Review: The Witches of Echo Park
I love the idea of urban fantasy and am always combing the shelves, both digital and physical, for potential reads. Notice how I said I loved the idea rather than the genre itself? That’s because so much that I’ve read recently in the genre have been so meh.
So very meh.
It was my turn for to pick our read for Pancake Sex Bookclub. (The name of the club itself stemmed from a horrendous sex scene in one of our other books.) We’ve already dabbled in the realm of urban fantasy. There were a few books from Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series and Succubus Blues by Richelle Meade. If there were others from the genre, I can’t even recall them. Basically, nothing utterly brilliant.
This time I put forward The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson. I didn’t realize it until bookclub members pointed out that the author was Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have to admit it gave me hope. I didn’t even know she wrote books!
The synopsis is as follows:
Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using their magic to keep the world in balance. But they are being eliminated—and we will all pay if their power falls…
When Lyse MacAllister’s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her comfortable life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping secrets—extraordinary secrets—from her.
Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora’s Victorian estate; she is also expected to take her great-aunt’s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But to accept her destiny means to place herself in deadly peril—for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last…
It sounds cool, right? The cover even looks cool in comparison to other female-led urban fantasy novels. You know what I’m talking about.
There’s potential. There are some interesting ideas to be explored and expanded. However, in 304 pages, this book doesn’t even get close to touching any of them. I’m not kidding. This book is a glorified epilogue. We are introduced to the protagonist and several other characters, and yet what we learn about those characters is face-value at best.
A breakdown of the events of this book (spoilers):
- Lyse arrives in Echo Park after finding out her Great “Aunt” Eleanora is dying.
- Eleanora reveals that she herself is a witch and the leader of a coven. Lyse is to be a part of that.
- Awkward disbelief that happens in every urban fantasy of ‘There’s no such things as *insert supernatural creature here*’
- Lyse meets a hot guy as well as some other characters who are also witches.
- Lyse humors her aunt and goes with her to a naked coven meeting. She is initiated into the coven.
- Said initiation involves hallucinating a completely out-of-the-blue sex ritual with “The Horned God”. In the dream he takes off his mask and it’s the hot guy she met before.
- Eleanora backstory.
- Eleanora dies.
- Lyse’s random obviously-evil-uncle shows up at the memorial and tries to usher her away to her also-evil grandfather.
- After drugging her uncle he reveals himself to be part of the definitely-evil anti-witch group called “The Flood”.
- Evil-uncle literally gets up and leaves the house after attacking Lyse and her Blood Sisters.
- Lyse is abducted and attacked by her evil uncle.
- Spirit-Eleanora causes a statue to fall on evil-uncle, saving Lyse from the abduction.
Then it just ends. Seriously.
Exposition, Exposition, Exposition, Exposition, Slight Moment of Rising Action, Slight Climax.
No falling action. It’s just over.
Where is the rest of the book? I felt like she spent 304 pages introducing us to the characters and the world and yet I still don’t know anything about the characters or the witch world. Also, did Lyse ever accept herself as a witch? Is she still in denial? Was there acceptance? Did I miss it? Does she even have cool powers? I literally have a ton of questions and no answers.
Consider me both surprised and confused. The word “pleasantly” isn’t applicable.
It could get better. Maybe Benson is just having a rocky, unfocused start? I would read a sequel in the hopes of having my questions answered. I mean, it isn’t bad. It has a lot of holes, is oddly paced, and abruptly ends. You can tell the author has a good story in her head, she just needs to communicate it better to the readers.
In the meantime, is there such thing as a brilliant witchy urban fantasy novel out there?