Braden has never been normal. Born both blessed and cursed with the mysterious Witch Eyes, he sees the truth about the world. But all that information comes at a price, and using his power for too long leaves him prey to a debilitating headache. Unfortunately, sometimes the truth has a way of sneaking in -- and when Braden sees something he shouldn't, he has no choice but to leave behind the only home he's ever known and go in search of the most dangerous man in the world: his father. Jason Thorpe has more than a few enemies in Belle Dam, but the most dangerous of them all is Catherine Lansing, head of another powerful witching family and mother of the boy Braden's falling for. The secrets Braden learns in the feuding town threaten to tear him apart, but he must open his eyes to the truth if he ever wants to save the people he's grown to love from their own destructive powers.
In Witch Eyes, Scott Tracey envisions a bizarre world, one both modern and mystical. The quaint town of Belle Dam houses more than a few dark secrets, but the longstanding feud between the two reigning families isn't one of them -- everyone in the town is caught up in the fallout. Their feud echoes the Montagues and Capulets in its absurdity and destructive power, and the leaders of both factions will take down anyone who stands in their way. This world of magic and mystery, blood feuds and hell hounds, is a fascinating one and something I would have liked to see further developed in the novel. The hero, Braden, is blessed (or cursed) with the mysterious Witch Eyes, an ability only one other person has possessed -- a woman apparently lost to history. The complex backstory that led to this point in the Belle Dam feud seemed fragmented at times, and though readers can get the gist of what they need to know, the reading experience would have been richer and smoother if they hadn't had to work so hard.
Nonetheless, Witch Eyes is an exciting novel. Readers will jump from suspect to suspect alongside Braden -- it's impossible to tell who to trust in this war-torn town -- and will never see the final dizzying revelation coming. Speaking of Braden, he's a real gem. Sweet and snarky, shy but brilliantly powerful, readers will fall in love with his wry charm from the very beginning. His relationship with Trey is a tumultuous one, for more reasons than just the obvious star-crossed issues. Trey's family is more than a little dysfunctional, but unlike Braden, he can't see it. His willful blindness can be frustrating, as is his constant impulse to control and protect Braden. But Braden isn't the kind of guy to take overwrought machismo sitting down, and his rebellions against Trey's domineering tendencies are winning (many YA protagonists could stand to take a page from his book). Their hesitant, forbidden romance is tantalizing and sweet, not to mention fraught. Their highs and lows will keep readers on their toes, and it's impossible not to cheer for their success against the overwhelming odds.
Though the novel contains all the key ingredients for success, at times it lacked depth. The details of this intriguing world could be fleshed out, and the intricate web of history and deception reinforced to support the stellar cast of characters that will have no trouble winning readers' hearts.
Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this novel at BEA. This did not affect my review in any way.