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A Nameless Witch

A Nameless Witch

4.4 48
by A. Lee Martinez

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A tale of vengeance, true love, and cannibalism

Being born undead can have its disadvantages, such as eternal youth and flawless beauty ---things most unsuitable for a witch. Hiding behind the guise of a grimy old crone, the witch is content living outside Fort Stalwart with her unlikely band of allies: a troll named Gwurm, an enchanted broom, and a demonic


A tale of vengeance, true love, and cannibalism

Being born undead can have its disadvantages, such as eternal youth and flawless beauty ---things most unsuitable for a witch. Hiding behind the guise of a grimy old crone, the witch is content living outside Fort Stalwart with her unlikely band of allies: a troll named Gwurm, an enchanted broom, and a demonic duck named Newt. She leads a simple life filled with spells, potions, and the occasional curse.

So when a White Knight arrives at Fort Stalwart, the witch knows her days of peace are at an end. The Knight is just days in front of a horde of ravenous goblings, and Fort Stalwart lies right in the horde's path. But the goblings are just the first wave of danger, and soon the witch and the Knight must combine forces on a perilous quest to stop a mad sorcerer from destroying the world.

Filled with menace, monsters, and magic, A Nameless Witch is a properly witchly read by the award-winning author of Gil's All Fright Diner and In the Company of Ogres.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Martinez's disappointing third comic fantasy stars a beautiful heroine who's cursed with immortality and an appetite for human flesh that complicates her love life. Rescued and mentored by an old witch nicknamed Ghastly Edna, the witch of the title comes into her own after being locked in the basement until she is 18 (on account of being freakishly "undead"). After Edna's demise, the Nameless Witch sets off to avenge her death, with some help from her familiar, Newt, who takes the form of a wisecracking killer duck, and a benevolent troll called Gwurm. They settle in at Fort Stalwart, where they're joined by the handsome White Knight and menaced by goblings sent by the sorcerer Soulless Gustav. The White Knight wins the witch's heart, but he can't rescue this quest spoof, which lacks the marvelous effervescence that buoyed Martinez's debut, Gil's All Fright Diner. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Nancy K. Wallace
Cursed, she is born nameless and undead, consigned to life in a basement for eighteen years until Ghastly Edna, a witch, purchases and trains her as her apprentice. When she finds Edna brutally murdered, the dead witch rouses long enough to bequeath to her Newt the demon duck, her familiar. Edna also offers her a choice: She can avenge Edna's death, possibly dying horribly herself, or she can seek a life of quiet contentment (even though her appetite for human flesh severely inhibits personal relationships). Enlisting Gwurm, a troll, she and Newt travel to ramshackle Fort Stalwart to advise the Captain how to battle an approaching gobling horde, sent to devour the town's inhabitants. Wyst of the West, a chaste White Knight, pledges to fight by her side. Ascertaining the horde's magical origins, she overcomes it only to face its creator and Edna's killer, Soulless Gustav. In the end, Gustav is defeated, Edna is avenged, and the nameless witch finds love and a name. Occasionally reminiscent of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series, this tale aspires to a worldlier audience. Filled with blatant silliness, sexual innuendo, and graphic, ghastly deaths, it is not for the fragile or faint hearted. Despite the tongue-in-cheek tone, some may find cannibalistic characters difficult to identify with, but the witch's enchanted broom provides a lighthearted touch. Although action sometimes lags, the dialogue remains consistently natural and witty. This first-person novel follows Gil's All-Fright Diner (Tor, 2005/VOYA October 2005).
Library Journal

Blessed with eternal life but cursed to consume human flesh, a beautiful young woman receives training as a witch from Ghastly Edna, who teaches her to hide her beauty beneath the disguise of a crone. When Edna is cruelly murdered, her student sets out in search of the killer and instead finds the White Knight known as Wyst of the West. The pair, an unlikely alliance, aims to find and defeat an insane sorcerer, but the challenges each poses to the other present almost insurmountable odds. Alex Award winner Martinez (Gil's All Fright Diner, recently optioned by New Line Cinema) tackles witches, romance, and cannibalism in his third comic fantasy, suitable for most libraries.

—Jackie Cassada
From the Publisher
"Entertainingly witchy." ---Booklist

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Tom Doherty Associates
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A Nameless Witch

By A. Lee Martinez

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2007 A. Lee Martinez
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5499-0


I was born dead. Or, to be more accurate, undead. Not that there is much difference between the two. It's just a matter of degrees really.

