Series: The Secret Circle #1
Title: The Secret Circle Trilogy (The Initiation & The Captive Part I/The Captive Part II & The Power)
Pages: 396/390, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4/4.15 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Forced to move from sunny California to gloomy New England, Cassie longs for her old life. Even so, she feels a strange kinship to a terrifying group of teens who seem to rule her school. Initiated into the coven of witched that’s controlled New Salem for hundreds of years, she’s drawn into the Secret Circle, a thrill that’s both intoxicating and deadly. But when she falls for the mysterious and intriguing Adam, Cassie must choose whether to resist temptation or risk dark forces to get what she wants – even if it means that one wrong move could ultimately destroy her.
The third book of the Secret Circle Trilogy (The Power) came up as my Random Read for April. At first, I planned to just read the first book in the trilogy instead, but then I found that the books were re-published in 2008/2009 as just two books – The Initiation and half of The Captive were in the first book and the second half of The Captive and The Power were in the second book. Well, I couldn’t possibly read one and a half books and not finish off the series, so I decided that I would just read all three and review the whole trilogy here.
I have to confess that I didn’t have super high-hopes for this series, especially when I saw that the books were originally published in 1992. I mean, they would have to be dated, right? And even though I enjoyed the series on the CW when it came out (which is why I added these books to my To-Read list in the first place), I had lost a bit of interest in the show by the time it had gotten cancelled. Still, I thought I would check out the original books anyway since books are almost always better than the TV show/or movies that are made from them.
Well, despite my low expectations (or perhaps because of them?), I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really enjoyed reading this series. It was a quick read (it took me three days to read the three books) and I thought that the pacing and action throughout the series was great. I really enjoyed the mythology that L.J. Smith set up and I was impressed by the fact that the book didn’t feel incredibly “old” to me (there was one reference to a floppy drive and some of the clothing references were dated, but other than that, it could have been written recently). I thought that the overarching plot of the series (the coven’s fight against an ancient evil witch named Black John) was extremely well-done and I thought that the final battle was won in a unique way.
Of course, there were some flaws in the book, most of them having to do with the love story. Apparently, insta-love is not a new development in paranormal YA fiction (and neither is the love triangle) – both of these elements are found in The Secret Circle. And the insta-love is about as instant as you can possibly get in this book. To her credit, L.J. Smith does give us a “reason” for the sudden connection between Cassie and Adam (who happens to be Cassie’s best friend’s boyfriend) in the book – they are tied together by a magical silver strand that is supposed to represent their connection – but it still would have been nice to see the relationship develop more. This is one case where the CW TV show actually had an advantage over the books because they had LOTS of time to show us these relationships developing. The love triangle was set up well, though and both Adam and Nick (the cold, loner who only breaks down his icy facade for Cassie) had their positives – I actually would have been happy to see Cassie with either of them in the end and I wasn’t sure who she was going to end up with.
One other shortcoming of the series was how stereotypical Smith made each of the supporting characters in the book. For instance, Cassie’s best friend, Diana, is so perfect and sweet that she just might make your teeth hurt (and her responses to Cassie and Adam’s possible betrayal are so calmly angelic and self-sacrificing that they are completely unrealistic). Still, as a YA novel, I actually kind of thought that this was okay – and I loved having an example of friends who really did their best to do right by each other even in pretty miserable circumstances. In the end, I thought that the themes of friendship and loyalty were refreshing, if a bit nostalgic. Will current YA readers be too jaded for these stories? I’m not sure, but I hope not. Give them a try! 4/5 stars.