Author: Estelle Laure
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Edition/Pages: Hardcover, 304 pages
I received an ARC copy of this from Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.
When Mayhem and her mother Roxy finally flee her abusive step-father, they find themselves back in the one place Roxy said she’d never return, Santa Maria, California. Mayhem is desperate to find some connection the home she doesn’t remember and the family she’s never met – including her aunt and 3 foster cousins. Soon she finds herself swept into the magical lineage she never knew about, and inheriting a destiny she’s not sure she wants. But with a serial kidnapper on the lose, Mayhem is forced to face the price for revenge.
➸ POV: 1st Person from Mayhem’s POV + Diary entires from previous Braybourn’s
➸ Mayhem Brayburn: Teenager, Daughter to Roxy, Drawn to water, Father passed away, Abusive step-father, 3 foster cousins, Back home in Santa Maria for the first time since she was 3
➸ Content Warnings: *Content warnings are available at the front of the book and on the author’s website*
Domestic abuse, child abuse, violence, serial kidnapping, drug abuse, murder, suicide
I’ve been putting off this review for the past week because I have such conflicting feeling about this book. I think the easiest way for me to break this down will to list out what I liked and didn’t like.
What I Liked
- This premise was so cool. I love witchy, magical family stories and this was definitely that! I know this was compared to The Craft, but it honestly gave me more Practical Magic vibes. I loved both the magical and familial aspects!
- The book had such a dark, 90s atmosphere that I absolutely loved. This setting was so immersive and this entire book carried an ominous and foreboding tone.
What I Didn’t Like
Unfortunately while I loved the themes, premise, and feel of this book, I think a lot was missed in actual execution.
- The beginning (background, history, introduction portion) was way too long. Mayhem doesn’t even learn about her family secret until the half way point and all the plot and action was packed into that last half – and this book is only 300 pages. A lot of the details of first half felt unnecessary to the plot and really slowed the pace down. There were entire scenes and side characters that did nothing to drive the story forward.
- And the plot itself didn’t seem to have a clear focus or direction. Even after finishing this, I’m still not sure what the actual story arc of this was.. what was the main conflict? What was the purpose? This book tried to jam so many ideas in that it felt unfocused. There were at least 3 unique plot arcs in the last 150 pages and it was too much. We jumped from serial killer, to abusive step dad, to addiction, to familial drama. It needed something to tie the threads together so that it all felt cohesive. But instead each thread felt like its own story.
In theory this premise ticked all of my boxes – atmospheric, book inside of a book, witchy/magical, feminist themes. But sadly in execution this book just fell a little short. While I enjoyed this story for those elements I loved, I felt like it lacked cohesion and clear direction. Which in the end left me feeling underwhelmed and confused.
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