When I say undead, I do not mean vampyre, ghoul, or graveyard fiend. There are many versions of unlife. These are only the most common. My state was far less debilitating. Bright lights bothered me to some noticeable degree, and I preferred my meat undercooked. Once reaching adulthood, I'd become ageless. Most means of mortal harm could not truly hurt me, and I possessed a smattering of unusual gifts not known among the living. Yet all these advantages came at a high price.

Exactly how I came to be born undead is a long, complicated story not really worth telling in detail. It involves my great-great-great-great-grandfather, a renowned hero of the realm, and his conflict with a dark wizard. This wizard, his name is lost to history so I just call him "Nasty Larry" for convenience' sake, had raised an army of orcish zombies to ravage the land. Now everyone knows orcs are terrible things, and zombies aren't much fun either. Mix the two together and you get an evil greater than the sum of its parts. Naturally, a legion of heroes was assembled, and the requisite last stand against doomsday was fought and won by a hairsbreadth. My great-great-great-great-grandfather slew Nasty Larry, cleaving his head from his shoulders with one sweep of a mighty broadsword. Nasty Larry's head rolled to his slayer's feet and pronounced a terrible curse, as decapitated wizard's heads are prone to do.

"With my dying breath, I curse thee and thy bloodline. From now until the end of time, the sixth child of every generation shall be made a gruesome abomination. A twisted, horrible thing that shall shun the light and dwell in miserable darkness."

That bit of business finished, Nasty Larry died. According to legend, he melted into a puddle, the sky turned black, and — if one could believe such tales — the land within a hundred miles turned to inhospitable swamp. That was the end of Nasty Larry's small, yet noteworthy, influence on my life.

I often wondered why my parents chose to have a sixth child, being forewarned as they were. They had many excuses. The most common being, "We lost count." Second common, and far more acceptable in my opinion, was, "Well, none of our family had ever had six, and we thought it might not have taken." Perfectly reasonable. Not all curses grab hold, and one couldn't live one's life fretting over every utterance of every bodiless head one ran across.

Being undead was not all that horrible a curse. Unfortunately, this was not the end of my worries. For besides being made a thing born to dwell in darkened misery, I was also made, in the infinite wisdom of fate, a girl. These two conditions taken individually were minor handicaps, but toss them together, and you would understand the difficulties I experienced growing up.

There are kingdoms where a woman is prized for her mind, where she is more than a trophy or a poorly paid housemaid. Kingdoms where the chains of a thousand years of chauvinism have finally rusted away. I was not born in one of these kingdoms.

I was not very popular among the male suitors of my village. It was nothing personal. Husbands just prefer living wives, and I met so few potential spouses locked in my parents' basement. At the age of eighteen, I was already an old, undead maid sitting in a darkened cellar, waiting to die.

Of course, I don't die. Not like normal people. Certainly, old age wouldn't accomplish the task. So I settled in for a very long wait. I figured it would be another fifty years before my parents died and one of my brothers or sisters would inherit caretaking duties of their poor, wretched sibling. One of their children would take over next. And so on. And so on. Until one day, they either forgot me, or all died, or maybe, just maybe, an angry mob would drag me from the shadows and burn me at the stake. Not much to look forward to. But no one is master of their fate, and my lot was not all that terrible in the end.

All that changed with the arrival of Ghastly Edna. That wasn't her real name. I never learned it. I just called her "Ghastly Edna" because it seemed a proper witch's name. She was a grotesquely large woman, bearlike in proportions, with a pointed hat, a giant hooked nose, and a long, thin face. Her skin, while not truly green, possessed a slick olive hue. Her nose even had a wart. Ghastly Edna's only flaw, witchly speaking, was a set of perfectly straight, perfectly polished teeth.

The day I met Ghastly Edna changed everything, and I remember it well. The basement door opened. I scrambled to the foot of the stairs to collect my daily meal. Instead, she came lumbering down. Her bulky frame clouded the light filtering behind her. She placed a callused hand under my chin and smiled thinly.

"Yes, yes. You shall do, child."

Ghastly Edna purchased me from my parents for a puny sum. I'm certain they were glad to be rid of their cursed daughter, and I couldn't honestly blame them. My new mentor whisked me away to her cottage in the middle of some forsaken woods far from civilization. The first thing she did was clean me up. It took six long hours to wash away the accumulated filth of eighteen years and cut the tangle of hair atop my head. When she finally finished, she stood me before a small mirror and frowned.

"No, no, no. I do not like this. I do not like this one bit."

