As a teenager I was a huge fan of L.J. Smith. My best friend and I worked our way through the Night World* series with great glee! Every book was read a dozen times and we've been waiting for the final one in the series for over a decade now!!
With the The Secret Circle due to be shown on UK televisions soon; I thought that now was as good a time as any to acquaint myself with the books - especially as I totally missed the boat on the Vampire Diaries (which have now been lent to me and will be on my Christmas reading list!).
The afore mentioned bestie has also been recommending them for (several!) years; so it was great to finally be able to text her and say that I'd be giving them a go!
Book One - The Initiation
Seduced by the Secret Circle - a coven of young witches whose power has controlled New Salem for three hundred years - Cassie falls hopelessly in love with the leader's boyfriend and fall prey to dark powers...
Hmm. The most vague blurb in the world doesn't really set the scene or the tone for the first book in the trilogy.
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SPOILERS* * * * *
The Set Up
Cassie is a shy girl who has never quite found her voice socially speaking. She and her mum have a happy and fulfilling life in California - far far away from New Salem and her grandmother.
While on holiday, Cassie's world is rocked by two events.
Firstly - she rescues a boy on a beach from really committed bullies. (There's an interesting little exchange between Cassie and Portia - one of the bullies...which is followed up in later books.)
Secondly - she is told by her mother that they have to uproot their entire lives in order to look after her ailing grandparent.
Cassie is dreading starting over at a new school; though she does briefly ponder trying to set herself up as a new person - starting from scratch and all. She is surprised to find that her grandmother is approachable and interesting - if slightly odd. The two bond over gardening - specifically herbs. Cassie's mother on the other hand definitely struggles with the transition.
However; Cassie's worst fears start to be realised when she begins at the local secondary school. For some reason that she can't fathom; she is quickly ostracised by teachers and pupils alike when they discover where she lives. Her new home has character and is the oldest, weirdest one on the oldest weirdest street in town - Crowhaven Road. As far as Cassie is concerned she has hit rock bottom.
Cassie - it transpires - was wrong.
An unfortunately run in with the sarcastic, beautiful and vicious Faye isolates her from the rest of the inhabitants of Crowhaven Road - a clique known in the school as the Circle, who weld surprising power. Unexpected things start to happen to her - cruel pranks that the staff (faculty - I love that word) refuse to acknowledge or deal with.
It's quite likely that this story would have a sad and tragic ending if Diane - the ethereal, beautiful and kind leader of the Circle - hadn't taken an interest in Cassie. Before she knows it; Cassie is catapulted into a new friendlier world. After tragedy strikes a potential initiate into the group; Cassie is offered a place in the Circle.
Once in, Cassie discovers that the Circle is involved in more than just pranks - each of the twelve are witches. She learns that she has more to embrace than just her familial roots.
Oh and the boy...the boy from the beach? Yeah, he's Diane's long term boyfriend.
Things are about to get a leetle bit complicated.
I really enjoyed this book. The language was very easy to read, in terms of pacing, phrasing and structure, without ever becoming overtly simplistic, monotonous or patronising.
I also liked that nothing was totally spelled out for you. The interactions with Portia at the beginning of the book were dramatic and full of portent. I was a little disappointed that this wasn't revisited until I realised that it was clearly a set up for later books. The lack of resolution strangely filled me with a certain degree of confidence that - whatever lies ahead - I wouldn't feel condescended by a tidy, neat, wrapped in bow ending.
Except when it came to the identity of the boy. It was not at all surprising that he was taken. If anything; I kinda thought that Cassie was a bit of an idiot not to have figured it out herself. Still; as the emotional leverage, it wasn't too bad.
Given that it's a book about witchcraft; there are very little demonstations of power. Rather it's the implications and hints; little nuances - such as the herb craft and stone lore that leads you to suppose that they are particularly informed about the craft. With regards to their fear factor; this is best demonstrated by their school friends and teachers who have clearly learned that it's best to leave well enough alone.
All in all - a pretty solid introduction. I read it in under 4 hours, so immediately started on the second! Review up soon!
Trailer for the upcoming TV Series
What do you think? Will you be watching?
(*Please note - Night World fans - as of the 12th October 2011, LJ Smith has announced on her fan forum that she has completed Strange Fate which has now entered the editing stage. Fingers crossed!)
The Secret Circle
The Secret Circle - Book 1 - The Initiation
The Secret Circle - Book 2 - The Captive
The Secret Circle - Book 3 - The Power