel and Maddie have the potential for adventures galore!
* The series is also referred to as the Ghosts of Gotham Saga in some places.