“Julia Vanishes” by Catherine Egan (2016)
Genre: YA, Fiction, Fantasy
Page Length: 384 pages (hardcover edition)
Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.
It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.
Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?
Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.
The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price. (description from Goodreads)
Julia Vanishes is a novel that follows a girl named Julia who has supernatural powers of invisibility. She takes on a job that requires her to role play as a housemaid in order to spy and uncover secrets at the residence of Mrs.Och. As the mystery unravels, Julia becomes more entangled within the various secrets that surround the house and she quickly learns that her task is even more dangerous than she realized.
Egan takes elements from a lot of previous stories dealing with witches and magic. Being that I have read a lot of fantasy novels dealing with magic directly and that there has been an influx of many similar novels published in the YA genre in the last year or two, I wondered how Egan would put her own spin on this genre. This novel reminded me of Trial by Fire (by Josephine Angelini) where witches are revered and powerful, this novel takes a different spin on the story since witches are something to be feared, sought out, and persecuted.
Egan’s characters are intriguing I love the period setting (since I’m a fan of anything somewhat historical) and the world building is pretty solid. I also liked that the story gives off a Wolfman/Van Helsing/Jack the Ripper vibe. Egan does a fantastic job describing characters, places, and magic elements. Throughout the entire reading experience you feel totally immersed in Julia’s world!
The main protagonist, Julia, is very clever,smart, good at being unseen, and has a bright spirit. She has a strong sense of kindness and wants to look out for others because of the way her mother died. She believes some witches aren’t entirely evil despite what others think.This causes Julia to deal with an internal struggle throughout the whole book. It causes her to raise questions of “Is she evil because is a witch?” and “Does she really love the work she does or she is stuck in those positions knowing she has to make money to provide for her “family”?
All in all, I thought that this book was thrilling! I enjoyed the direction of how magic plays out in this story and the whole spy/espionage aspect as well. As for the negatives, I felt that there were some plot holes where I there needed to be a bit more explanation for how things worked. I also would have liked to have seen more character development from the supporting characters. While I enjoyed reading the story through Julia’s eyes I was more invested in reading about the other characters.
This book ends on a cliffhanger and I’m curious to see where the story will continue.