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.

Gosh. This book was frustrating. I wanted to like Witchlanders so much better than I actually did. It had all the makings of a very enjoyable read; good premise, interesting world history, compelling character interactions and a super secretive witch coven. Sounds cool, right? Unfortunately it never came together for me.

I felt like the description for this book was awfully vague, so I didn’t really know what it was about when I started. From reading the jacket description you would never even know that there are TWO main characters! That’s kind of a big thing to leave out. Also it make’s you think there’s some romance, which there’s not. However, I can see where this would be a hard book to summarize since the plot moves in many different directions.

Ryder is just a simple farmer, helping support his family. Well, kinda. In truth Ryder’s life is far from simple. He has two younger sisters to watch over and, ever since his father died, his mother’s been on a downward spiral. She’s addicted to a plant called Maiden’s Woe that she swears helps her see the future. Mabis left the witch’s coven in the mountains years ago and raised Ryder to scoff at magic and tales of the Goddess, but now she’s casting bones and foretelling danger. Everyone thinks Mabis is crazy, but Ryder doesn’t know what to think. Could there really be an enemy assassin hiding in the mountains? His people haven’t been at war with the Baens for years, but when strange creatures attack his village Ryder starts to think maybe his mother’s prophecies were right.

Falpian is a young Baen, staying in the mountains near the Witchlands with only his dog for company. His father has sent him there to mourn for his twin brother. Falpian and his brother were meant to be great magicians. Their bond should have allowed them to sing, giving them a power great enough to stop a man’s heart with one note. But, despite being twins, they never came into their power. Falpian feels like more of a disappointment to his family than ever, until he discovers that his father has sent him on a mission.

Things That Worked

The World Building: I really liked this setting. The Baen and Witchland places and people are distinct, each with their own mythology. They have their own customs, stories and gods. They’re both very different and you can see why two such places would have a history of violence.

Ryder: I really liked Ryder. I liked his devotion to his family and how stubborn he was and his resistance to following others. He didn’t always know what he wanted, but he didn’t let other people boss him around.

The Dog: Apparently I am a sucker for animals even in books. Bo is an awesome sidekick and he seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on than his master did most of the time.

POV: It was a bit distracting switching from Ryder to Falpian’s POV so often, but I think it worked because it was important to the plot. I also really liked how different these two characters were.

Originality: A fresh idea is a wonderful thing. There are a lot of recurring themes floating around out there, and lots of authors manage to put their own unique spin on things and create wonderful stories. But it’s nice to stumble into a world where the plot doesn’t feel familiar.

Things That Didn’t

The World Building: Yes I know I said I liked it, but I also didn’t. The mythology was very well fleshed out, but I found myself wondering what lay beyond these two countries. There had to be more to the world, right? I mean, the Witchlands and the Bitterlands aren’t even divided by any water. The focus area in this story seemed very small. I didn’t need in-depth details of other locations, but I would have liked to know just a bit more.

The Pace: I think I was a hundred pages in before anything important happened. I like a good set up, but it shouldn’t take so long that your reader loses interest. It took me much longer to finish this book simply because nothing in the first half of it made me look forward to picking it up again.

Falpian: Ok, I didn’t hate Falpian, but his narration annoyed me much more than Ryder’s. Falpian is just kind of a whiner. He is compelled by duty to do things he feels might be wrong, things he really doesn’t want to do, but he goes ahead with it anyways because… well, I couldn’t really figure out why, that’s the problem. I normally like conflicted characters, but I just couldn’t figure out what Falpian was so conflicted about. I liked him best when he was interacting with Ryder because it was when he was most believable. Their relationship was the most interesting thing about the book, but the book ends just as we start to see more.

It’s kind of hard to review this one without giving anything away because the plot unfolded so slowly. I guess all I can say was that I liked the idea and it wasn’t badly written, but it left too many things unanswered and wasn’t exciting enough to hold my attention.

Witchlanders on Goodreads & Amazon

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