73 points, 3 ¾ stars
In a land of perpetual war and wandering, warrior Thalgor not only leads his people in battle, but keeps the hope alive that somebody his displaced tribe can rebuild the kingdom that was lost to the treachery between witches and men. When he captures a beautiful witch, he knows he cannot trust her. But to succeed in his quest to find a new home and prevail over his enemies, he also knows he needs her.
Erwyn might be a slave and feared for her powers and precognition, but she doesn’t cower when confronted by the feared warrior. Nor does she act as expected. Thalgor’s kindness confuses her. His flashes of humor confound her. And the reaction he ignites in her body creates a longing that she cannot deny.
Neither anticipated falling in love. The stakes are high, but when Thalgor is mortally wounded, Erwyn realizes she must accept help from an unlikely source to save him.
“You are a fool if you ignore my warning and move south.”
He took a deep breath to ease the anger that burned inside him. Had he not told her women did not speak at his council?
I actually enjoyed reading this. If I sound shocked, it is because I am. I was really wary before starting this, because I have had bad luck with this type of story before in the past. I always want to like it, but I rarely do. Therefore I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed myself while reading it. Especially in light of how much I had trouble getting into the writing itself.
Thalgor’s Witch is the start of The Witch King trilogy. At its heart, The Witch King trilogy is a fantasy romance series. There are almost equal parts romance and fantasy. While Thalgor’s Witch is the end of the story for Erwyn and Thalgor, it isn’t the end of the story. It was an good start to the series, despite my problems with the writing.
The goal of the book was to showcase the change in their social structures. In Thalgor’s Witch, we’re treated to a wanderer society, still pulling itself together after some brutal wars years and years prior. They band together in groups, with survival never certain and bands are constantly trying to steal from each other. They want to change that, though. And that is this story, the change of social structures.
The best descriptor for the writing is that it was really clumsy. All of the good elements to a story were there. It was more than just scaffolding. It was just that every element was just fumbled a little bit. The elements that authors typically take time to explain (setting, characters, events), weren’t really taken time to explain, or they were explained in the wrong places. The perspective switches also weren’t handled very well and weren’t very clearly marked. I think with time Nancy Holland will become a fantastic author, and I do want to read more from her because of it. Some of my favourite authors started out exactly the same way, including Ilona Andrews. I just want you to know that while I liked the story, the writing was a bit clumsy.
Erwyn was a great main character. She tries to stay true to herself and her powers. In fact, her powers themselves require her to stay true to them, or lose them. She isn’t willing to lose them. She has to look after her little sister, which makes her vulnerable because she cannot move as freely as she wants to. As much as I liked her, though, I couldn’t really connect with her. She makes some really boneheaded choices, even accounting for her young age. She has been a slave before, she doesn’t want to be a slave again. She has to find a way to live with Thalgor’s group as she is, not as they wish her to be.
Thalgor is definitely the most annoying part to the story. He goes back and forth, back and forth on his position on Erwyn and witches. He doesn’t know himself nearly as well as Erwyn does. It is frustrating. HE is frustrating. He keeps trying to crush Erwyn for his own pride, because he is hanging onto this idea of what was, not what is to be. Then she has to knock sense into him, and it repeats. And it repeats. I don’t like the dynamic, but I like how much he worships her when he gets the fuck over himself.
For as much as this story is about the romance, the start of the relationship is extremely abbreviated. It went from a pseudo-master/slave relationship, to Erwyn running away to talk to some witches about her sister. Then Thalgor comes to collect her again because “she is his”, and… Erwyn inexplicably decides to be with him forevermore. There were a few steps missed in there on the part of the author, and it felt like a giant handwave to me. The characters had to get together, so they did, without all that pesky figuring out how to get them together thing.
All of it is wrapped up in The Witch King, who appears in their dreams. The Witch King keeps pushing them to stay together. Which is necessary since they split up like 10 times in this single book. Imagine that, an abbreviated/non-existent courting period where both parties just decide to be with the other for mysterious reasons don’t lead to the world’s most stable relationship. Go figure.
Overall, though, like I said in the beginning: I really liked this. Despite all of the problems I had with it. Or maybe in spite of. I was surprisingly emotional while reading it. I think if this was the author’s 20th book, and not in her first 5, this would have been an incredibly amazing experience. I’m looking forward to her work in the coming years and seeing her grow.