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The Cloisters by Katy Hays

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Cloisters by Katy Hays
Published by Transworld Books on November 1, 2022
ISBN: 9781529196283
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Renaissance, Thrillers, Crime, Mystery & Detective, International Crime & Mystery, General
Pages: 320
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
three stars - The Cloisters by Katy Hays

The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel . . . the discovery of a mysterious deck of tarot cards lays bare shocking secrets within a close-knit circle of researchers at New York's famed Met Cloisters museum.
'Beguiling and atmospheric, an entrancing and gripping tale.' KATE MOSSE
'Glamour, power, seduction, ambition - The Cloisters has it all. I adored this deliciously gothic, beautifully written novel.' LOUISE O'NEILL, author of Idol
Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, hoping to spend her summer working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she is assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval and Renaissance collections.
There she is drawn into a small circle of charismatic but enigmatic researchers, each with their own secrets and desires, including the museum's curator, Patrick Roland, who is convinced that the history of Tarot holds the key to unlocking contemporary fortune telling.
Relieved to have left her troubled past behind and eager for the approval of her new colleagues, Ann is only too happy to indulge some of Patrick's more outlandish theories. But when Ann discovers a mysterious, once-thought lost deck of 15th-century Italian tarot cards she suddenly finds herself at the centre of a dangerous game of power, toxic friendship and ambition.
And as the game being played within the Cloisters spirals out of control, Ann must decide whether she is truly able to defy the cards and shape her own future . . .
Bringing together the modern and the arcane, The Cloisters is a rich, thrillingly-told tale of obsession and the ruthless pursuit of power.
'Dark and enigmatic . . . The Cloisters captured me from the off. . . a story of academic obsession, Renaissance magic and the ruthless pursuit of power. Captivating in every sense.' SARAH PEARSE, author of The Sanatorium
'Elegant and atmospheric and suffused with brooding menace.' LUCY CLARKE, author of The Castaways
'Sultry and sinister . . . teems with sexual tension, the secrets of divination, and scholarly obsessiveness . . . jaw-dropping.' SARAH PENNER, author of The Lost Apothecary
Early readers are obsessed with The Cloisters
'The Cloisters does for tarot what The Secret History did for Greek class'
'I loved this tale of tarot and obsession'
'If you like museums, art, mystery, and dark academia The Cloisters will be a satisfying read for you'
'A dash of history, a pinch of gothic, and enough surprises to keep me guessing.'
'This is academia gone to the dark side and then some!'
'Beautifully written, with fabulous descriptions and a gorgeous gothic setting, it's a gripping read. I loved it!'

The Cloisters is a mystery novel that is written with such flair and finesse. The location is an open door into another world.  

The Cloisters is a fantastical story set in magical location. There was so much that I loved about this story. Museums have always held that intrigue for me. It’s the only place that you truly feel as though you are walking through the hallways of time. Beautiful jewels to the right, ancient fossils to the left. It’s a place where your imagination can run wild and I definitely got that feeling whilst reading The Cloisters. The cover is absolutely stunning and upon reading the blurb I knew this was a story that deserved my full attention. History and tarot cards. So many questions flying through my head, what’s the connection and what kind of journey is it going to take us on?

So tell me, just who wouldn’t take the chance to work in a beautiful location trying to decipher the code that is a 15th century deck of tarot cards that may just hold clues to predicting the future?

Ann Stilwell escapes her hometown of Walla Walla to work as a curative associate in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Somehow her position doesn’t materialise but ends up working within The Cloisters under curator, Patrick. It isn’t what she initially signed up for but she’s happy there’s something for her because she does not want to go back to her insignificant life back home. Her father passed away a year ago and her mother isn’t doing very well. It’s suffocating to Ann, and she just needs the distance. Her mother is clingy and overanxious about her being in New York. She can’t deal with it.

Whilst working at The Cloisters she is introduced to Rachel, an IT rich girl that seems to have it all, including a strange obsession with Ann. She immediately wants to be her friend, or does she? Her motivations always came across as odd, she reminded me of ivy that clings to the walls for way too long, once its there its almost impossible to break free. Ann also strikes up a relationship with the edgy gardener who really has a penchant of poisonous plants. He’s everything she isn’t and isn’t the type of boy that she’s used to. He’s dangerous and there’s always an air of mystery, and what’s with his strange relationship with Rachel? I had lots of questions by this point and my head was going in a certain direction, it turns out I was right.

Like I said, I enjoyed this book and is a format that I’ve enjoyed in the past, however, I just didn’t feel like there was any element of surprise. I had worked out what was going on from about 50% through. There was no intake of breath, no shock factor that made me absolutely love it. I ended up just feeling that it was a good story but lacking in the things that make a good story an amazing one. I loved the atmosphere, the morally grey characters and interesting tropes but the lack of mystery as it were was disappointing.


image 2 - The Cloisters by Katy Hays

Katy Hays is a Californian, writer, and cake aficionado. She lives in the shadow of the Sierra with her husband and their dog, Queso. In addition to writing, Katy works as an adjunct Art History Professor teaching rural students from Truckee to Tecopa. She holds an MA in Art History from Williams College and pursued her PhD in Art History at UC Berkeley. Her academic writing has been published by Ashgate, an imprint of Routledge.

Her fiction explores how far humans are willing to go to believe the unbelievable, strange-but-real worlds, and complex female friendships. She also runs a substack called June Gloom where she writes (sporadically) about creativity, culture, and California. You can subscribe here.

When not writing (or eating cake) Katy is a skier, cyclist, trail runner, eastern Sierra enthusiast, and—well, reader.

three stars - The Cloisters by Katy Hays

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