Saturday, August 20, 2011

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley (ARC Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication.Date  August 30th 2011
Published By:  Atheneum (Simon&Schuster Canada)
WebsiteLena Coakley | Witchlanders
Witchlanders - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC received from the publisher
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

     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.

Please note:  Quotes are from an ARC and will be verified against a published copy.
"It's time to put out that fire, Mabis", he said, suddenly feeling awash in frustration. "The witches didn't come because you have nothing to tell them. It's all nonsense. There's no stranger in the mountains, no assassin. You're just a farmer's widow gone mad on maiden's woe!"?
 One woman was like him, blond and blue-eyed, while the other, like the girl in white, clearly had Baen blood. Ryder knew they were witches, though, both of them. They both wore the mark of Ayase on their throats: two red slashes depicted in crimson stone, the symbol for the vow of silence.
"I saw something. Something I wasn't supposed to see. Something.. I was going to say horrible, but it wasn't really. Something I couldn't understand. There are secrets in the coven, Ryder. Secrets valley people could never guess. Secrets even many of the witches don't know".
     Lena Coakley uses her writing to weave a potent and unforgettable story, filled with magic, adventure, love, betrayal, revenge and long-buried secrets. Witchlanders is not only beautifully written and absolutely compelling, but with its unique take on witchcraft, fantastic characters and exquisite winter scenery, it is a true gem among the Young Adult fantasy books of recent years. 

     The main protagonist, Ryder, works hard in the field to make sure his mother and sisters have enough food to survive the winter. He’s a practical, simple guy, who doesn’t care much for the witchcraft. In fact, he doesn’t even believe in magic and he definitely doesn’t like the fact that every year he’s forced to pay tithes to the witches. The witches live high in their mountain covens. They claim that they’re protecting the village by praying to the Goddess and throwing bones to predict the future.  Ryder thinks it’s all fake and he’s extremely irritated when his mother, Mabis, starts throwing bones herself, foretelling the arrival of an assassin and other hard-to-believe events. He refuses to believe in her visions, convinced that they’re nothing more than hallucinations caused by the maiden’s woe, a highly addictive river plant.

     The attack of man-shaped creatures made of packed brown earth makes Ryder realize that he was wrong about many things. Everything he’s ever believed about magic, witches and, most importantly, himself will change forever. Nothing will ever be the same again and the most shocking discoveries are yet to come. 

     Witchlanders is a beautiful and mesmerizing tale of friendship and brotherhood, revenge and betrayal, love and trust. It was the shortest 411 pages I have ever read and how I wish I could jump into reading the second part straight away. Waiting for the sequel has never been more painful! I loved every word of this book. Lena Coakley has a great talent for words, her storytelling is flawless, smooth and very flavorful. I am a huge fan of fantasy in general and there are plenty of great YA fantasy books out there, but this one really stands out. I enjoyed the original take on magic – weaving the spells through a song, throwing bones, visions, etc. The world building was superb and I was amazed at how much effort Cloakley put into developing both the setting and the characters. I loved the breath-taking mountain scenery! Lena’s descriptive passages really brought everything to life, I had no problem whatsoever imagining all the places – the village, the mountain covens, the snow-covered fields, the caves and secret underground passages. Most importantly, the characters were absolutely fabulous! I liked Ryder from the get-go. I liked that he was skeptical about the whole magic-thing and had trouble accepting his fate. It was very realistic and added a lot of depth to the story. I really loved Falpian, too! He is such a likable character! Not to mention the interactions between these two, they were fascinating, and often hilarious. 

     And what about the romance? Well, there is no romance, and thank goddess for that! Lena Coakley managed to write a very emotional, touching story without spoon-feeding us with cheap and forced love-at first-sight BS. There is a potential love story here, though, but thankfully Lena didn’t go there yet. It turned out to be a great decision and, in my opinion, it made this book even more awesome.  

     Overall, Witchlanders is a fantastic read. The writing is captivating, the story intelligent, deep and entertaining. I couldn’t bring myself to put it down and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series. It’s a must-read for any YA fantasy fan.


Lark Andrea said...

I am really excited for this read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

Andrea @ Reading Lark

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Oh wow this sounds wonderful. Fab review :)

Anonymous said...

Witchlanders sounds really amazing Evie. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. That was a great review!

Unknown said...

Sounds like a lovele book. Great review.

LoriStrongin said...

DEFINITELY intrigued! Sounds like a great world Evie has built for her characters (and wow that cover is gorgeous!). And I'm thrilled to hear that the author doesn't force a romance into the plotline when the story doesn't really call for it. Adding this to my TBR pile. Thanks for the rec!


Hayley said...

Hey Evie! :) just wanted to let you know I'm having a giveaway, you could win an ARC or some awesome swag :)

Book Passion for Life said...

Glad you enjoyed this. I've had it on my list for a while so its nice to see your thoughts :) Donna

Munnaza said...

First of all, I love that the main character of this book is Ryder. I haven't read any compelling YA novels focusing on male characters in a long time, so this immediately makes me want to check out this book. The fantasy elements of this book seem to have unique spins on concepts widespread in YA today, and I'm intrigued by this book's portrayal of magic. I also love that there is no romance because so many YA books these days seem to dwell on romantic relationships, and while this works for some books, a lot of them seem to fall apart and lose their original premise in the romance. I'm glad this isn't the case here. I'd love to read this book, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm often disappointed by novels about witches, so knowing that this one should be good helps! Thanks for taking the time to review. :)


Brenna said...

Oh I'm SO excited for this one! I've only heard amazing things about it, and I'm glad to hear that your review agrees with those ones!

I especially liked the few quotes you shared at the top too! :)

Gwenyth Love said...

wow what a fabulous review! Way to make me slap another book on the top of my TBR pile!

Unknown said...

This looks like a great book and you have written a beautiful review. I will definitely look for this one.

Chrystal said...

I had not heard of this book until this week... and after having read your review this is not a must read. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

What a glowing review :-) and so good to read a review that tells me so much (without spoilers). I guess the cover isn't as accurate as it would like us to believe. I'm also really happy to hear that this is more of an adventure novel than a paranormal romance novel. What a great change of pace!

Thanks for the review,

Jenn H

Cary Cheyenne. said...

You wrote such an amazing review, sweetheart! I'm really looking forward to reading this, especially after reading your review!!

Unknown said...

Great review! I am going to have to read this one, it sounds wonderful!

SweetShenanigans said...

Thanks for the awesome review :) I especially love YA fantasy so now I'm dying to read this!

Tiffany Holme said...

Read your review and now am in love with the book lol This is going straight onto my next book order!!

FairyWhispers said...

hmmm, would have epxected it to be a typical friendship read, oh well

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

Fantastic Review. Really liked this one as well. So magical!

Jaime Lester said...

It seems like I may have missed out on a good thing when I didn't bring this home from the library the other day. I am not even sure why, because I loved the cover and the blurb drew me in. Well, all I can do now is go back to the library and pick it up and bring it home! Hopefully, I love it as much as you do!

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