A Review of Witch Eyes (Witch Eyes #1) by Scott Tracey
By REBECCA, February 27, 2012
Braden: with unique power and an unknown past, he wants to protect those he loves and stay out of the rest of it
Trey: handsome stranger whose feelings for Braden drag him into the middle of a war
Uncle John: Braden’s guardian and tutor in all things magic, with a few secrets of his own
Jade: rich, popular, and used to getting her way, she adopts Braden as a friend on his first day
Jason Thorpe: Braden’s long-lost (and very controlling) father, and the head of the Thorpe family
Catherine Lansing: creepily cold and calculating head of the Lansing family
Lucien Fallon: sleazy and mysterious Iago figure
Drew: neither Thorpe nor Lansing, he has powers of his own . . . but is he trustworthy?
Braden flees rural Montana to the small town of Belle Dam, Washington. Once there, he attends high school for the first time, gets caught up in a feud between witch dynasties, accidentally releases some hellhounds, and starts falling for a compelling and infuriating boy . . . whom he might have to kill.
17 year-old Braden is a witch, but he also possesses a unique power: he can see through lies, see the past, and untangle spells just by taking off his sunglasses.
“The sunglasses were meant to keep my powers in check. With the ability to see the world as it truly was—not the filtered world that most people saw, but the true world—I soaked up everything like a giant sponge. Everything that has ever happened in a place, to a person, or because of an object leaves an imprint. The stronger the emotion, the more violent the death, the darker the spell, the impression will be likewise as strong.
My eyes—my power—was also my curse. Witch eyes, my uncle called them.” (7-8)
When a vision that he will cause his uncle’s death unless he leaves town brings Braden to his knees next to the milk in a local convenience store, he hops a bus to Belle Dam, his uncle’s hometown, in the hope of protecting him. But once he arrives in Belle Dam, Braden’s power (which he tries to keep under wraps) quickly makes him a sought-after tool by both the Lansings and the Thorpes, and no matter how badly he wants to stay out of their war, if he hopes to stop evil forces from destroying Belle Dam, he has to figure out which side he can trust.
Not quite the Capulets and the Montagues or the Starks and the Lannisters, the Thorpes and the Lansings are feuding witch families. As in any good feud, each family thinks the other is monstrous and dangerous, whereas they themselves are righteous and benevolent. And, as in any good feud, they’re both wrong. The book blurb reads:
“Braden must master his gift, even through the shocking discovery that Jason [Thorpe] is his father. While his feelings for an enigmatic boy named Trey grow deeper, Braden realizes a terrible truth: Trey is Catherine Lansing’s son.”
When I first read that blurb, I thought, “huh, you just gave away two pretty big-deal-seeming plot points, book blurb.” But, but, but, it’s all good, because the mystery of this book is not the interpersonal stuff at all; the mystery is about Grace Lansing, the town’s founder who, it is said, is the only other person besides Braden to ever have the witch eyes.
Braden’s task, then, is to figure out his own past and how it links up to the founding of Belle Dam, in the hopes of de-eviling it. This is an interesting mystery, and takes what could have seemed quite melodramatic (yes, there are Romeo and Juliet jokes made in the novel) and makes it just a regular obstacle to relationships and trust.
Belle Dam is a cool setting: it’s kind of like where you would be if The Secret Circle or The Vampire Diaries were set in one of Sarah Dessen’s towns. Witch Eyes is the first in a trilogy, so I’m sure we’ll get more of Belle Dam in the following books. On his blog, Scott Tracey tells us that sequels Demon Eyes and Phantom Eyes will be published in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
what was this book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?
This is a good old supernatural mystery, which I love. Tracey does a good job of keeping the rules of magic consistent, but allowing magic to do surprising things. Braden’s gift, for example, exacts a price, leaving him with debilitating migraines in exchange for his view of the world without his sunglasses on to filter it. But certain magic also shows him what the world might be like without his witch eyes, which leads to . . . more mystery!
Braden’s a good protagonist: he feels responsible for the big things (protecting his uncle; keeping Belle Dam safe) but is also kind of a mess in the small things (communicating with the dead and fighting for your life really take a toll on one’s homework capabilities, and without a car, Braden constantly find himself stranded places).
The best thing about Braden, though, is that Scott Tracey has done the work to construct a tight plot, so Braden isn’t forced to do annoyingly contrived things to heighten the drama. That is, he isn’t blind to things that are totally obvious; he doesn’t make stupid decisions just to force the plot along; and he isn’t so stubbornly stuck in his own head that he misses obvious clues. Yay! (This may seem like faint praise, but it’s not! For me it’s the difference between a book I trust, that I can get lost in, and one that I feel is constantly about to give way, that I can’t escape into.)
The romance between Braden and Trey fits the book really well. Witch Eyes is set in a realistic world, except for the magical elements, and the focus is on unraveling the mystery. Accordingly, Braden and Trey’s developing relationship isn’t a swoony fantasy. They have friction at first: Braden is suspicious of Trey’s overprotective meddling and Trey is annoyed by Braden’s reluctance to accept his help. And, let’s not forget, they’re the sons of feuding enemies! So, their mutual attraction has just enough resistance to feel threatened, but there’s enough romance that it’s satisfying. I can’t wait to see where it goes in the sequels.
P.S., I’m always so impressed when characters can have a really amazing romantic moment and then push the other person away and be all, “ok, we need to figure out how to kill these hellhounds now.” Such self-control.
There were moments where the pacing could have been a bit better: a few moments of exposition drag a bit, and one climactic action scene doesn’t have quite the cinematic style that would have made it more emphatic, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to the sequels.
P.P.S. How’s this for perfect timing: Scott Tracey just posted this short story that is a tie-in to Witch Eyes. You should read it because it says this: “I fell in love, learned of my birthright, entered a loveless marriage, and manipulated a man to death before I would even graduate from college.” Well, that just makes me feel like a total underachiever.
The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan (2010). Like Witch Eyes, this series features powers that are also curses, long-buried family secrets, grittiness. Of course, Nick is far more, um, cold than Braden.
The Dream Catcher trilogy by Lisa McMann (Wake, 2008; Fade, 2009; Gone, 2010). Janie gets sucked into people’s dreams the way Braden gets sucked into his visions, and both partner up with their boyfriends to get to the bottom of things.
procured from: the library