Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
Book Review and Pilot episode of TV series review.
It’s the beginning of summer in North Hampton, and beautiful Freya Beauchamp is celebrating her engagement to wealthy Bran Gardiner, the heir to Fair Haven and Gardiners Island. But Freya is drawn to Bran’s gorgeous but unreliable brother Killian, and sparks fly when the two decide to play a dangerous game, following an ancient story of love, betrayal and tragedy that harks back to the days of Valhalla.
Witches of East End follows the Beauchamp family—the formidable matriarch Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid. Freya, a sexy bartender, has a potion to cure every kind of heartache, while Ingrid, the local librarian, solves complicated domestic problems with her ability to tie magical knots. Joanna is the witch to see when modern medicine has no more answers; her powers can wake the dead. Everything seems to be going smoothly until a young girl, Molly Lancaster, goes missing after taking one of Freya’s irresistible cocktails. As more of the town’s residents begin disappearing, everyone seems to have the same suspects in mind: the Beauchamp women.
Fraught with love, small-town secrets, and witchcraft, Witches of East End will capture any reader who craves a page-turning, heart-stopping story of myth and magic from an author who knows how to deliver.1
I had a minor internal dilemma when deciding whether or not I would include the above quoted summary. The Witches of East End was another audiobook adventure, as well as one I went into blindly, basing my decision solely on the cover and topic. My issue with the above quote, as is with many book summaries, is they give away too much. There is so much in the above that was a surprise, part of the adventure, I could not imagine it would have been the same listening to it knowing and expecting everything to happen.
Freya has met the love of her life, or perhaps maybe the love of this lifetime. Falling in love with Bran Gardiner after only a few short weeks, the two are engaged. When Bran’s brother, Killian shows up at their engagement party, things become complicated when sparks fly between Killian and Freya and things become increasingly complicated. With Bran away for work, Killian moves in trying to make his feelings for Freya known, while Freya tries to fight her instincts and what she knows is right.
Ingrid, Freya’s sister, is much more quiet and reserved. Being the complete opposite as her sister, where as Freya likes to party and dress sexy, Ingrid is more reserved and favours the peaceful monotony of her library where she works. The Beauchamp women have spent years under a restriction that stops them from using their magic. The magic that had become their lives and spread through their very being as been locked away and suppressed.
Joanna, Freya and Ingrid’s mother, spends more of her time remodelling and redecorating the house the old fashion way; by hand. Long were the days the colors of her walls could change with her mood and a quick incantation. After a restriction was placed on them during the salem trials, the Beauchamp women have feared retribution for using magic and have refrained at all costs. Deciding they have had enough, each breaks the rules slowly in their own way before completely giving in to their instincts.
Things in their small town become very strange with a mysterious substance appearing in the water off the coast, and even missing people. Could it be the use of their magic that has caused the disturbances, or is something more sinister going on?
Witches are the oldest and most common figure when it comes to magic, but they never seem to get old. With everyone trying to take a piece of every niche and genre and adding their own twist, it’s hard to believe things haven’t been chewed up and spit out so much as to make them obsolete and tiresome. The most intriguing twist or bit of info supplied by de la Cruz was the mother, Joanna, would suddenly become pregnant at full term before she has had any time to mourn the death of her child. So the cycle continues with her daughters dying and being reborn, but nothing is mentioned as to what happens if Joanna were to perish?
The spark of excitement with witches and magic dwindles rather quickly when mixed with the cumbersome dalliances of small town business. Not to fear, nothing reignites a story like the addition of completely obscure mythology and flashes of intrigue. So many odd bits and bobs come into the story that could possibly hold interest, but we do not have time to explore them. Instead we charge head first into battle which ends in the blink of an eye and suddenly the story is over.
I’d have the say the most exciting or intriguing thing about this story is the fact that it was turned into a tv series, but more so, how many stories Melissa de la Cruz has actually written. The Witches of East End could have had potential for a longer series including exploration of some of the additions to the story that weren’t really touched on, different life periods and even branching off to tell the tales of each character. Would that have been enough to keep my attention? Probably not, but worth a shot. The Witches of East End is not a book I would recommend, but let’s see if the TV series fares any better, shall we?
- Book summary courtesy of Melissa de la Cruz’s webpage.
The Witches of East End TV Series – Available on Netflix – Seasons 1 and 2
Partial series review
Pilot Episode and Episode Two:
So after reading/listening to the book I figured I would give the show a shot. The show stars Julia Ormond as Joanna, Jenna Dewan Tatum as Freya and Rachel Boston as Ingrid. Other characters include Eric Winter as Dash Gardner (Bran Gardner in the book) and his brother Killian played by Daniel Di Tomasso. One major variation from the book is that Freya and Ingrid have no clue about who they really are, and have no memory of their past lives. Understandably, the makers of the show had to pick and choose which things to use from the book to be able to create a basis for their story to run with. Another tweak to the story is the addition of Joanna’s sister, Wendy, played by Madchen Amick.
It’s funny watching the pilot because so much of the book is crammed into the pilot episode alone to try and set the stage for the story. To be honest I started watching the pilot episode before even finishing the book, but only got about half way, then finished the pilot after finishing the book. There was a scene early on in the pilot episode of the show where something happens, and it made a little light bulb flicker on for a memory from the book and made it into more sense. I realized I heard it and accepted it as part of the book, but didn’t really understand what was going on.
After watching the pilot episode for the show I must admit that I was not much more of a fan of the show than I was for the book. Neither seemed to do much for me. I thought it unfair to base my decision solely on the pilot episode and actually watched the following episode. The TV series starts to branch away from the book to stand on it’s own two feet and oddly enough becomes more interesting. It hasn’t won me over enough to get me hooked enough to bing watch on Netflix, but I may keep it in mind for later.
One thing about the TV show that should be irrelevant but bothered me a lot was Julia Ormond, the actress who plays Joanna. She has this odd thing where one eye is always open wider than the other, and on top of that her voice seems to break in and out of her accent during sentences. I suppose if we are going into trivial things, I should point out Dash Gardner, played by Eric Winter who many may remember him better as Rex Brady from Days of Our Lives, may have injected a bit too much plastic in his face and would have been better off aging into a handsome gentleman, rather than a man doll.
I guess the fun thing about stories is they can be accepted wholly as they are and turned into Hollywood films on the big screen and create a legion of fans; or the legs of the story can be borrowed and given a new life with a TV series which relies on it’s own little niche fan base.
Well, it was a fun little adventure to East End to meet and discover the Beauchamp women, but for now I say goodbye to them, likely for good in book form, and may bookmark the TV series for a later date.