Book Reviews: Crystal Cove Series Books One and Two

In keeping with the crazy, magical month of October, I’ve read The first two books in The Crystal Coast Series. This series has beautiful settings, witchcraft and some really interesting history. Here’s my initial thoughts on Chrissy Lessey’s novels.

Book Review: The Coven

Author: Chrissy Lessey
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Magic Realism
Format: novel
Series: Book One of The Crystal Coast Series

I was provided with free copy for review purposes.

In brief:

The Coven coverI was really in the mood for a good witchy story again, and The Coven proved a surprise with it’s bad witch vs good witch plot, and its strong personal story features. I especially liked the way Chrissy Lessey interweaves the touching story of a single mother dealing with an autistic young child. While I did find it slow in parts, The Coven nevertheless kept me interested, and rooting for Stevie, till the very end.

The Whole story:

Stevie Lewis, single mother to five-year old Charlie has a lot to deal with. Charlie was diagnosed with autism, her marriage collapsed under the difference in opinion on what would be best for their son, and everyone is trying to set her up with her ex-husband, Sam, again.
In the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina, there are few secrets, between family and friends, but only if you’re in The Coven. Stevie’s life changes radically when her ancestry catches up with her and the secrets of The Coven are revealed.

The Story:
While the beginning was interesting and I got to really know Stevie and her son, I kept wondering when the real magic would start. It does, after the 100 pg mark when Stevie comes to realize that her life is changing, just like her son’s. I was binge reading this novel, which worked very well for me, with the parts I found slow passing fairly quickly.
Chrissy Lessey really brought Beaufort and its islands to life for me. It’s easy to envision its beauty and peace—and then there’s that really amazing history; just my kind of place. Meeting the locals and learning their history was also a favorite for me, so much so, that in some ways, the good witch/bad witch plot felt secondary at times.
I really enjoyed this read as a first in a series and look forward to the second book, The Hunted, reviewed next.

What could have been better:
When I got to Chapter 33, I thought the story was just about over, so it was a little strange when it went on for quite some time after. I would have preferred it if most of these chapters were kept for Book Two, The Hunted. So for a chapter or two, I thought I was reading some padding—interesting, but still padding.

Fun facts:
There’s more pirates and witches for you at the end of this story, if you so wish. The bad witch has a really unique career, one you wouldn’t believe!

So what did I learn from this whole experience?
I learned lots on autism and how to make sufferers more comfortable. I learned that Beaufort, North Carolina, would make for an amazing holiday with its beaches, islands and mustangs. I also learned that knitting can be a meditative, magical pastime!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend: Lovers of Practical Magic, The Craft and Hart of Dixie

Just so you know, I started Book Two the very next day 🙂

Book Review: The Hunted

Author: Chrissy Lessey
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Magic Realism
Format: novel
Series: Book Two of The Crystal Coast Series

I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy for review purposes.

In brief:

hunted_cover_front_300dpi_1024I was really glad I took the time to read The Coven before The Hunted. While The Hunted is being sold as a stand alone, I believe it lacks some of the magic of The Coven–and that I would have found it far less interesting if I hadn’t known the back-story. As with so many books in a trilogy or series, this second book is much shorter and continues the story of Stevie and The Coven’s sworn enemy, Susan. I would recommend it to readers of The Coven, and to those committing themselves to this series—which I think has a lot more to offer, especially with Chrissy Lessey’s wonderful descriptions and characters.

The Whole story:

Picking up almost directly from The Coven, The Hunted explores quite literally how a modern day witch-hunt could start. Interweaving the church, personal prejudices and revenge in a concoction of history repeating itself in the most heart-breaking way. Added to this alarming development, the peaceful witches have a terrible decision to make, when their queen’s amulet is stolen.
All my favorite characters from The Coven were there, fearing for their wonderful homes in Beaufort.

The Story:
I was expecting quite a bit more from The Hunted. I thought the premise of a modern day witch-hunt was great, as was the theft of the amulet. So why did I find it falling short? For me, the best thing about The Coven was: how firmly rooted in ‘real’ life it was, despite the magic; and the character growth, not just in Stevie, but also in Charlie—and to a lesser extent the supporting cast. The Hunted is all about the plot with very little character development, I thought, through most of it, save one—the least expected character developed in an unexpected way.
So I stand by my reckoning as in my review of The Coven, that some of the character development chapters from it would have been better placed in The Hunted, especially with regard to Randy and Ruth. In many ways, I got the feeling that I was being rushed through to a story Lessey really wanted to tell, but for whatever reasons was hurrying us along.
There are really nice scenes too. My favorites included Ruth and her dogs, as well as Charlie’s compassion for Vanessa. I would have enjoyed it all a lot more if there were more moments like those in this story.
I’m still hooked on the Crystal Coast Series, and sincerely wish that Book Three sees the characters and situations developed more in line with Book One. So I’ll be looking out for Book Three and will be requesting the prequel to learn more about Charlotte and Lucia.

What could have been better:
I think the plot could have been better executed at times. Dylan’s behavior was so out of character, how could no-one have noticed? Parris’s character also seems underdeveloped. The sudden change of heart seemed a little unbelievable to me. The ending also seemed too abrupt. It’s not quite a cliff-hanger, neither does it quite satisfy at the end. It read more like a chapter ending to me.

Fun facts:
There’s a great transformation scene in the middle when Parris meets his match.

So what did I learn from this whole experience?
As a writer, I learned that when writing a series, I should never put plot above characterization. I learned that with a little insight and compassion, even the most hated and feared can redeem themselves. I learned that there’s a lot more to Beaufort and The Coven that I’d like to learn.

Rating: 3.5/5 star
Recommend: Lovers of Practical Magic, The Craft and Hart of Dixie


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