From Salem to the Hamptons on a broomstick

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REVIEW

WITCHES OF EAST END, by Melissa de la Cruz. Hyperion, 273 pp., $23.99.

From the author of a bestselling YA series called "Blue Bloods" -- chronicling the antics of teenage vampires in the elite reaches of Manhattan society -- comes "Witches of East End," the first in a similar series for adults. With plenty of steamy sex and a more grown-up set of personal problems (infertility, adultery, real-estate developers), Melissa de la Cruz gives overgrown girls addicted to teen vampire books a little something for their second chakra.

The Beauchamps are a family of witches -- mother Joanna, daughters Ingrid and Freya. They are immortal, but ever since they got busted at the Salem witch trials they have been under strict orders to live as normal people and not use their powers (except to keep the locals from noticing that they never age, change or die). For centuries, they have successfully merged into the life of the quiet Long Island village of North Hampton, but as the story opens Ingrid, the town librarian, can no longer stand by and watch helplessly as a middle-aged co-worker struggles to conceive a child. It would be so easy for Ingrid to fix it.

Freya, a beautiful, buxom, razor-cheekboned bartender, makes her first appearance in the book having sex with her fiance's brother in the bathroom at her own engagement party. Though this makes her less than likable, she too is drawn back to witchcraft by her desire to help others. Touched by the plights of patrons at the bar -- including a jilted wife and a mousy girl -- she itches to add a little something extra to the "Love Potions" on her cocktail menu.

Even the Beauchamp matriarch, Joanna, finds herself going astray. Having become a surrogate grandmother to the child of the couple who do her house- and yardwork, she finds herself unable to resist un-burning the brownies and making toy planes fly to amuse her young friend.

It starts off harmlessly enough, but soon Ingrid is bringing people back from the dead, Freya has apparently caused a kidnapping and suicide, and Joanna is back on her broomstick and accused of murder. Meanwhile, a mysterious ultra-toxic Thing has appeared in the ocean, poisoning the waters for fishing, swimming and everything else; the same poison is causing North Hampton residents to fall ill.

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It's Salem all over again, except it's also Norway -- in the last part of the book, it turns out that the characters are not actually witches but figures from Norse mythology, and a flurry of new plot elements (such as "Yggdrasil: The Tree of Life that held the Nine Worlds of the Known Universe") is introduced. For this reader, the narrative lost much of its charm in the rush to wrap things up and set the stage for the sequel. Let's hope Book 2 will continue the delightful witchy soap opera and downsize the arcane gobbledygook.

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