The effect this had on my self-esteem was immediate and crushing. I'd always know myself to be a hideous thing. Yet Ghastly Edna was no prize beauty herself, and to evoke such a revolted tone could only mean that Nasty Larry's curse had really had its way with me.

"You're not ugly, child," she corrected. "You're quite" — her long face squished itself into a scowl — "lovely"

I had yet to dare look in the mirror for fear of being driven mad by own hideousness. Now I chanced a sidelong glance through the corner of my eye. It was not the sanity-twisting sight I had expected, but still a far cry from lovely.

"But what about these?" I cupped the large, fatty mounds on my chest.

"Those are breasts," Ghastly Edna said. "They're supposed to be there."

"But they're so ... so ..."

"Round. Firm." She sighed. "That's how they're supposed to be. Ideally."

I found that hard to believe, but I wasn't about to argue with the person who'd rescued me from my solitary existence.

"And that bottom of yours." She mumbled. "You could bounce a gold piece off it."

"But the skin is pale," I offered, trying to please her.

"It's not pale, dear. It's alabaster." She circled me twice, looking more disappointed with each passing moment. "And I don't believe I've ever seen eyes quite that shade of green. Or lips so full and soft. And your hair. I washed it with year-old soap, and it's still as soft as gossamer." She drew close and sniffed. "And it smells of sunflowers."

"What about my teeth? Surely they're not supposed to look like that."

She checked my gums and teeth with her fingers. "No, dear. You're quite correct. They're a tad too sharp. But it's not an obvious flaw, and besides that, they're nice and white. Good gums too. The tongue has a little fork in it, but only if you're looking for it."

She ordered me into a seat, still naked and slightly damp from the bath.

"Are you certain you spent all your life in that basement?" I nodded.

"No exercise. Dismal diet. Dwelling in filth. Yet somehow you come out like this. Not even half-mad as far as I can tell."

"You mean, I'm not cursed, ma'am?"

"Oh, you are cursed, child, and undead. That much is certain. Curses come in many forms however, and not all are as bad. Especially death curses. It's tricky enough to cast a decent spell when you're still alive. But throwing one out as you're expiring requires a certain knack. Apparently, the wizard who cursed your family was not as in control of his magic as he should've been. The undead part came through, but the hideousness element didn't quite make it. The magic must've had a better idea as it sometimes does."

She handed me a towel. "Cover yourself, dear. I can't bear to look upon you anymore."

I did as I was told.

"That's the thing about death curses. One really shouldn't employ them unless one feels they can pull it off. It just makes the rest of us look bad."

She spent several minutes rocking in her chair, mulling over the situation. A dread fell upon me. I didn't want to be sent back to my cellar if I could help it. Given no other choice, I'd accepted my fate. Now my universe was filled with other possibilities, and I didn't want to lose them.

Ghastly Edna snapped up from her chair.

"Well, dear, the magic called me to you. Far be it from me to contradict it. Your loveliness just means you'll have to work harder at your witchery. A handicap yes, but not an insurmountable one." She peeled the wart from her nose. "False, darling." She winked.

She proceeded to wipe the greenish makeup from her face to reveal skin that, while rough and haggard, was not especially hideous. She removed six layers of clothing to show that her hunch was nothing more than an illusion of well-placed fabric. When she removed her hat, I realized that Ghastly Edna was a large and ugly woman, but not at all witchly without her full outfit.

"We all need a little help, dear. You just need far more than I. Now let me see what I have here that might do the trick." She began digging through various moldy trunks filled with equally moldy clothing.

My heart leaped with joy.

Ghastly Edna spent the next six months acquainting me with the ins and outs of witchly wardrobe. Wearing just the right outfit was fifty percent of a witch's business, she explained. She was not exaggerating. It took a great deal of work to make one look as bad as was expected. Especially for me, my mentor pointed out, as I was afflicted with a form most unsuitable for a witch.

Once I'd mastered the art of looking witchly, she proceeded to teach me the black arts: necromancy, demonology, the forgotten language of unspeaking things, and forbidden nature lore. The powers of magic that had drawn Ghastly Edna to me had not been mistaken, and in due course, I mastered the craft of the witch.

And for a while, I was happy.

Until the dark day when they finally killed her.


Exactly how long I lived with Ghastly Edna, I couldn't say. It was forever autumn in those woods, and as a side effect of my ageless nature, I do not measure time well. I assume Ghastly Edna did grow older, but as she was a wrinkled, old witch when I'd first met her, she didn't get more wrinkled, at least not noticeably so, over the course of my tutelage.

