Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of East End is Melissa de la Cruz’s foray into the adult paranormal market with this first in a series about a family of witches living quietly (at least at first) in quaint and beautiful North Hampton.

Joanna Beauchamp and her daughters Ingrid and Freya have been banned from practicing magic after overuse and jealousy led to tragedy, death and the dissolution of their family several hundred years ago. Vivacious Freya, engaged to the town’s most eligible bachelor, loosens the reigns and performs seemingly harmless spells in a effort to help friends in need, only to be followed in kind by both mother and older sister. One thing leads to another and soon the Beauchamp women find that practicing magic has them in more danger than they have ever been.

de la Cruz’s first adult novel was initially spellbinding (couldn’t resist the pun). The setting is wonderfully gorgeous – all pastures, gardens and seaside bluffs. It is a joy to get to know Joanna and her daughters, each different from the other, each with her own unique set of problems to be sucked into. The reader is easily involved in their dilemmas and choices – Joanna’s detachment, Ingrid’s reluctance to embrace love and Freya’s easy willingness to throw it away. Joanna’s connection to secrets surrounding their splintered family and the limits placed on their witchcraft is explored, as are the mysterious ailments and murky substances that seem to be threatening half the town.

Establishing a series is a tricky business and it can be hard to tell which story lines are legitimately incomplete and which are just waiting to be picked up at another time in the series. There was a point where Witches of East End seemed to falter, and suffered from an excess of story lines and confusing, if fascinating, mythology. So much was going on that it was hard to keep track and interest. The ending was a bit over the top in comparison to the story  that had been building, but the incorporation and exploration of Norse mythology was enjoyable. The set up for the second book in the series may prove too intriguing to resist.

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