Witchshadow is the next to last book in the Witchlands series, and it would be fair to say that after the way Bloodwitch ended I was excited to get my hands on this one. Unfortunately though, Witchshadow seems to spin its wheels in the mud a bit, and at the end I was left with more questions than answers. In other circumstances this would be exciting, but I was already left with a lot of questions at the end of Bloodwitch, not many of which were answered.
Some things I think I learned:
1. Some witches are Paladins reborn. (E.g. Stix is a full Waterwitch and is one of many lives of a Paladin. Her memories of her past lives come back and she remembers everything.) This is good and bad, since some of the Paladins Reborn are the Exalted Ones, who took over the Witchlands and spread magic everywhere?
2. Some witches are host bodies for certain Paladins who were not reborn. (i.e. Aeduan and Evrane) They enter the bodies of witches healed by the origin wells and take over their bodies. Again, this was not very clear, this is just what I managed to glean from the book.
3. Iseult gets an “I am your father” reveal that was gross, but then she gets revenge, which is awesome. I am still not clear about what her magic can really do, but its abilities are ever expanding.
4. Safi becomes an Empress AND a Hell-Bard. The suspense about her well-being was what drove me to read this book as quickly as possible. Safi is in real trouble in this one, and it’s not super clear how she’s going to get out of it.
All of the questions I was left with started with “How…?” I get what happened, but HOW did it happen? This was the first time in this series where I felt like Dennard was just saying “stop asking questions and just go with it” and I was not having it. You can’t throw down all this new stuff in book 4 and not connect it back to SOMETHING familiar.
I think that a big reason for my discomfort was Dennard’s choice to have past vs. present timelines. I get that this was done to keep Leopold’s secret as long as possible, but it was such a departure from the style of the earlier books in the series that it felt kind of herky-jerky. Books 1-3 (including “2.5”) were a gunshot start with a race to the finish. This book was NOW, flashback, back to NOW, flashback. The style really messed with the momentum for me. SO MUCH happened that we are asked to accept as occasional flashbacks that I almost just wish it was its own little 3.5 book that left us in even more suspense for Witchshadow.
If you are a fan of the series already then you won’t be disappointed with Witchshadow. I was only a little disappointed, and since this was the first book in the series to give me these feelings I’m willing to let it go and put my trust in the author that the final book will bring everything back together cleanly. I’ll be sitting here patiently waiting to preorder it once it’s announced.
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