The Secret Circle Part I

OK, so I’m kind of over vampires now, so I’m going to snark witches instead! I always dug witches more than vampires, anyway. This isn’t to say that witches aren’t subjected to as many tired tropes as vampires, just that witches still appeal to me more. The romanticized aristocratic vampire gets old after a while (which, let’s be honest, is how they’re portrayed in 99.99% of popular literature), especially when the author tries to tone down the whole eternally-damned-we-drink-blood thing by making them angst about it. I gotta hand Twilight one thing–it doesn’t even pretend to present a downside to vampirism.  No, vampires are eternally young and beautiful and sparkly and hey, none of that damned creature of the night shit! We’ll just eat animals instead! We’re good vamps! (You know, I’ve always failed to see how drinking animal blood automatically makes a vampire that much more desirable. I mean, yeah, it’s not like killing humans and all but it’s still gross. Let’s not kid ourselves. Would it not bother you to make out with someone who has pig’s blood breath?)

But I digress here. Witches always appealed to me more because, unlike vampires, they are mortal. They don’t have super powers, they don’t live forever, they’re not preternaturally beautiful (well, not any more than your average YA protagonist is). They’re just regular humans who can harness a shitload of mystical power. Pretty freakin’ cool.

I’m recapping the re-released version of The Secret Circle series, since that’s all I’ve got.  The text is the same as the original; they’ve just split the second volume in half in order to make it two volumes instead of three. I’m not really seeing a compelling reason for doing so, except perhaps to make the books appear more epic and Twilight-esque (they even ripped off the minimalistic black/red cover motif).  So instead of a neat little paperback easily stuffed in a backpack or purse, you get this big clunky tome that’s mildly embarrassing to bust out at a doctor’s office if you’re on the wrong side of 25 (at least, it would be if I had any shame, but I don’t, as evidenced by this blog). Fun fact: my copy of the second volume, for some reason, has an upside-down cover. Meaning the front cover is actually on the back, so the entire book is not only upside-down but also backwards. Reading that one in public definitely got some interesting looks.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough and now I will actually start recapping the book. It begins when our intrepid heroine, Cassie, moves with her single mother from Cali to New England, ostensibly to take care of Cassie’s aging grandmother.  Cassie is rather bland and uninteresting, and NEGL, I prefer the secondary characters.  I really liked Nick before LJ totally neutered him and made him Cassie’s man bitch, but that comes later, and he’s still pretty cool for most of this book.  But I get ahead of myself.  At Cape Cod, Cassie meets and forms a mystical connection of luuuuuuv with our Designated Love Luv Interest(TM), Adam.  He’s your typical YA guy–strong, silent, about as interesting as watching paint dry, but who cares ‘cos he’s frakkin’ gorgeous.  Cassie and Adam go their separate ways and Cassie writes some bad love poetry about Adam.

Cassie settles in at New Salem, a small town located on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, I believe? (I could be wrong; I’m going by memory here… the book’s buried somewhere on my overstuffed shelf but I can’t be arsed to tear it apart now).  The only way there is this one bridge from the mainland so can you guess what happens at some point?  Come on, I bet you can.  Cassie and her mother move back into Cassie’s grandmother’s house on Crowhaven Road.  All of the houses on this road have been here since colonial times, and are inhabited by the descendents of a coven that fled to the island during the Salem witch trials.  Cassie overhears a convo between her mother and grandmother which leads her to suspect her mother had a deeper purpose for bringing her back here.  Ya think?

At school, Cassie runs afoul of a clique of three bitchy girls who seem to run the school–at least, people are afraid of them.  Their ringleader, Faye, is like a sluttier, Wiccan Regina George.  She has the guys at school under her spell–quite literally.  I was having some flashbacks to The Craft right about now (actually, these books pre-date The Craft by a good four years, although the knowledge that Smith’s Vampire Diaries predate Twilight by a good 13 years does not stop the TwiHards from accusing them of being Twilight ripoffs) but unlike that movie, these girls don’t eventually induct Cassie into their coven.  They’re actually part of a larger coven, which includes a handful of guys and the bitches’ good-girl counterparts–Laurel, Melanie, and Diana.  Cassie immediately gets this total girlcrush on Diana that I swear has more tension than her supposed Mystical Luv Connection (I shall heretofore abbreviate this to MLC) with Adam.  Speak of the devil, Cassie finds out that he’s part of the coven, too.  And he’s the boyfriend of one of the girls!  Three guesses which one it is, and the first two don’t count!

No, it’s not Faye, although that would be a good guess.  Faye would rather cast spells on guys and fuck with them than actually have them fall in love with her naturally.  Adam is Diana’s boy toy.  The coven, having identified Cassie as one of their own, inducts her into their ranks after their intended inductee, another resident of Crowhaven Road, is mysteriously killed.  Adam has brought back a crystal skull that he found buried on some secluded island (guess Indiana Jones must’ve lost it). The group decides to try activating the skull, to see what mysterious powers lay within.  This seems like a good idea, since this thing has been buried in some isolated island where someone clearly didn’t want anyone to find it, and it’s, you know, a skull.  They perform the ritual and in the process, release some kind of dark energy much like the black smoke monster on Lost.  (Did anyone else find that revelation totally anticlimactic?  They make it out to be like, some kind of Jurassic Park shit and you find out it’s just some puff of evil smoke.  OK… and I’m going to invoke the wrath of hxc Losties with this aside, aren’t I?)

Cassie and Adam angst about their Forbidden Luv, but the MLC cannot be ignored and eventually they make out.  Faye finds out and uses this knowledge to blackmail Cassie into stealing the skull for her.  Cassie does it, and she and Faye participate in another ritual that releases even more dark energy from the skull.  That thing’s a real bottomless pit, isn’t it?  Sure enough, soon afterward the school principal ends up killed in a rockslide.  So now Cassie’s wracked with guilt first for making out with Diana’s bf and then for releasing the Smoke Monster of Doom onto New Salem.  And yet, she still doesn’t actually, you know, come clean.  She just keeps assisting Faye in her increasingly evil deeds.  Cos, you know, it’s worth releasing ancient evil on an unsuspecting town just to keep one’s dalliance with one’s girlcrush’s bf secret.  Cassie’s really got her priorities straight. 

In the midst of all this mystical fun, the gang finds time to attend a school dance (ahh, how very SVH of them).  The girls work some magic mumbo jumbo on Cassie that makes all the guys at the dance flock to her like flies to fresh roadkill.  Sorry, but she’s so painfully boring this is the only way I can explain it.  It must be magic. Cassie flirts with the school mack daddy, some guy named Jeffrey, only to find him hanging in the school boiler room later that evening.  The gang immediately suspects the Smoke Monster, so they track it using a crystal (those crystals function much like magical bloodhounds) which leads them to the old cemetary.  The Smoke Monster disappears somewhere into the night, and that’s the end of that.

During the ill-fated cemetary jaunt, Cassie loses a necklace lent to her by Melanie, and later returns to the cemetary to look for it.  While she’s there, Cassie discovers the graves of several of the Crowhaven Road residents’ parents. And check it–they all died on the same day!  Cassie asks Diana about this, and Diana tells her it was a hurricane.  Side bets on what the real explanation is?  The plot thickens when Cassie and a couple of the guys in the coven sneak into the old witch dungeon, where Cassie hears a tour guide giving their spiel to the tourists.  Apparently, the causes of death of the New Salem murder victims match up perfectly with Puritan execution methods for witches!  Who’d have thunk it?

Aaaaaand that’s it for volume one.  I’m out for tonight.  Stay tuned for volume two!