Saturday, August 27, 2011

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Book Details 
Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Hardcover, 416 Pages
2011, Atheneum
ISBN: 1442420049

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.

The synopsis made Witchlanders sound fantastic. Witches living apart from the rest of society, but require tithes from the villagers in exchange for keeping them safe. A boy who believes the witches are frauds only to find that he is the focus of their prophecy. It sounded very promising.

The reality of the book was a bit different than expected. Ryder's mom is one of the witches, except she left the coven to start a family. Once she left, she mocked the witches and called them frauds, so naturally Ryder doesn't believe in the witches power. Then his mom has a change of heart, claims to be having visions and can foresee danger. Ryder believes his mom is basically old world drug-seeking, looking for an excuse to takes the herbs that she claims give her the visions. With two little sisters and a dead father, the family dynamics in Witchlanders is difficult at best.

The home situation makes it easy to understand why Ryder's sister would want to become a witch and live with the coven, but she flounders loyalty between coven and family whenever convenient for the plot. With crazy mom, annoying middle sister and a younger sister barely seen, it's hard to care about this family. Ryder himself is an adequate character but doesn't elicit much in the way of reader sympathy. Without being able to connect with the characters, the book drags.

I'm a huge fan of books based on witches, so I went into reading Witchlanders with high hopes. Unfortunately the witches here were "bone-throwers", dealing much more in prophecy rather than magic. The witches were cave-dwellers who didn't do spells or anything modern readers would be looking for in a witch book. The magic that was shown was the same thing repeatedly, lacking surprise and being pretty much a letdown.

The writing in Witchlanders wasn't bad, but the entire story line was definitely not my thing. I found it dull, dry and lacking anything really magical. The book is closer to high fantasy than paranormal. Perhaps readers who enjoy fantasy of that kind will enjoy Witchlanders more than I did.



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