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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

Released: August 30, 2011      Pages: 400
Publisher: Atheneum Books        Source: Library

First Look: ***** The cover looks nice, on a screen.  But it is simply gorgeous in real life.  You have to hold it to appreciate it.  I do have a problem with the cover, though, and the pitch.  If there's only one part of this review you read, make it the "Not-so-great" part.  Please.  I'll explain why this book isn't what you think it is.  And there will be unicorns.*

Setting: ***** The setting was very interesting.  Though a map might have been nice, I liked the contrast between the two countries and their relationships.  That part of it was well-developed.  The narration had just the right amount of detail to show me the setting.

Characters: ***** I really liked Ryder.  I could connect to him.  I loved how much he cared about his family, and how it conflicted with his own interests sometimes.  His doubt, fear, and confusion was all so realistic.  There was nothing flat or stereotypical about him.

I liked Falpian, too.  Possibly more than Ryder.  His reactions to everything were realistic.  He was every bit as well-developed as Ryder, which I loved.  I loved his connection to Ryder, too.  It was unique and cool, with an interesting light-dark contrast to it. 

Plot: ***** It had its fair share of action, which I enjoyed.  But what really made this plot awesome was everything underneath the surface.  There were the main conflicts, the survival issues, the villains, etc.  And then, there were more subtle things, things that didn't jump out at you but were definitely there.  For example, Falpian's heir-ness (that's a word now), or his connection with Ryder, or Ryder's wanting to get away. There was conflict everywhere, which is always a good thing.   

Uniqueness: ***** It was your typical high fantasy, but at the same wasn't. If that makes any sense, which it doesn't.

Writing: ***** 
Just like the plot, I loved the subtleties of the writing. It did a good job of telling the story, but it also packed a huge amount of emotion.  It made you feel Ryder's and Falpian's pain and fear in such a personal way. That probably had much to do with the character development, though. The writing isn't a standout style that I'll remember for years to come, but it was definitely well done.


Not-so-great: Both the cover and pitch are misleading.  First, the cover has a girl on it.  Why does every cover have to have a girl on it?  The girl comes into play, but she's not a huge part of the story.  She's not important enough to have a spot on the cover.  And I'm pretty sure the girl had Baen blood anyway, so she wouldn't be blonde (unless I'm remembering wrong).

The pitch is misleading, too.  From it, you can't even tell that Falpian is in the story.  It's actually a dual POV, with half the chapters from Ryder's POV and half from Falpian's.  But the pitch doesn't even mention his existence, when it's half his story.  What's up with that?  And again, that girl isn't even important enough to be mentioned in the pitch.  What on earth was the publisher thinking when they did up this book design? 

Overall: Despite the misleading cover and pitch, this is a wonderful book.  I loved it.  It's the first book I've read this year that I've completely loved, that wasn't a sequel.  It has fantastic character development, and great writing.  It has an intense and action-filled, yet subtle plot.  It's something different for fantasy fans, while still being fantasy.  Highly recommended for fans of any sort of fantasy.

*No unicorns, actually.  Sorry.  I just really, really needed to get your attention so you'd realize that this book is cooler than it sounds.  
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  1. I've been wanting to read this book for a while! While you're right about the cover, do you know that (from what I've heard) writers don't actually get to write their own pitches? I'm not totally sure about that one, but that's what I've heard.

    And I really hate it when that happens too. I was reading this one book on Inkpop a while back and it had this fantastic pitch. But the actual story was COMPLETELY different. I was so mad I decided to stop reading it.

    1. Yeah, it's so annoying when that happens. Fortunately, this book is actually better than its pitch. Or at least, in my opinion. :)


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