High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
But it’s all 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.
Laced with rich, imagined histories; miles of catacombs; and prophecies true and false, Witchlanders takes place in an evocative, tantalizingly vibrant world and raises equally evocative questions: Who gets to defines history? When does a legend become a crutch? And why does the enemy in war look a lot like the hero? Lena Coakley’s first novel is a lush, chilling story that is sure to send shivers through your finger bones.
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FLOWERS AND BONES
Ryder woke to the sound of clattering bones. A red curtain separated the sleeping area from the main room of the cottage, and he could see the faint flickering of candles through the fabric.
“Skyla,” he whispered.
Even in his sleep he’d known there was something wrong. A feeling of dread lay heavy in his stomach. Next to him in the long bed, Ryder’s two younger sisters were quiet. Pima, the little one, lay diagonally with the covers bunched up around her. Her mouth was open, and she was snoring gently. Skyla was pressed into the corner.
“Sky . . . ,” he began again.
“I know,” she said. There was nothing sleepy about her voice. He wondered how long she’d been awake.
“Why didn’t you do something?” Ryder flung off the bit of tattered blanket that covered his legs. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
The dirt floor was cold under his bare feet. He’d grown tall in the past year, too tall for the low door frame that led to the main part of the cottage, and he hunched a little as he peered around the red curtain.
Mabis, his mother, was squatting on the floor, picking up bones. A goat’s femur, a horse’s rib. They were dark with age and etched with thin lines. She placed each one into a wooden bowl as large as the wheel of a donkey cart.
“Tell me who it is,” she murmured. “Tell me.” Smoke from the fire hung around the room, making rings around the candles.
Skyla slipped in beside Ryder, and together they watched as their mother rose from the floor. Mabis looked furtively around, squinting toward the sleeping area, but they were well hidden in the shadows. She seemed to satisfy herself that she was alone, and staggered to the lit fireplace, grabbing an iron poker.
“Did you check the fireplace?” Ryder whispered. “I told you to check the fireplace.”
“I did,” Skyla insisted.
Mabis climbed onto a wooden chair and up onto the large table their father had made. She was wearing her reds. It was the traditional costume of the mountain witches—loose-fitting pants and a quilted tunic with embroidery along the edge. Ryder had seen his mother wear reds only a few times before. They had a dramatic effect on people that Mabis liked to keep in reserve. Usually they were packed carefully at the bottom of a wooden blanket chest; now the tunic was buttoned up wrong, and there was a greasy stain down the side of her leg.
Her sleeves slid down her brown arms as she reached up with the poker. From the rafters fell a cloth bag tied with string. Ryder cursed inwardly. He’d thought he knew all her hiding places.
Mabis knelt on the tabletop and set down the poker. Greedily she opened the bag. A shower of black flowers, each the size of a baby’s fist, fell to the table.
“Maiden’s woe,” Skyla breathed.
Ryder nodded, noticing the black stain on his mother’s lips; it wasn’t the first she’d had that night. Maiden’s woe was a river plant whose flowers bloomed in the shallows. Ryder had pulled up all he could find, but the plants grew like weeds this time of year; if he missed even the smallest bit of root, they came back twice as thick. As he watched, his mother pushed two of the black flowers into her mouth and grimaced.
“She promised,” Skyla whispered.
“Promised,” Ryder muttered as if the word were a curse. He started forward, but Skyla grabbed him by the arm.
“Wait!” she said. “Just . . . wait.” Ryder frowned but held back. His first impulse was to confront his mother, but Skyla’s judgment was usually sound; perhaps she had some reason to suspect a second hiding place.
Mabis had left the table now and was kneeling over the great bowl, shaking it with both hands. She could do this half the night, Ryder knew: stir the bones, shake them, mumble at them, then pour them out onto the floor and pretend to read like some ancient witch doing a casting.
When Ryder’s father was alive, Mabis threw the bones only for customers. Telling the future was something she did for money. Of course, the villagers in the valley knew that she was not a real witch, not anymore. She didn’t live in the mountain coven, devoting her life to the Goddess and studying the teachings of Aata and Aayse; she had given that up long ago. But real witches didn’t concern themselves with the daily problems of the village, and Mabis’s prophecies were full of common sense, if vague, and so she had a tidy business.
What villagers never saw was how Ryder’s father would frown when the door closed behind them, how Mabis would laugh, jingling their coins in her hand. Any fool who believed a pile of bones could tell the future didn’t deserve to keep his money—that was what she used to say.
