1. It’s not YA despite having a young protagonist.
2. There’s an explicit rape scene and an explicit sex scene.
3. There’s barely any plot – it’s all set up.
4. What’s with all the bashing of intellectual men? Lyse and Eleanora both comment disparagingly about the intellectual men Lyse has dated in the past. Not all intellectuals are snobs, Lyse and Eleanora. Lighten up.
The Witches of Echo Park is about a young woman, Lyse, who leaves her adult home of Athens, Georgia to visit her dying great-aunt in Echo Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA. Lyse’s aunt, Eleanora, is dying of cancer. She is also the member of a coven, and she wants Lyse to take her place.
There’s a lot in this book about bonds between women, which is one of my favorite topic. The bond that came across most strongly is the one between Lyse and her best friend in Georgia, which makes me hope that the Georgia friend will join Lyse in Echo Park in future books. There’s also a lot about how love can be a positive or destructive force. Eleanora suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her grandmother, and only gradually comes to accept that her grandmother truly loved her and abused her in hopes of saving her from the Devil. Eleanora is portrayed in a sympathetic light, but she does damage as well, raising Lyse in a web of lies that causes her considerable grief as a child and trauma as an adult, even as Eleanora also provides Lyse with a loving and stable home.
What this book lacks is any forward momentum. It’s an entire book of exposition. I enjoyed just kicking back and hanging out with the characters, but the slender plot is tacked on and is clearly intended to kick into action in future books. If you are looking for an evocative, slow-paced, female-centric read, you will probably enjoy Witches. If you want more focus on plot and action, start with book two. There isn’t a second book yet but I have every expectation that it will be more plot-driven given the hints that are dropped in book one.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.