** spoiler alert **
Be Warned. Thar be major SPOILERS ahead!
All and all, I loved this tale of a family with generations of witches. The witches are so interesting and seductive. Their "spirit", Lasher, is an enigma who does both good and bad things to the Mayfair witches. Anne Rice gave just enough information to keep me unsure but I always felt as though he was calling the shots with the witches, as early as Deborah. The Mayfair witches are free spirits who rarely conform to the norms of the day. The current witch, Dr Rowan Mayfair, is a neurosurgeon who is on the cutting edge of genetic experimentation, a controversial topic for many.
We see the story for a large part from the Talamasca’s POV so I am on the fence about whether the witches really had powers other than being able to see Lasher. There is a big fuss made of one witch's ability to make millions of dollars but Lasher tells Rowan he was the one who told ALL the witches where and when to invest. I'm still not sure what these witches can do -- this is very underdeveloped – and I can’t help thinking it would have been extremely helpful to hear some stories from the witches themselves.
As it turn out Lasher was manipulating the witches in order to achieve his goal. We are never told about whether they realize he was lying and controlling them so I assume they didn’t know. Lasher turns out to be much more powerful than I expected. I mean, he was omniscient! He killed and had sex without the slightest remorse in order to become human. I suspect he possessed the witches frequently to create the incestuous relationships that formed the genes he needed from the Mayfair babies and that they did not do this of their own free will. Again, I can only assume this.
Carlotta is a horribly twisted character. I thought her bitter cruelty came from being jealous of NOT being a witch so I was surprised to learn she WAS one. Interesting dichotomy to have her use her power to keep Lasher away from her while all the others use their power to keep Lasher with them. While I think she is the only truly "evil" witch, I have to admit, she had it right when it came to handling Lasher. And it is interesting to note that while Lasher is very powerful, he is the first to acknowledge he has made mistakes and we see one or two times Carlotta has tricked “the trickster”.
The second drowning scene of Michael Curry, Rowan’s husband, was amazing. I could envision it so vividly and it seemed so morbidly fascinating that I wanted it to last much longer. All the Mayfair witches running around -- "frozen" to look as they did at the time of their death. All waiting for Lasher to bring them back to life and arguing over who goes first. I loved it!!! I wanted this to be the reality and not that Lasher was once again tricking Michael with another mind game. (Although I really like the idea of hell being your worst fears and not generic “brimstone and fire”) Anyway, this was a great scene for me.
I found the ending anti-climatic. In fact the climax for me seems to be when Michael nearly drowns for a second time and while I loved the scene, it didn’t feel as though that should be such a strong scene while the real climax - the showdown between Rowan and Lasher - was so weak. With Lasher's birth happening "off screen" and Rowan trying to trick him to kill him so completely underdeveloped, I found this is a weak finale to the centuries old story. By the time of his birth on Christmas day (ridiculously cheesy, imho), Rowan has morphed from a strong, angry witch into a spineless, frightened girl. And she is the only one I am sure actually had "powers". Very unsatisfying.
The ending was too soft and predictable. I wanted a stronger bang. Rowan leaves with Lasher – seemingly of her own free will – after being completely seduced and tricked by him. He told her she would have to choose between him and Michael and it seems as if she has. Michael is recovering from his near drowning at the house on First Street and the other Mayfairs are all convinced that everything is as it was meant to be. In fact, Michael wonders if witches are even real in the last pages of the book. No real push to read the sequels, to be honest. Although I am still wondering about those “witches”.