Okay, here’s the thing. The sooner you can separate the original book from a TV of film version, the happier you’ll be. This was a hard lesson I learned with “True Blood” and the “Sookie Stackhouse” books. I loved the books and found the bizarre diversion the plot took in the third series pretty annoying. That was until I returned to True Blood some time later with fresh eyes. Treat them differently; don’t get worked up about the variance, after all they are produced for different medium with different audiences.
That was my view going into Witches of the East by Melissa de la Cruz. I thoroughly enjoyed Lifetime’s TV show so thought I’d give the books a try. I was also intrigued given some of the almost vitriolic reviews on GoodReads which accused De La Cruz of writing anything from the infantile to the ridiculous. I think I saw a review by someone who hadn’t even read it but was based on the TV show.
So, open minded and with my Kindle fired up, I went in.
Once I got past the initial paragraph of description, which was two sentences long but took up most of the page, things were on the up. The book focuses on sisters Freya and Ingrid and their mother Johanna, who are all witches but trying to live a magic free life in the East Hamptons. They are banned from using magic but we never find out why or what the back-story is until much later in the book, so in my view a lot of this just doesn’t work.
It doesn’t take long before mysterious happenings start to occur and all three start to use magic to “fix” situations and people. There’s an environmental crisis, a suicide, affairs, infertility issues, a sick kid, a man in a coma and even murder. The early part of the book feels disjointed, unsure of what it wants to be. The writing style has a very YA feel to it, but then out of the blue we have a few sex scenes thrown in. It made me feel uncomfortable was I wasn’t expecting it (I am no prude I assure you) and with references to Freya passing for 17, it felt a bid odd. Her sister, Ingrid, on the other hand is the stereotype of the prissy librarian which is a shame. She has the potential to be a more interesting character than Freya but I don’t feel this opportunity was used to its fullest. The same is true for Johanna, the mother.
I preserved with the book and it wasn’t bad exactly, it was just…odd. The plot bumbled along until it was at the 50% mark and then bizarrely, lots of exposition and subplots were thrown in. Suddenly, vampires and even a zombie were shoe horned in, followed by some fast and loose interpretation of Viking mythology. I found the whole thing very confusing. Towards the end, it felt as if De La Cruz was running out of her word count but wanted to ram in as much as possible. Again this very much feels “shoe horned” in, making it clunky and out of place. Loki, Ragnarök and a host of Norse characters and myths all make an appearance with very little context built into the plot overall.
I don’t often give a “bad” review as I can usually appreciate the merit of a book even if I don’t like it. I can still give five stars to a book I didn’t enjoy as I can appreciate that its well written, it’s just not to my taste. Perhaps if I was reading this on a beach somewhere or relaxing by a pool, I’d have enjoyed it more, as on holiday I can pretty much read anything, but sadly this was not the case. It’s not without merit. Much of the characterisation is fairly well done and I very much got a sense for the places and locations. If you strip back the story there is some really good stuff here but it’s a bit of a jumble I’m afraid.