Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Witches of East End: the Beauchamp Family Book #1 by Melissa de la Cruz


     Title: Witches of East End: the Beauchamp Family Book #1
     Author: Melissa de la Cruz 
     Publisher: Hyperion 
     Published: June 21, 2011 
     Number of Pages: 272 
     Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
     Date Read: July 2011
     Acquired: Real Canadian Superstore book aisle

North Hampton, New York is a sleepy, prosperous little tourist town, a place of old money and old traditions; all in all it's a quiet, normal place where nothing extraordinary ever happens. Or you know, not. The titular Beauchamp family of Freya, Ingrid and Joanna are witches, but sssh no one is supposed to know! They're just going to try  to subtly work their magic and hope that the consequences of the ban against magic that was laid upon them (centuries ago no less!).

Each of the Beauchamp women has a specific skill; and apparently all of the people that live in or pass through North Hamtpon  have a life issue that these forbidden magically abilities can solve. Freya the Wild Child bartender is stuck in a love triangle (of course), with two gorgeous brothers (a given) the good boy and the bad boy (duh?); her magical abilities lie in the realm of fixing people love lives (through cocktails!) but she can't even fix her own (what a handy power!). Then there's her older more studious and sedate (see: spinster-y) (stereotypical)librarian sister Ingrid, who is being pursued by a handsome police officer (and very annoyed by it!) while working to unravel a long-lost secret about the town's most famous property (which just happens to be owned by the family of Freya's boyfriends by the way); oh and on her lunch breaks she uses her magical powers to help people with fix their domestic and health situations. Finally there is their mother Joanna, all she wants is the piter pater of little feet in her house again because she's realising that her daughters don't need mothering any more and she misses her son (Freya's twin brother); the young son of the their housekeepers makes a wonderful surrogate. She performs small acts of magic to make this little boy happy; and then her abilities to resurrect the dead and heal most serious injuries becomes important.

Amid the use of their magic a mystery befalls the town, people start to go missing and get ill and dark forces seem to be gathering. The Beauchamp women are convinced that their use of forbidden magic is the cause. But the cause is actually much more sinster and...Norse? Not going to give it away but it is of supreme importance that you know that this series is a re-envisioning of the classic Norse mythological tales.

When I first saw this book at the grocery store (yes I buy books from the grocery store; put me in any store with a book aisle and I will find a book to buy!) I was instantly drawn to it because of the title. At the time I was on a Witches of Eastwick kick thanks to the short lived remake Eastwick and my brain was convinced that this book must be in some way connected to that. I was a little disappointed for a moment when I read the teaser on the back and realised it wasn't. That disappointment quickly faded when I read the name Freya and realised that this book was going to have ties Norse mythology. I LOVE mythological fiction. I had just finished the latest instalments of both of Rick Riordan's series at the time and I was on the look out for more mythological fiction. So I immediately picked this book up and brought it home with me.

Definitely one of my better literary impulse purchases (I've made a few disappointing ones); this was one of my favourite books of 2011. It's enjoyable and fun from start to finish. There are no boring or draggy parts. There's fantasy (obviously) and romance for both Freya and Ingrid and there's even an element of mystery as you try along with the ladies to figure out just what on earth is happening, and who exactly the bad guy is. You spend most of the novel not entirely sure which of the Gardiner brothers you should be trusting. And then of course there's the obligatory epilogue that throws another twist into the mix. Melissa is REALLY good at keeping the reader on the hook. She just reeled me right in, I put Serpent's Kiss on my Amazon wishlist the minute I saw it announced, although I didn't actually buy it until a few weeks ago if you remember back to The Gift of Reading post...

Norse mythology has never been my area of expertise I've always been more partial to Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and Christian mythologies, probably because they're more common in fiction; but I do know a little, enough that I can really enjoy the way that Melissa has interpreted and adapted the tales and characters. I must admit though I did suffer a few instances of envisioning certain characters as their Stargate Asgardian counterparts...don't judge me...which made certain scene at least a little bit awkward. Obviously it's not historically accurate or completely in-line with the mythology, but it makes no apologies for that and I like it for that reason. As an unapologetic re-envisioning it is well aware of it's identity and it embraces it and runs with it creating it's own rich world that parallels the original myths. I think that mythology is a perfect vessel for that reason, it encourages embellishment and adaptation. I have a reference book on my shelf, The Dictionary of Mythology and you start to see right off the bat just how many versions of certain myths there are so when a modern author decides to work with those ancient stories in our modern world I am happy as can be.

Also enjoyed the way that she threw in a reference to her more well known work, the Blue Bloods series, which I have never read, but the little taste of it in this novel did sort of make me want to, although I still haven't. 

What do you think of the current trend of re-envisioning ancient mythologies from other cultures? Should it stick around or should it just go away? Personally I hope it sticks around and bring on the more obscure mythologies!


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