3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
This is the first book review by Anne since moving the reviews over from her Tea and Trifles blog. We’ll be sharing out the book review duties in the future but she will kick it off with her double review of DJ Butler’s fantasy books, Witchy Eye and Witchy Winter.
I’ll start by saying that I think DJ Butler’s brain must be a very interesting and convoluted place, as that is how I think of his Witchy books. The sheer scope of world-building, number of characters, and obscure references to events that have occurred in his world make for an enjoyable but sometimes confusing read. Just when I felt like I had a handle on the major players, he throws another one or four into the mix. I did enjoy reading his books, but often I was pulled out of the story by my own confusion. He sprinkles in foreign language phrases but provides no translation (French, Greek, Latin, German, for example). Sometimes I understood from the context, but not always, and that was frustrating as a reader. He briefly mentions a historical event, such as, “It was believed Franklin had personally invited Talleyrand to come to the New World after the Caliph’s Grapeshot Massacres.” Who was massacred and why? I have so many questions from little tidbits such as this. These books left me scratching my head while simultaneously wanting more.
From the book jacket description of Witchy Eye:
Sarah Calhoun is the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Elector Andrew Calhoun, one of Appalachee’s military heroes and one of the electors who gets to decide who will next ascend as the Emperor of the New World. None of that matters to Sarah. She has a natural talent for hexing and one bad eye, and all she wants is to be left alone—especially by outsiders.
But Sarah’s world gets turned on its head at the Nashville Tobacco Fair when a Yankee wizard-priest tries to kidnap her. Sarah fights back with the aid of a mysterious monk named Thalanes, who is one of the not-quite-human Firstborn, the Moundbuilders of the Ohio. It is Thalanes who reveals to Sarah a secret heritage she never dreamed could be hers.
Now on a desperate quest with Thalanes to claim this heritage, she is hunted by the Emperor’s bodyguard of elite dragoons, as well as by darker things—shapeshifting Mockers and undead Lazars, and behind them a power more sinister still. If Sarah cannot claim her heritage, it may mean the end to her, her family—and to the world where she is just beginning to find her place.
And the description of Witchy Winter, the second book:
Sarah Calhoun paid a hard price for her entry onto the stage of the Empire’s politics, but she survived. Now she rides north into the Ohio and her father’s kingdom, Cahokia. To win the Serpent Throne, she’ll have to defeat seven other candidates, win over the kingdom’s regent, and learn the will of a hidden goddess—while mastering her people’s inscrutable ways and watching her own back.
In New Orleans, a new and unorthodox priest arises to plague the chevalier and embody the curse of the murdered Bishop Ukwu. He battles the chevalier’s ordinary forces as well as a troop of Old World mamelukes for control of the city and the mouth of the great Mississippi River. Dodging between these rival titans, a crew of Catalan pirates—whose captain was once a close associate of Mad Hannah Penn—grapples with the chevalier over the fate of one of their mates.
Meanwhile, a failed ceremony and a sick infant send the Anishinaabe hunter Ma’iingan on a journey across the Empire to Cavalier Johnsland, to a troubled foster child named Nathaniel. Ma’iingan is promised that Nathaniel is a mighty healer and can save his imperiled baby, but first Nathaniel—a pale young man with a twisted ear who hears the voices of unseen beings—must himself be rescued, from oppression, imprisonment, and madness.
I enjoyed these books enough to finish the pair but I keep thinking that someone a bit smarter than I am would have probably got more out of them. DJ Butler unleashes his world-building with a firehose and I wasn’t able to fully soak it in. That’s why I gave this book only 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
Happy reading, everyone!
Anne, Nancy, and Eric