Witches of the East by Melissa de la Cruz is a novel full of witchcraft, mystery and romance. Cruz follows up her Blue Bloods series with that of the Beauchamp witches, but a part of her seems unable to let the Blue Bloods go, with this series appearing to take part in the same universe with Blue Blood vampires mentioned as a side note in the novel.
The book is set in the village of North Hampton, a remote place where the residents are all acquainted with each other, with the Beauchamp family fitting in with the community spirit of the town. The family consists of mother Joanna, and daughters, Ingrid and Freya. They are witches, but are restricted from performing magic by an old law that has stood the test of centuries.
However, they start using their magic bit by bit as their friends are in desperate need of help. Each family member is specialised in a different magical art, each coming together to help the whole community and earning a reputation as miracle workers, some using the term ‘witches’. They need to keep their magic a secret, but with this secret silver mist magic spreading throughout the town, will they be able to protect the community without being prosecuted for witchcraft?
Cruz tells this story in a series of very short chapters, but each chapter focuses on one of the Beauchamp women, with the family not being in many scenes together until the end. I would have liked to see more of a connection between the family members, as they are immortals and have stuck together through thick and thin, which would suggest a stronger bond than that which Cruz shows us.
First in the Beauchamp family we have Freya, who I didn’t like from her introductory description. She is a witch of love and romance, engaged to be married to Bran Gardiner, with the novel opening at their engagement party. They are a perfect couple, rich and beautiful, but Freya is drawn to Bran’s brother, Killian, starting an affair with him in a cupboard at the party. Freya seemingly has it all, yet feels compelled to cheat, a factor which made me further dislike her character as her guilt does not feel genuine.
She was possessed of an arresting, effervescent beauty rare in a time when emaciated mannequins were the zenith of female pulchritude. […] Freya looked like she got everything in the world she ever wanted, and then some.
Freya’s sister, Ingrid, was more likeable, as she was more normal than Freya, and works in the local library. She shows little interest in romance, and uses her magic to aid her co-worker, Tabitha, in becoming pregnant. She thus becomes the first of the women to use her magic again, feeling an uncontrollable need to help her friend. This prompts the whole community to come to her seeking advice for their problems, but the problems all seem like trivial gossip, with wives wanting to stop husbands from committing adultery.
Finally, Joanna Beauchamp is the matriarch of the family, despite showing little maternal care for her daughters over the course of the novel. She lets them come and go as they please, focusing more on her baking and on the care of her cleaner’s son, Tyler. She dotes on the little boy, but she doesn’t really do much throughout the novel besides keeping secrets from the girls about their father.
I personally didn’t like this novel, as the majority of the women’s problems were trivial and brought about by their own means. I felt no sympathy at all for Freya, didn’t really see what Joanna added to the plot and felt that Ingrid was a bit too boring. The author tries to get us interested in the family by hinting that Freya and Ingrid’s missing brother has committed a sin, and that Joanna’s husband must have done something wrong for her to kick him out. However, despite raising these questions, they aren’t answered in this novel, with the epilogue being used to create a cliff-hanger for the next book in the series.
Overall, I found this novel to be boring, and I didn’t enjoy reading it at all. I felt like I’d just wasted my time reading gossip rather than a fun plotline, and the characters felt like they had no depth to them. The author ties up the plot very simply, and I felt like the ending was far too convenient for each character, each getting exactly what they wanted with no struggle. Despite ending on a cliff-hanger, I am definitely not interesting in reading the next book in the series and think that Cruz will need to improve massively to keep the series going.
This novel felt more like something you’d read in the gossip pages of a magazine, with the characters being shallow and very two-dimensional. As I didn’t like the characters, I found that I didn’t particularly care what happened to them, and found the resolution to be boring and not at all dramatic.
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