Witches of the East by Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of the EastA review by Jade Hounsell

The Witches of the East live in North Hampton, a place of rolling green fields, pristine beaches and rustic farmhouses, is the sort of town the modern world seems to have forgotten. The place is not listed on any map and is shrouded in fog year round. making it hard to view from sea or land. Directly across from the township is Gardiners Island, long ago abandoned and left to ruin. The island has only one building; a single manor house called Fairview. It has been untouched and unoccupied for as long as anyone can remember, but for some reason never sold.

North Hampton is also home to Joanna and her two daughters, Ingrid and Freya. To the citizens these women are the same as them, just like anyone else in town. Joanna is a stay at home who loves to redecorate and renovate her house. Ingrid works at the local library and fulfils every stereotypical view of what people think of when you say librarian. Freya is a newly engaged party girl working nights at the local bar. But they are not the same as everyone else, they have a secret they have been hiding from the town. They are witches. During the Salem witch trials, the women were all bound by the witches’ council to not practice magic of any kind and in return they got to keep their immortal lives. Without their magic they may as well be the same as everyone else.

Freya’s magical heritage enables her to see flashes of intense emotion and everything she makes or cooks taste delicious. When she sees a separated couple in the bar that she believes should still be together she uses her magic to make a love potion. She waits for the repercussions from the council but when none come she begins to think maybe they have forgotten the ban and they can be free to practice magic again.

Ingrid has the ability to see a person’s future and ‘witches sight’, the ability to see illness or problems and to make a charm infused with a little magic to help fix it. Emboldened by Freya’s experiment, Ingrid decides to use her magic to help a fellow co-worker and friend who just cannot seem to fall pregnant. She too waits for the repercussions from the council and again nothing.

Joanna’s ability is healing and bringing back the dead to life if they have been deceased for less than 24 hours. When a friend of the family nearly drowns and is put on life support in hospital, Joanna steps in (after a push from her daughters) and brings him back from the in-between world. Again the women wait for the council to step in and reprimand them, but still nothing.

Emboldened, the women then begin to use their magic more and more, but then things start to go wrong, very wrong. Three Osprey are found dead on the beach in a cross formation. Freya becomes deeply attached to her fiancés brother. An oil like silvery substance appears in the ocean killing birds and sea life. Vampires are showing up in town, people are going missing and the residents of North Hampton are getting an illness the hospital cannot seem to treat. Is it because they have using their magic or is it something else, something bigger?

On a bit of a down note some of the story does seem a little hurried and really could have done with a bit more explaining and at times was a little confusing. However, that may be explained more thoroughly in the sequel.

Witches of the East is the first book that I have read by Melissa de la Cruz and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters are all beautifully written and likeable, even with their considerable flaws. The story flows and what you may think of as a bit random at the time, all ties in to the story somehow.

Note: this book ends on a huge cliff hanger.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.