In the slums of 19th-century New York.
A tattooed mystic fights for her life.
Her survival hangs on the turn of a tarot card.
Powerful, intoxicating and full of suspense. The Knowing is a darkly spellbinding novel about a girl fighting for her survival in the decaying criminal underworlds. It is a hard-hitting story of love, obsession and betrayal.
Whilst working as a living canvas for an abusive tattoo artist in the slums of 19th-century New York, Flora meets Minnie, an enigmatic circus performer who offers her love and refuge in an opulent townhouse that is home to the menacing and predatory Mr Chester Merton. Flora earns her keep reading tarot cards for his guests whilst struggling to harness her gift, the Knowing – an ability to summon the dead. Caught in a dark love triangle between Minnie and Chester, Flora begins to unravel the secrets inside their house. Then at her first public séance in the infamous cathouse Hotel du Woods, Flora hears the spirit of a murdered boy prostitute and exposes his killer, setting off a train of events that leaves her fighting for her life.
The Knowing is a stunning debut inspired by real historical characters including Maud Wagner, one of the first known female tattoo artists, New York gang the Dead Rabbits, and characters from PT Barnum’s circus in the 1800s.
Something Powerful Is Coming.
Please note, THE KNOWING contains themes of sexual violence which some readers may find challenging.
I received a copy of The Knowing from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I think it’s important to start this review with a warning that The Knowing is a very dark book, and there are themes of sexual violence from almost the very first page. I wouldn’t say that there’s a single relationship within the book that doesn’t have some kind of manipulation or abuse in it.
If you’re okay with reading books with these types of content warnings then you’ll be utterly spellbound. Once I’d gotten over the shock of how almost every event in the book centres around sex I found myself wrapped up in the story. Flora is a mystic who can speak with the dead, only she’s been told she should never acknowledge the ghosts (and boy does it get interesting when she does). I felt for her the entire novel, from being abused by her partner to used by Minnie she never gets a break, and still believes she’s found love the whole time. She can be so naïve but yet she’s this truly strong character.
For me the most interesting part of the book is Flora’s ability to commune with ghosts. They constantly haunt her on the edges of her vision and if she acknowledges them she can reveal truths that noone else knows. There’s only a couple of times in the book when her power is really shown but they’re so worth the wait. The truths she reveals are dark and dangerous. Her main memory from childhood is being told to not acknowledge the ghosts, and while this strips her of power they’ve told her that for good reason.
While this is mainly historical fiction the focus on the supernatural gives it an edge that kept me hooked. It means the book has one foot firmly in the paranormal and Hinds has woven the two together so expertly. I personally found sex being the main motivator for most of the plot disconcerting, and the scale of the abuse Flora experiences is never really explored. For example I found her relationship with Minnie to be uncomfortable due to the power Minnie holds over Flora. That being said I was still caught up in the story once it got going.
With challenging topics and a big dose of paranormal The Knowing will keep you reading late into the night.