“The three Beauchamp women–Joanna and her daughters, Freya and Ingrid–live ordinary lives in mist-shrouded North Hampton, out on the top of Long Island. All three are harboring a centuries-old secret: They are powerful witches forbiden to practice magic. But right before Freya’s planned wedding to wealthy Bran Gardiner, a mysterious and attractive man arrives in town and makes Freya question everything. When a young woman turns up dead, it soon becomes clear to mother and daughters that it’s time to dust off their wands and fight the dark forces brewing.”
Confession: the only reasons I read this book were because it was written by Filipino writer Melissa dela Cruz, and because it was the source material for the cable series with the same title.
Witches of East End, the television series, tells the story of two sisters: Freya and Ingrid, who find out they are witches after their mother is incarcerated for a crime she didn’t commit. Their powers were kept secret from them because their mother, Joanne, is desperate to change their fate from the curse she has received: that she will live forever, only to experience her children’s death over and over.
I have to say, I’m liking the television series better.
Now before I start comparing, I’m going to talk about the book: it’s haphazard, and a lot of the things that happen, happen for the sake of happening. There are way too many points of view, and too many characters are introduced but barely appear. But the one thing that really rubbed me the wrong way is how the author connected this series to another one she has running.
Normally, I don’t mind little nods to other worlds and fictional universes. I like, for example, how Rick Riordan handled this in The Kane Trilogy, with a throwaway line that definitively cements that that universe co-exists with the one he created for the Percy Jackson series. It was a throwaway line that doesn’t affect the story in any way.
Melissa dela Cruz has three characters from her Blue Bloods series appear in this book. One of them even gets a protagonist treatment. The same one who gets suspected of killing a supporting character. And it would have been fine if we continue to follow this up, but after a crossover in New York, the whole thing is dropped.
A book is supposed to be able to stand on its own. And this book does. Eventually. So I don’t understand why the author had to do said crossover when, I’m sure, a lot of readers would start reading this without having any knowledge of her other series. As I had. (Although that’s no longer true, now that I have Googled her other series.)
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go back to the book having too many characters and points of view. It does. And that shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Because each character has their own concerns that don’t really tie together until near the end. And you wouldn’t get there if you’ve already given up on trying to remember who’s who. It helped, a lot, that the television series has put a face on the characters–that was how I remembered who was who.
But the biggest problem, for me, was the fact that the plot structure was barely there. That, I think, is the reason why the book was all over the place. Because when the biggest secret came out in the end, things started looking up–things started making much more sense.
The events of the book weren’t paced well. And some of the information about the characters were made too matter-of-factly, to the point that revelations became givens. That’s not right. When you build worlds, you don’t just go “she’s a witch, who has lived for centuries because she used to be a Nordic goddess.” No. Witches and goddesses are not the same things. And readers are not privy to your personal thoughts.
So spell it out.
And this leads me to the conclusion that the television series is better than the source material. Witches of East End, the television program, is taking its time to unravel the mysteries. The viewers are being allowed to absorb and digest the information being given them.
Now, when events in the television show start to follow the plot twists of the book, the twists will actually make sense, and will not seem like they are cheap deus-ex-machinas.
I must say, I’m really disappointed. I had high hopes for this book. But, you know, it might have met some other people’s expectations. Let’s see:
The Silver Petticoat Review
Read the Screen