Synopses. Spoilers. Sarcasm.
This title immediately had me scrambling to get my hands on a copy of this book, but I’m glad I was sent this to review instead of actually buying it. HTHAW is a modern day twist on a retelling of the Salem Witch Trials that combines history, magic, ghosts, and the author’s own genealogical ties in a story with a similar feeling to The Secret Circle and Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall.* The main character Sam moves with her stepmother to her father’s childhood home in (you guessed it) Salem after her father transfers hospitals to help treat a coma he has fallen into. As she becomes more acquainted with the town, she falls into bad company with a group called The Descendants and learns more about a curse on her family from a ghost that haunts her house. I loved the history lessons because we learn about Salem’s history as Sam does, so it’s nicely placed info dumps that never felt awkward. Unfortunately, that was the only thing I did like. This book was full of cliches, weak characters, slightly confusing magic, and a plot twist I saw coming. I give this a 3/5, and only because the history lesson bumps up my rating.
From the first page, I already dislike this main character. She’s like a ruder Bella – sarcastic, clumsy, always blushing, and angsty. She literally keeps running away from her problems. Fumbles flirting? Runs away. Fights with stepmom? Runs away. People dressed in black glare at her? Says something sarcastic, then runs away. She fights with her stepmom over the most ridiculous things, and yeah, the mother turned out to be evil, but in the mean time, pipe the fuck down. It’s not even questions that hinder her from doing stuff, just regular parent questions like ‘how’s school?’ and ‘when will you be home?’. She yells at a ghost for trying to help her, pushes Jaxon away even though he’s being super nice, and doesn’t believe any magic stuff even though it’s extremely obvious. And then, just as I was willing to let some plot devices pass, I came along the sentence: ‘I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding’. GOD DAMN IT. It’s official. I hate this. *SIGH*
Now this love triangle thing did NOT work, but I have to admit I did like both of the boys. Jaxon is the perfect blonde boy next door with a mom who I knew was a witch from the first chapter. He was always ready for an adventure and brought her food and put up with her moody ass until the end, when Sam and Mrs. Meriweather are doing a spell in the kitchen and he gets all bothered. They fight and he says ‘You do hurt the people around you’ out of nowhere when she can’t get him to believe in magic. My notes on this part were ‘you had best apologize right now you little bitch’. The again, I do understand why he’s angry since tall-dark-and-corporeal technically did ruin their first kiss. Elijah is a ghost who’s sister was hung (hanged? hung? I never know what tense to use…) in the witch trials. I loved when Sam and Jax were shooting arrows at the fair and Elijah pops up as one goes through him and scares the crap out of Sam. I’d totally troll people in the afterlife if I was a ghost. Plus we can’t forget about the super hot kiss between them that turns into the worst reaction ever since, you know, one of them is dead.
Moving on to the fashionable goth people who are descended from the original Salem witches, they hate Sam because she’s a ‘Mather’, a descendant of a witch hunter. They pretty much all suck as people: Alice is a bitch, Lizzie’s a bitch, John is a dick. I was very happy the curse took him out, especially since he was attacking Sam. The only one I liked was Susana – she’s the girl I wish I was and looks like she wants to help, which she does. Since the death toll rises whenever all the Descendants are in town, I say there’s some freaky-deaky witch curse or other happening. I would also like to point out now that seances are never a good idea. Ever. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you have no idea what will answer the call.
This big show down with the crow woman, who used to be Elijah’s fiancée until she went crazy when he died, ended up being the one behind starting the witch craze. Exes, amIright? Also happens to be Vivian, Sam’s stepmother, which just feels wrong all around. I actually quite enjoyed the bad ass spell casting showdown between the crow woman, Sam, and Elijah, and wish it had been a longer scene. I also almost cried at the part where Elijah moves on and sees his sister again, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for a good ghost-meets-peace ending. It was a very sweet scene and I’m glad the book ended on it the way it did.
I had high expectations for this book and was let down big time. It’s worth a read if you like witchy plot lines, but as someone who is looking for a more complex read, this book missed the mark.
*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*
*L.J. Smith, Katie Alender