Review: The Cloisters by Katy Hays

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Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by Mary Elle

The Cloisters by Katy Hays is this author’s debut novel and one that I’ve been highly anticipating.

After all, if you like mystery and suspense novels, who can resist some dark academia the likes of which it seems you might be able to find in The Cloisters.

Not me. That’s for sure. I definitely couldn’t resist this one or any other book that promises a Gothic museum and a mysterious deck of tarot cards for that matter.

My review of The Cloisters by Katy Hays will give you a short synopsis of this book along with my honest thoughts on whether you should read, reread, or just completely reconsider reading this book.

black and white photo of cloisters with book cover of the book the cloisters and the book review

Who Is Katy Hays?

Since The Cloisters is a debut novel, it’s understandable if you have never heard of author Katy Hays before.

Katy Hays is an American author who currently lives in California with her family. And, rumor has it that she has a dog named Queso. I love that name!

In addition to her writing, Katy Hays is also an adjunct Art History Professor who has an MA in Art History from Williams College.

I’m kind of excited to see what Katy Hays has in store for us next.

But for now, let’s focus on The Cloisters.

Publisher’s Synopsis of The Cloisters by Katy Hays

In this debut novel, a circle of researchers uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum, and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.

Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune-telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.

A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Cloisters by Katy Hays – What I Liked

The first thing I loved about The Cloisters was the medieval history. There were so many references to medieval historical topics but they were told in interesting ways. Like via an antique dealer who might have been a bit underhanded. And through a character who was The Cloisters gardener who was not only sexy but also had a side gig growing and selling poisonous plants that were documented as ones grown and sold in medieval times.

Then, there was a mysterious and ancient document, written in a language no one speaks any longer. This alone would have made me love the book!

Besides the historical references, there were moody academics with dark obsessions.

And finally, there is the main subject of the whole book – the ancient practice of tarot. I had no idea about the history of tarot, and I thought this subject was covered in an interesting way and makes me want to learn more.

As for the characters, I found that I didn’t always like them, or, didn’t like them all. But they were all compelling characters that were essential to the story.

This was an intriguing debut that had a bit of everything. From obsession to the pursuit of power to the question – can the future be foretold? Perhaps only the tarot can tell you!

The Cloisters by Katy Hays – What I Didn’t Like

For me, there wasn’t really much to dislike about The Cloisters. I will admit that, in my opinion, it seemed like the book started out rather slowly. However, that’s what I was thinking before I realized what was coming a little further into the book. All I can say is, oh boy. “Slowly” is not where it went for long. So yes, this comment under my “Things I Disliked” section actually turned into a like, I suppose 🙂

The Cloisters by Katy Hays – Read, ReRead or Reconsider?

And now, for my 3 Rs of book reviews.

Should you read, reread, or completely reconsider reading The Cloisters by Katy Hays?


I thought this was a spectacular book and almost read it in one sitting!

It was a sinister, and mysterious read, and had me turning the pages fast. Mixed in with all the mystery was the interesting history of tarot, something I knew nothing about.

And, just an FYI, The Cloisters by Katy Hays is a #readwithjenna book pick!

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