However long it took, it was soon after I'd learned everything she could teach me that she woke me early one morning. The morning light perturbed the undead in me, and Ghastly Edna respected this. I knew right away something was wrong.

"No questions, dear," she said. "I need you to go to the lake."

I stirred from my bed. "But, mistress ..."

She put her fingers to my lips. "Shush, child. I don't have time to explain, and even if I did, I don't have to. You'll do as I say."

I nodded.

"Very good. Now you must go and bathe yourself in the lake. And I'm not talking about merely your face and hands. I mean, your entire body. I know the light will bother you, so you can wear your hat to shade your eyes. But otherwise, you must strip off every other stitch. After you've gotten yourself nice and clean, you must hurry back. I'll be dead by then, and we'll have one last talk before I go."

This final piece of news stopped me cold.

"But ..."

"I said, shush, child. Now get dressed. We'll have time to talk when you return. But you must hurry to the lake." She lumbered from my small room, barely squeezing through the door. "And don't bother with the whole outfit. Just your hat and your black dress, that one with the loose skirt."

I always did as Ghastly Edna told, and today was no exception. As I got dressed, I couldn't help but think about her death. Not for a moment did I doubt it was going to be. She often spoke of the future and other things that she could not know. It was the magic. It talked to her, and as far as I could tell, it never lied. It was not fate, she'd explained once, but rather the past yet to be. Not to be confused with the future that might come or the present that never was. Subtle distinctions I'd never truly understood, but Ghastly Edna had reassured me this was not my fault. It could not be properly explained by her. Only by the magic, and the magic had never talked to me. Rather, I'd yet to hear it.

I slipped on my dress. It was comfortable cloth cut in a most unflattering way. It failed to hide away all the unwanted charms of my unwitchly form, but it was better than nothing. Normally, I wouldn't dare be seen outside without a tattered cloak and a frumpy shawl. I scowled, pressing a palm against my flat stomach. I'd been working to develop a flabby belly and chubby behind for as long as I could remember. The curse kept them tight and toned, no matter how much I ate.

"Hurry up, dear," Ghastly Edna said.

I grabbed my hat, tattered and pointed with a wide brim, and headed for the door. On the way out, I stopped and watched my mistress, her back to me, fussing over the stove.

She did not turn around. "And take Newt with you. He'll soon be yours anyway. Might as well get used to each other."

I still couldn't bring myself to leave. Not that I thought staying would do much good. If the magic said she was to die then I couldn't stop it.

"Be off, child." She glanced over her shoulder. "Don't make me box your ears."

"Yes, ma'am."

The hard light burned my eyes. I tolerated it, but its rays prickled my skin. I shivered beneath a warm breeze. I pulled my brim over my face and gave myself time to adjust to the morning.

I called for Newt.

"You don't have to shout," he said from the cabin roof. "I'm right here."

"We have to go to the lake."

Newt cocked his head to one side, squinting one eye at me.


"The mistress ordered it."

He cocked his head the other way. "What for?"

"She didn't say. Just that we must hurry."


"You're to come with me."

"Are you certain?"

Ghastly Edna shouted from the darkened cabin. "Go on, Newt! Do as she says!"

"Oh, very well."

Newt was my mistress's familiar. Familiars come in countless varieties: demons molded into animal shape, enchanted creatures, dreams made flesh, flesh made dream. Ghastly Edna had created Newt by enchanting a waterfowl with intelligence and speech and then grafting a pinch of pure demonic essence. The end result was an ill-tempered duck, unhappy with the entire world and quite willing to share his unhappiness.

Being a duck was what he was most unhappy with. Not just a duck, but a white duck. Brown feathers trimmed his wings and ran down his back, but they failed to make him more sinister. Even if he'd been midnight black, I don't think it would've helped. Ducks, even demon ducks, just aren't terrifying to look upon.

He hopped off the roof to land beside me. "Let's get going then. If we must. You'd better get dressed."

"I am dressed."

"I think not. You're barely covered at all."

I explained that this was all Ghastly Edna allowed me to wear. He quacked his displeasure. We walked the path down to the lake. Newt had a peculiar way of walking. His bowlegged swagger seemed more ridiculous than a traditional waddle. I'd told him once, and he'd told me to mind my own business. So I did. Even if he did walk like a bird with a rash between his legs.

When we got to the lake, I hesitated to do as I was told. I'd spent most of my life in the dark. I'd bathed in the lake many times before, but always at night. Not that the sun was a true danger. I just wasn't used to it. It was so bright, and I would be so exposed.

