Review by Brennan LaFaro
The first book in this series, The Cult Called Freedom House, ticked a lot of my reader boxes. Fast paced without sacrificing character, nasty antagonist that isn’t over the top, and above all, surprising. Evelyn established pretty quickly that she’s willing to “go there”. One other thing book one pulled off, was setting the stage, not to mention desire for book two.
We waited this long for book two, and Evelyn makes us wait a little longer to return to Sophia, setting up an opening chapter that takes place hundreds of years in the past. It sets the stage nicely and reminds the reader that this series lives more firmly in the realm of horror than cozy mystery. Once we learn a little about why Coven is in the title, we return to modern day to catch up with Sophia Rey. The book reminds us about previous events without going too heavy-handed, just enough hints to click the cogs into place.
While the main conflicts in the book root themselves in witchcraft, there are also revisited elements of cult behavior. This lends a familiar flavor to a new trope and ultimately proves necessary given some of the choices Stephanie Evelyn makes in carrying the story forward. There are bold moves, and the majority pay off, although delving too deep would plant us firmly in spoiler territory.
It does, at times, feel as though Sophia takes a backseat in a story that has her name on the cover, but it’s never to the detriment of the book. If you approach through the lens of this being a mystery/conflict that involves Sophia Rey, as opposed to a story centering around her, it’s downright enjoyable.
The Coven of Retribution is a worthy continuation of the story. It could serve as a standalone, but works better as a sequel. The book is fast, with Evelyn never allowing her prose to get bogged down and overwritten. It’s mean and vicious as readers of the series have come to expect, and provides some answers while also leaving doors open for the reader and the writer to explore later on.