By: Estelle Laure
Publication: July 14th, 2020
By: Wednesday Books
Genre: YA | Fantasy | Magic
A YA feminist mash up inspired by The Lost Boys and The Craft.
It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.
From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.
| Goodreads |
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.
Author’s Letter 🌟
Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.
I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it.
I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.
Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and
I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.
Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.
Super grateful to St. Martin’s Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review & it’s an honor to participate in its blog tour.
I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book, the promise is wonderful, and when I see was for fans of The Craft, I knew it would resonate with me. Super grateful for being able to read the ARC and it’s a story worth giving it a try. What I liked the most was the way in which super sensitive subjects are touched, I think that even when it’s a book with a magical plot, its real and raw side stands out more. I also like how despite being a fairly intense plot in terms of topics, it can be read super easily and I liked the author’s style, simple but profound at the same time.
This story takes place in the ’80s, and we follow Mayhem who has always felt that there’s something different with her and her mother, but she really discovers what it is once they return to Roxy’s childhood home, her mother, in Santa Maria, after that she escapes from her husband, a cruel and violent man. Once there, Mayhem is looking forward to learning more about her parents, especially about her father’s suicide, where she really came from, and why her mother escaped out of there in the first place. Once there, Mayhem meets her cousins and her aunt and begins a journey of self-discovery, where she’ll discover that she comes from a family lineage of women who possess magic. The boys are seen searching for a kidnapper who’s terrorizing Santa Maria, and in the process, unknown powers, and sources of dangerous magic will be uncovered, and Mayhem wonders if revenge is actually the right call to her.
I have to be honest here, as I always try to be. I liked the book and I really had a great time with it, but I don’t think it had the impact I was looking for in this story. From the beginning, hard-hitting topics such as domestic violence, suicide, rape, and drug use, among others, are touched, and you know it will be a heavy and emotional plot. I liked how this side was touched, although the rest of the story was the one that seemed most incomplete to me, and that’s the magical realism side, and all that witchcraft that the story promises. I think this magical side is superficially explored and when the characters begin to develop their abilities and powers, it falls a bit short. I felt that although the author’s idea is good and I think that the origin of the magic itself is very interesting, it’s not well developed and everything feels very rush and simple, which is a shame. I would have liked a slower transition, and I know it sounds strange, because I love fast-paced plots, but when there’s so much information it seems to me that a 300-page book couldn’t give it the intensity and depth that each topic deserves.
I liked the writing style quite a bit and I think the author’s prose is lyrical and makes it feel atmospheric, which you know I love, plus the place where the story unfolds, Santa Maria, California, is really beautiful and I feel It was the perfect place for this witchy/mystery story. The descriptions of the place are brief but very good, and I think they’re successful. The characters spend time in a cave which is a great protagonist of the story, and I loved those scenes: they agreed the perfect atmosphere with the perfect dialogues and I think they were the most solid scenes in the book, they even give it a touch of mystery and makes the characters related in an honest way. Plus, we see a hint of very clever magic happening in the cave.
I want to highlight how the mother-daughter relationship is, in fact, the main relationship of the story, which I appreciate very much, I found it very well achieved and filled with feelings, I enjoyed to see the development and growth between Mayhem and Roxy, and how they grow later to survive such sad and cruel situations. We also have a romance going on, and surprisingly I liked it! I think it’s super insta-love, but even so, the chemistry between the characters is amazing and I adore both of them, so I think that’s why I liked that they were together.
The characters are fine, again I think a lot of development is missing, I’d have liked in general to know more about each one of their past and manage to establish a more sentimental connection. Although I wasn’t able to completely love anyone, I do have some that resonated more with me and I’ll talk a little about them. First, we have Mayhem, our main character, she comes from living in a home with a lot of violence and mistreatment by her stepfather, so we see a very submissive and scared girl at first, and I must say that her evolution surprised me so much. As the book is short, all this takes place in just a couple of chapters, but I could see the evolution, and the fact that it has become stronger and more determined made me feel proud of her. Roxy is her mother, and this is a complicated character and difficult to empathize with at first, but after she overcomes all the demons she battles with internally and sits down to finally talk to her daughter, I think she shows a wonderful side, of a mother who’s seriously concerned and considerate. My favorite character has to be Jason, he’s a super-intelligent guy and I also love how he cares about his sister, Kidd, and how much he protects her, I also think he has the best dialogues. Nevie is like the rebellious witch of the story and although I didn’t like her personally, because her attitude is too much for me, she’s a well-thought-out character and it shows & finally, Elle, Mayhem’s aunt, is great, she reminded me a bit of a character from Practical Magic or Charmed, and that vibe is everything, especially when it comes to her relationship with her sister.
The author wanted to add a side of mystery to the plot which I didn’t like very much. There’s a man “kidnapping” girls on the beach and that’s super creepy, but I expected much more from this sub-plotline, the outcome is super expected and everything is solved conveniently and easily, so I don’t think it’s a remarkable factor, but that was there to give another vibe to the plot.
One factor that I did like and enjoyed, was that there are some chapters that are told in the form of letters from the women of the Brayburn lineage, and they all talk about their life experiences with magic and their abilities, and that was a very nice touch. It gives you depth and for a moment you can feel everything reading it, it’s great. Still, I repeat, I would have loved to know more about this family in depth.
In summary, I quite liked the book, I also liked the ending even when it’s quite open, I think that fact gives it a more realistic side. I think it’s fun and easy to read, even when it touches on difficult topics, so be careful about it. I like the idea of the author to tell the story of a lineage of powerful women, and put a little magic there, in a very unique way, I liked that, BUT I think that each and every aspect deserved a little more depth and development, so the reader can enjoy and feel more committed to the story itself. The characters are fine, and it also has very solid scenes with very deep dialogues, so if that’s something you like then you should give it a chance. It also has a very beautiful atmosphere and the magic-realism is played in a very interesting way. Although I was expecting a little more, I can say that it was a great read!
Have you heard about this book? | Would you like to read it? | Have you read the author’s work before? | What do you think about it?
🌿 Feel free to leave your comment below, I always love to know what you think 🌿