Book Review: Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
I have a thing for witches. They are one of my favorite fictional characters and having a witch in your story is pretty much a guarantee I’m going to give your book at least a second glance. I picked up Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz for obvious reasons. I then spent several minutes trying to figure out what the red reflection in the girl’s eye on the cover was and still have no clue what it is supposed to be, even after finishing the book and knowing the big secret. To me, the cover blurb sounded like a revamped telling of Practical Magic. I expected good things from the book.
Joanna, Ingrid, and Freya are three witches forbidden by the Council to use their magic. They live in East End, a wealthy town in the North Hamptons that can’t always be found twice. Joanna had dealings with the dead while her two daughters had powers over the hearth and the heart. Ingrid is a plain girl that can help you with your home while Freya is a spitfire that can whip up a love potion guaranteed to get you in trouble. But something is wrong in East End and the three witches aren’t exactly sure what is going on. They tempt fate and the wrath of the Council by using their powers again but things might just be more difficult than they first thought.
I wanted to love this book. It had all the markings of what could have been a great story. I want to say right now, plain as day, that the assortment of little things that irked me might not do the same to you and you should definitely give Witches of East End a try. First of all, let me get the snark out of the way. (I’m sorry! I just couldn’t stop thinking this!) The Witches of Eastwick movie called and wants its title back. Cher is very disappointed in you. (There! Snark taken care of.) For some reason de la Cruz has this strange idea that she can mesh two very different ideas into one book. It doesn’t work as well as she seems to think it would.
Witches of East End started off by using one of my big book no-no’s; the dreaded information dump. This is where an author chooses to use the first few characters of a book to dump all the information for their characters and setting in one big lump. Not only is this boring, it makes the beginning of the book terribly slow. At it is, we were almost 100 pages in before anything happened because everything before that was just set up. Then de la Cruz managed to annoy me with just two sentences; her description of Freya. Sex seemed to ooze from every pore, to slither from every inch of her glorious curves. Small and petite, she had unruly strawberry blond hair the exact shade of a golden peach, cheekbones that models would kill for, a tiny little nose, large, catlike green eyes that slanted just a little at the tip, the smallest waist made for wearing the tightest corsets, and, yes, breasts. Really? So, I’m reading about Barbie? Great. And that was probably the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever seen.
At the half way point the book picks up and we begin to have a solid story going on. I also felt less like chucking the book into the washer on the rinse cycle. Maybe I was in a bad mood, but the author hit several of my buttons and was never able to thaw my dislike. Melissa de la Cruz did manage to intrigue me with the three women’s situation. What exactly did they do that caused the Council to punish them so; to forbid the witches from using their powers and to be stuck on Earth? The mystery alone was enough to pull me through the slow parts and was probably the only reason I kept up with it. I had to know what had happened!
Then the big reveals came; one I had sort of suspected and the other I hadn’t. Unfortunately, the big surprise that I hadn’t sort of suspected was the one that cemented the book as not really gelling for me. It’s totally from left field but it only makes the book very implausible to me. I know, it’s fiction; of course it’s implausible. But you understand what I mean? In the later part of the book, Ingrid has to go look up what Yggdrasil is and, given the big reveal, that fact that she does not know what the Tree of Life is, is frankly ridiculous. We’ve got witches, zombies, vampires, and gods running around this book and it’s a tad overwhelming.
In the end, the book I got was not the book I expected. I was expecting a modern witchy book and ended up with a bit of a mess, in my opinion. Melissa de la Cruz’s big idea doesn’t exactly come together for me. Witches of East End was only okay, rather than being the great book I was looking forward to. I feel like I’m being too harsh and I think all of you should give the book a try, but it just didn’t get there for me. I hope you have better luck with it.
Witches of East End is the first book in a series and the second book, Serpent’s Kiss, comes out June 2012. Melissa de la Cruz has a more established series, Blue Bloods, that involves vampires that I plan to check out too.