The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee
The Mist-Torn Witches
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“In a small village in the nation of Droevinka, orphaned sisters Céline and Amelie Fawe scrape out a living selling herbal medicines in their apothecary shop. Céline earns additional money by posing as a seer and pretending to read people’s futures.
But they exist in a land of great noble houses, all vying for power, and when the sisters refuse the orders of a warlord prince, they must flee and are forced to depend on the warlord prince’s brother, Anton, for a temporary haven.
A series of bizarre deaths of pretty young girls is plaguing the village surrounding Prince Anton’s castle. He offers Céline and Amelie permanent protection if they can use their “skills” to find the killer.
With little choice, the sisters enter a world unknown to them—of fine gowns and banquets and advances from powerful men. Their survival depends on catching a murderer who appears to walk through walls and vanish without a trace—and the danger grows with each passing night.”
This story takes place in the world of Hendee’s Noble Dead series, which I wasn’t aware of when I got the book. The only other books of Hendee’s that I’ve read are the Vampire Memories books, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Based on that liking, and even though I thought I might find things a bit confusing, I decided to give this one a try. And I’m glad that I did.
The best word for this book is “entertaining”. Hendee’s writing is clear and cleanly executed, and I find that her prose sucks me in from the first page. I actually can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about her writing that resonates so strongly with me, but I find her stories to be incredibly easy to fall into. Perhaps it comes from the fact that you can easily see all the common fantasy elements, but the author plays with them in ways that you don’t expect. It makes the story both comfortingly familiar and new and interesting at the same time.
I really liked the main characters, Celine and Amelie. They’re quite different personality-wise, but at the same time, you can definitely see the familial bonds between them. They’re strong too—both stand up for themselves and for what they truly believe in, and the author doesn’t shy away from showing what that means in a culture that’s male-dominated. The two show glimmers of interest in certain men in the story, but those are hints only, thus keeping the novel from heading into the all-too-familiar romance territory of many fantasies.
The novel’s mystery is well crafted. It has just enough supernatural activity in it to keep it from being too mundane, but there is some solid grounding in logical exploration of the crimes. There is a secondary story that runs alongside the main plotline, and they work together nicely. There are more than a few hints of medieval politics thrown into the mix, but again, Hendee balances everything so well that everything flows smoothly towards the novel’s conclusion.
The best praise that I can give this novel is that after reading it, I found myself thinking of picking up the related Noble Dead books and giving them a try. Given the size of my reading list, that’s saying something! If those stories are as interesting as this one was, I run the risk of getting too involved in them to read anything else.
This is one of those novels that I think would be great for getting people into the fantasy genre. It has lots of fantasy’s traditional elements, it has a clear and straightforward plot, the characters are engaging, and it’s well written. The Mist-Torn Witches is a perfect summer read, so take along with you to the beach or the park or wherever you end up.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 14, 2013.