Review: Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

A boy who can see the world’s secrets and unravel spells with just a glance.

Braden’s witch eyes give him an enormous power. A mere look causes a kaleidoscopic explosion of emotions, memories, darkness, and magic. But this rare gift is also his biggest curse.

Compelled to learn about his shadowed past and the family he never knew, Braden is drawn to the city of Belle Dam, where he is soon caught between two feuding witch dynasties. Sworn rivals Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe will use anything—lies, manipulation, illusion, and even murder—to seize control of Braden’s powers. To stop an ancient evil from destroying the town, Braden must master his gift, even through the shocking discovery that Jason is his father. While his feelings for an enigmatic boy named Trey grow deeper, Braden realizes a terrible truth: Trey is Catherine Lansing’s son . . . and Braden may be destined to kill him.

I’ve been hearing a lot about this novel and I actually had it on pre-order. However yours truly has peepuls and was able to procure an ARC (hat tip to E).

Ladies & gentlemen, it’s a wrap. The gauntlet has been thrown, the bar has been raised, the standard has been set. THIS is how it’s done! I haven’t been this excited about a novel featuring a gay protagonist since Perry Moore’s Hero.

Braden proves to be a strong protagonist. He’s a three-dimensional character. He makes mistakes, he’s fallible, he’s human and sympathetic. And even when he gets himself into trouble, this is still a character you can root for. While there’s angst aplenty, he has more than enough legtimiate reasons for said angst (which keeps him sympathetic) and Tracey does an excellent job not allowing said angst to pummel and warp Braden’s characterization and development. Tracey also avoids making him stilted and obnoxious like a lot of writers do with their characters.

Tracey’s description and prose is quite impressive. It didn’t overburden you with filler and purple prose. Between the descriptions and the first person narrative, you could easily place yourself in Belle Dam and easily visualize the town and its inhabitants. The mythos and the plot immediately sucked me in and I was dying to find out what happened next. Many of the characters have secrets and agendas, and you’re eagerly awaiting them to show their hands. And more than once I got impatient with intel the audience finds out early on and was wanting to scream, REVEAL ALREADY. The anticipation was killing me.

Forgive the vagueness of this review but I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible.

And can I stress how much I love the book cover?

Braden’s orientation was also handled as-a-matter-of-factly, with nuance, with insight and respect. Witch Eyes could’ve easily have worked with Braden being a heterosexual and it was a relief to read a story that wasn’t a formulaic coming out tale or a tragic gay angst tale or Braden being the formulaic gay guy whose sole raison d’entre revolves around his orientation.

What was also a relief was that the romance didn’t overwhelm the story like you see too often in countless YA, gay novels, and urban fantasy books. The romance was one (albeit important) part of the complex and interwoven plot. The romance was well-executed, as was the mystery, the action and the drama. But it was all well-balanced which made the story that much stronger and that much more enjoyable.

And speaking of romance and love interests, Trey’s a dick. Braden is too good for him and can do so much better. I’m down for Team Somebody Else. And that objective analysis has nothing to do with the fact that Trey reminds me of my ex. Nope, not at all.

[shakes head solemnly]

When it comes to storytelling, Tracey proves that he knows his craft and I found myself having to pace myself with the story because I didn’t want the book to end too soon. There isn’t much resolution at the end which I initially found distressing. But said distress was quickly relieved when I found out that Witch Eyes is the first of a series and the next book is scheduled to be released next year. Thank God. From what little I’ve researched, it appears that Witch Eyes only answered a few questions only to unlock more mysteries. Shorthand, to quote Jim Ross, business is about to pick up.

And if Tracey is this impressive in his debut novel, I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.

It saddens me that it took three years for me to find another enjoyable book that features a queer male protagonist. The last one I read was Hero. When you stop and think about the number of books that get churned out each year which feature cis straight white protagonists, it’s all the more infuriating.

But hopefully Witch Eyes is a sign of things changing. We still have a long ways to go obviously but maybe novels like this will lead to more.

Witch Eyes will be available on Sept. 8.  PREORDER IS YOUR FRIEND!!!!!

2 thoughts on “Review: Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

  1. Cool. Adding this one to the list. If this is even half as good as you seem to suggest, then this could be really significant. Might signal the beginning of a much needed shift in these types of books. What’s making me interested though is that you hint that there are all of thse formulaic pitfalls and mouldy tropes that the book deftly side -steps which then gives it room to (God forbid!) do something new. (I don’t want to read a prototypcial hetero fantasy and all of the shoddy lack of characterisation and assumptions about how stories are told – just with a gay protagonist slapped over the top.)

    I’ll see how this works out.

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