Author: Lena Coakley
Published: August 30, 2011
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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.
Ryder doesn't believe in the power of the Witches that govern his mountain homeland. He longs to escape the hard labour of his family's farm in favour of a life by the sea, but his plans change drastically when he loses his father. Left to manage the farm, care for his eccentric mother and younger sisters, he is forced to accept the life he doesn't want. Falpian lives a very different life with the Baens. While mourning the loss of his twin brother at sea, he's sent to live alone in a tiny cottage during the winter. Fighting both his own grief and his father's discontent at his inability inherit the family's abilities, he finds his luck changes when a man appears with a scroll and tells him to open it in fifty days. Both Ryder and Falpian are set on a collision course that will ultimately define who they are as individuals and in their societies.
I don't read too much high fantasy. Honestly, I find a lot of it to be a bit too high-brow for me, and I want to feel like I'm becoming a part of the story. Witchlanders by the amazing Lena Coakley is one of those stories that allowed me to do so. Rich and engrossing, Witchlanders combines the enthralling nature of fantasy with powerful themes of tolerance, racial tension and religion. A single misstep could have unwound the delicate thread of this novel, but strong characters, a vibrant plot and a fabulous world within the pages kept the story alive and breathtaking. The world of Witchlanders is sure to live in my imagination for a very long time.
Alternate narration is always a bit tedious for me to read, but I have to say that Witchlanders manages to portray two very different boys with two entirely distinct voices with ease. By adding dual narration with views from both Falpian and Ryder, we're allowed insight into both character's minds, thus giving us insider perspectives to two very different and warring civilizations. Furthermore, it helped me develop a bond with both characters through Witchlanders, and it helped me feel like I understood where both characters were coming from with every action and inaction. The dynamic between the two (when they finally meet) also heightens the story astronomically. Truly, the nature and complexity of their interaction was tense, and true-to-life, as Witchlanders did not shy away from portraying their warring beliefs while feuding with their inner turmoil. Through it all, the prose is magical and picture-perfect, drawing you into a new world in Witchlanders.
All in all, Witchlanders was a beautiful and poetic read. The only thing I would wish to change would be the ending of the story. Though the ends are tied up, it's still a bit open-ended. Not quite a cliffhanger, mind you, but still a bit raw. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend this to both YA and adult fans, especially those who enjoy high fantasy novels.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.