Today, I'm reviewing Melissa de la Cruz's Winds of Salem. This is the third book in the Witches of East End series, and I was quite charmed by it.
YA Contemporary/Contemporary Thursday is when we review the latest contemporary novels!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 13th 2013 by Hyperion
Format read: Hardcover (owned)
I like witches and I cannot lie.
Ever since reading Harry Potter and watching Witches of Eastwick when I was a kid, I've had a
strong fondness for witchy things. This is why I love the Jessica Spotswood
books, loved Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, and was one of the few people who devotedly watched the ABC show Eastwick when it was on the air.
(Seriously, it wasn't a bad show.)
So when the first two books in Melissa de la Cruz's Witches of East End series first came out, I picked them up and loved them. And when I heard she was writing a third book, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Like the first two Witches of East End books, Winds of Salem isn't necessarily a traditional fictional book about witches, because the book actually focuses more on the idea of practicing witchcraft and those behind the practice, rather than actual acts of magic itself.
However, this only makes the book even more unique, in the genre.
Synopsis (via Goodreads)
Meanwhile, twenty-first-century North Hampton has its own snares. Joanna and Norm consult the Oracle for advice, and Freddie and his pixie allies search for a missing totem that could reopen the passages of time and help bring his sister home. When Ingrid bumps into an old flame, she finds that her new love for Detective Matt Noble is in doubt.
Moving between past and present, Winds of Salem's dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense is sure to bewitch fans old and new.
Things that worked:
Over the course of these three books, de la Cruz has done an excellent job of showing how the Beauchamp family has grown, as a result of life and circumstance.
Ingrid started off the series as repressed and uncertain, and has now blossomed into a more confident woman, who is no longer so afraid to go after what she wants. Yes, she occasionally still falters and reverts back to her old ways - a touch of realism, which I thought was beautifully realized by de la Cruz - but generally, she's stronger and more confident.
Because of the time traveling issues, Freya's characterization isn't as developed as Ingrind's. She spends a lot of time actually not knowing who she is. But by the time she does figure out who she is again, she's beautifully consistent. She also shows a depth of understanding and kindness to another character, which I felt that the impetuous and slightly racy
And Joanna, as the matriarch, is still as motherly as ever. However, she's also become a
woman who's more willing to accept people back into her life - e.g. her previously estranged husband.
She's also more willing to embrace the idea of sacrifice and change, something which I felt that she wasn't as willing to do in earlier novels.
As for the secondary characters, they were all delightfully consistent. A secondary character whom I'm sure is the favorite of many gets a happy ending, and everyone else is just the way they should be.
* The plotting/writing
I'm not going to lie - the plotting of this book is very, very slow.
Because of the way the plot is constructed, this almost feels like a whole entirely new book in the beginning, with de la Cruz having to set up a new world, new characters, and a new story.
Throw in the additional fact that Cruz alternates between two different timelines, well - it takes awhile for the action to get going.
However, the delay is completely worth it. While de la Cruz slowly builds up this new(er) world, she does so in a way that thoughtfully deconstructs one of the most unusual events in human history: the Salem Witch Trials. Through the plot device of Ingrid researching the trials to see if she can gain insight into Freya's disappearance, de la Cruz not only forwards the plot, but also brings up some broader themes:
E.g. the power of mass hysteria; the problems that result from teenage apathy, and even how popular individuals can manipulate power. It's interesting and thought-provoking, and I think readers will appreciate the slow buildup.
* The power of family
One of the recurring themes of this book, is the power of family. It's evident in every facet of the story - from the fact that a new character doesn't have family and is driven by her anger and confusion at losing those family members - to Ingrid, Freya and the rest of the Beauchamp family's unwavering loyalty to one another.
De la Cruz does a beautiful job of exploring that age-old idea that blood is thicker than water - especially when you're immortal creatures that are thousands of years old - and I think that readers will appreciate seeing how the concept of family molds and shapes this story.
Things that didn't work:
Like the previous two books, I had pretty strong issues with the love triangle between Freya, Loki and Killian in Winds of Salem.
The triangle was relatively interesting in the first book, because we didn't know who Freya would choose, or why she was attracted to both men. But now that we know the back story, their every interaction and Freya's frequent "I love him, no, I love him more!" internal monologue, felt a bit repetitive and silly.
It felt like de la Cruz was trying to force them to be compelling, especially when she threw in a...
threesome, as a way for Freya to convince Loki to stop causing mischief and right the timeline, because he's so upset that she's with Killian. That was pretty much when my head exploded.
I think that having two immortal beings fit over you is fairly intriguing in theory, but it just hasn't panned out well here.
* The ending
I really liked the fact that de la Cruz made it a point to wrap all all the storylines and loose ends, but the ending did feel like it was dragging out a bit.
I think part of the problem was that de la Cruz chose to have multiple chapters for her ending, which ended up feeling like extremely random time jumps.
I would recommend this for fans of NA contemporary books, and fans for either the book Practical Magic or the film adaptation. This is a book that makes you think that there is a little bit of magic everywhere in the world, you just need to be in the right time and place to see it.
About the author:
Her books for adults include the novel Cat’s Meow, the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys and the tongue-in-chic handbooks How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less and The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-inch heels and Faux-Pas.