Read with Caution – Early Group Review: The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson

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Witches EchoThe Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson
Book #1 in The Witches of Echo Park

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Penguin

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 Elyse 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…

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Wendy, Christal, and Angie’s Review:

We have some Buffy, the Vampire Slayer fans here at Badass Book Reviews, so when we heard one of the cast’s alumni had a new Urban Fantasy book coming out, we couldn’t wait to read it! Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what we were expecting, so our recommendation would be to Read with Caution!

Angie: I have to say that this book was not at all what I was expecting.

Christal: Me neither… though I should have been wary because I was never enamored with Amber Benson’s Calliope Reaper-Jones series.

Wendy: My overall impression was eh.  I preferred Danielle to Lyse. I would have been interested more in a story about her.

Christal: I agree, Lyse came off pretty bland.  I’m actually interested to learn more about Lizbeth — both her role with the witches and what she experienced that made her unable to speak.  She was a fairly intriguing character.  Her brother on the other hand… not a fan.  I thought the romance between Weir and Lyse came out of no where and was just kind of gross.

Angie: I agree with you about Weir. I would have expected a certain amount of skittishness on Lyse’s part. Where were the building blocks of this relationship? How did we go from a single five-minute meeting to an awkward supernatural encounter to feelings?

Wendy: I liked the idea of Weir more than I liked the actuality of him.  That whole thing just came together fast and unrealistically.  It actually felt uncomfortable for me.  All of the relationships and the plot (including the blind promise) felt very contrived.

Angie: I wasn’t a fan of the blind promise, either. This wasn’t an agreement to feed the cat while someone was out-of-town for a few weeks; this was an event that was going to change the course of Lyse’s entire life.  The prologue threw me for a bit of a loop, too. I thought it bogged down the story, and the few parts that were essential could have been threaded into the main part of the story.

Christal: The prologue was just confusing and I felt like it had a completely different tone than the rest of the book.  It wasn’t very effective for me because it just threw you right into these characters’ thoughts without even introducing who (or what) they are.

Wendy: Not only did I not like the prologue, I also didn’t like all the random flashbacks.  I understand why they were necessary, just that maybe there was a better way to go about them.  In addition to the flashbacks, there were too many POVs.  Between both of those problems the story felt really choppy and together was probably the majority of what made me struggle with getting invested in the plot.

Angie: I agree; the multiple POVs was distracting. It almost made it feel more like a documentary than a story with a plot.

Christal: I also agree.  I think the multiple POVs really did this story a disservice because they served to keep the characters apart.  For a supposedly close coven of witches, these ladies barely spoke to one another.  I feel like everything in this book could have been solved or avoid if everyone had just sat down and had one conversation instead of all the secrecy and half-truths.  Even though it was supposed to be a dangerous time, all of these smart and capable (as we’re told at least… not so much shown) women continue to go off on their own consistently.  Also, Eleanora knows she doesn’t have much time to indoctrinate Lyse into the witch world so why wouldn’t she do it right off the bat?  The lack of communication between the characters is what frustrated me the most throughout this book.

Wendy: As much as I was excited to read a book written by Amber Benson, I was turned off a little by the writing style.  In the same sex scene she would flip between words like ‘manhood’ and ‘cock’.  It would be traditional romance or it read like a modern-day romance.  The flip-flopping kept ripping me out of the story to go ‘huh?’.  The writing just didn’t flow the way I like it to.

Angie: I didn’t pick up on that, but it might have been because I didn’t feel invested in the characters enough to get wrapped up in their love scene. I didn’t mind the writing style as much as the lack of direction with the plot. I thought the descriptions were nice and detailed; they just weren’t pertinent to the story. And the women were all worried about danger when they were together, but they were gallivanting about town by themselves without a care in the world. It just didn’t make sense to me.

Christal: My thoughts exactly, Angie.  I’m pretty sure I just skimmed the sex scenes because I couldn’t care less about Lyse and Weir.  I think the only time I really liked Lyse was when she was interacting with Dev’s girls at the end of the book.  Now for only being in such a short section, they were actually kind of interesting.

Wendy: I thought the kids were cute, but they were in it so little that it wasn’t enough to keep me reading.  Actually, I think the two most interesting characters were Lizbeth and Danielle.  I may read something about them.  May though, because I actually didn’t think that the book was well written.  It felt very amateurish.

Angie: I really liked Dev’s daughters and think there might be a story there, but I agree; it wasn’t enough for me to read the next book. Overall, the lack of clear direction and character depth left me feeling unsatisfied and without a desire to read more.

Christal: I would like to read more about Lizbeth but I don’t think I can stomach being in Lyse’s head anymore.  I probably won’t continue with this series as it doesn’t come close to my favorite urban fantasies at the moment.  The lack of anything important or concrete being revealed just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  I can’t even really tell you what these witches were scared about.  Unless the next book gets stellar reviews, I will be stopping here.

Recommended (with caution!) for: Urban Fantasy fans who don’t mind a story that’s going to span more than one book before tying up any loose ends.

Wendy’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½
Christal’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 
Angie’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Series Reading Order:
1. The Witches of Echo Park
2. Untitled (No Release Date Available)

Thank you to PENGUIN and Netgalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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