Newt sighed. "Get on with it, would you?"

I pulled my hat tighter on my head and slipped off my dress.

Newt sighed again. "Dark gods, girl, you're beautiful." It was not intended as a compliment.


Excerpted from A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez. Copyright © 2007 A. Lee Martinez. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A. Lee Martinez lives in Terrell, Texas.

A. Lee Martinez is the acclaimed author of several science fiction and fantasy novel including Gil's All Fright Diner, which won the Alex Award, In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch, The Automatic Detective, and Too Many Curses, among others. Martinez lives in Texas.

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A Nameless Witch 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
LadyHester More than 1 year ago
This book rocks! The story line and characters are absurd yet loveable! The author makes you laugh out loud at every ridiculous scenario. What could be cooler than a sexy, cursed witch and her demon duck side kick?!!!
Ally_Kinch More than 1 year ago
The book "A Nameless Witch" By A. Lee Martinez, published by Tor Books was an exceptional non-fictional piece of literature. Martinez's character choice was perfectly placed and described. This story is about a girl who was born with a curse that made her immortal and she only ate flesh, her parents casted her out of her life until a witch had bought her from them. Ghastly Edna accepted her into her home and decided to teach the unnamed child her ways. Her curse that she was born with had some issues a the fact that she only ate flesh, she can't stand the sunlight, and her immortality makes her beautiful. Which for a witch's case isn't great. She set out on a journey to descover herself along with a demonic duck named Newt, and a troll named Gwurm. She then settles into a town called Fort Stalwarts where she could stay and practice her witchery, but when a White Night crosses her path. He starts a lot of damage in Fort Stalwarts and will the witch have to fix it all? Will she fall for the night? Will her curse get in the way? I thought this was a great book because it was filled all kinds of magic and that demonic duck is just crazy. The witch has amazing adventures with her new found friends and she learns to have more christmas. I would recommand this book to anyone who likes exciting adventures, or who enjoy things about magic and funny ducks whos idea for solving things is killing them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not your average story, keeps you guessing and never boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of Mr. Martinez, but I have to say that this is by far one of my stand out favorites. A quest, a witch, cannibalism.... what more can one ask for?
Elizabeth_Anderson More than 1 year ago
There are a couple of low points in later installments of this author’s books, though at other times he picks things up. This journey is so straight-forward and generic, though, it is hard to say I enjoyed reading it. There is situational humor at times, and the sense of evil in this book is to be reckoned with. However, this book is unusually cast in the first person tense, which is not good when I find that character hard to relate to. I suppose at least one of the support cast made me smile at times, but there is not enough of a sense of impending importance in the journey to make the book worthwhile as, say, In The Company of Ogres. A product I would recommend is Sirens of Morning Light by Benjamin Anderson, a quest for a man in Iowa to regain his identity, which becomes entangled with people who claim to have known him when he discovers he is a scientific experiment. Though it follows a lead character, its viewpoint in the third person remains detached.
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This book really does play into witch myths. It is funny to see it all played out.
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Meli_Green More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Mr. Martinez, I picked it up because I had another one of his book coming out at my store, and wanted to see if he would be another author to add to my reading list. In A Nameless Witch, the titled (but untitled) heroine is a beautiful undead witch who embarks on a journey to avenge her teacher's death. Joining her are her demonic duck familiar, a friendly troll, and a handsome but celibate knight. The interaction among the characters is where you see Martinez's strengths shine the brightest. His quirky characters are never too silly and his dialog rolls off the page. It's not often a writer has the talent to create a sympathetic and likable heroine with a predisposition for the taste of human flesh, but Mr. Martinez has succeeded admirably. However Martinez doesn't seem to have figured out very much for these characters to do. The plot has a perfunctory feel. Four trials are established, and then dispatched almost as afterthoughts; we never feel any sense of danger to the protagonists. And there's not much at the end of the journey for anyone, including the readers. I was entertained on almost every page, but left feeling a little disappointed. Pick up this novel if you already like A. Lee Martinez, you like humorous fantasy, or you want a good fantasy light read.
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Punkyelle More than 1 year ago
Good book to read for a good laugh or if you like a talking duck lol enjoyed it
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Kentyb More than 1 year ago
amazing character set. sad that it was over. one of my favorites now!
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FantasyFictionFanMC More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book. This was the first one I read from A. Lee Martinez and it had me hankering for more of his books. He has a good sense of humor and a very imaginative perspective on life. I simply love this book and this author!
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