Yet here she was—holding a bowl of bones over her head. She shook it one, two, three times, then spilled its contents onto the floor with a loud clatter. The room fell silent. Mabis looked toward the sleeping area and cocked her head, listening, but Ryder and Skyla stayed quiet. Ryder glanced back at Pima, but his littlest sister was still asleep.
Finally Mabis turned back to the bones, circling them like an animal stalking prey. Skyla seemed to hold her breath; she lifted herself up on her toes, craning her neck. Ryder could see his sister was trying to make out the pattern the bones made on the floor, but what did she think was there? After a while, Mabis moved back to the table and popped two more of the dark blooms into her mouth.
“I’ve seen enough.” Ryder stepped forward again, and again Skyla pulled him back. “What in Aata’s name is wrong with you?” he hissed. “There’s always another hiding place, Skyla. We can’t just watch . . .”
His sister looked up at him with somber eyes. Her pale eyebrows stood out against her brown face, and even in the dim light, her hair glinted like polished metal.
“You can’t go now. You’re not supposed to interrupt a witch’s reading once the bones are thrown.”
“What witch? What reading?”
Those eyes again. His sister looked like Fa sometimes with that wise look. “Maybe . . . maybe she really can see the future. Maybe something bad is going to happen. Shouldn’t we know?”
Ryder swallowed his annoyance. He knew all he needed to know: Throwing the bones was just his mother’s excuse for taking the flowers, and the mad visions she had afterward were not the future, just the inside of her own bewildered mind.
“You really are getting gullible, Sky,” he said, and before she could stop him again, he strode into the main room of the cottage.
Mabis’s head snapped up when he entered. In spite of himself, Ryder was taken aback. Her yellow hair was loose and tangled, and her eyes glittered strangely in the firelight. His recriminations died on his lips.
“Do you see it?” she asked, gesturing to the casting. Her voice had a kind of fragile hope, as if pleading to be believed. “Someone has arrived. There’s a stranger in the mountains.”
“Go to bed now,” he said. “Please.” His mother just stood there, swaying slightly.
The walls of the cramped cottage seemed to lean in on him. No one had put the cheese away, he noticed—good market cheese he’d bought for a treat, not their own homemade. Dirty wooden plates were stacked by the door, waiting to be washed in the river. Mabis had sent her children to bed insisting she would clean up, and Ryder had been so tired from his other chores that he’d decided to believe her.
“Mabis,” he said firmly. “Listen to me—we need you now. The hicca will freeze on the stalks if we don’t get it harvested.” He crossed toward her. “I can’t do everything. The chilling could come any day.”
“Watch your feet!” Mabis took his elbow. “Watch out for the bones.” She gestured to the floor. “Try to see it, Ryder. Just try. Start with the anchor bone—the small one—that’s the key. See how it touches the shadow man? Place the pattern in your mind and the vision will come.”
“Mabis, you’re talking gibberish.” She never did this, never tried to teach her children how to read, though Skyla had often asked to learn. Mabis had always said the witches made it all up, so why bother to pass it on? “Don’t you understand? If you don’t help with the harvest, we might not have enough to eat this winter.”
“The stranger in the mountains is just the beginning. Terrible things are coming.”
“Stop it! Stop it now. You sound like a madwoman.”
She turned away from him in disgust. “Your father would have believed.”
Ryder frowned, stung by the bitterness in her voice, as if he were the one disappointing her. Could it be that she really saw something? He let himself consider the idea for just a moment before shaking his head.
“No,” he said firmly. “If throwing the bones were real—which it isn’t, you’ve told me a hundred times—but if it were, then there would be witches in the coven doing it right now, doing it better than you. And if there was something terrible coming, they’d tell us—they’d have told us already. Isn’t that why they’re up there? Isn’t that why we pay our tithes? So they can guard the border and keep us safe?” Mabis had stopped listening to his argument and was looking blankly into space. “Mabis?”
Her eyes startled him when she looked up; they were so bright and blue and wild. “I see the future,” she whispered. “I’m seeing it right now.”
“You’re not.” His voice quavered a little. “Stop it. You’re not even looking at the casting.”
“A great witch doesn’t need bones. I can see the future written in the flecks of your eyes.” She touched his face with cold hands, holding him by the chin. “Stay still. I almost have it all.”
Worry stabbed through him. She was like a feral creature gazing out at him from a deep wood, seeing and not seeing. It frightened him. He should have gone to the river every day and made sure every bit of that weed was gone.
“An assassin is coming.” She seemed alarmed now, afraid. “An assassin in the mountains. Right across the border. He mustn’t succeed!” His mother’s gaze left his face and slid to the table by the fire. “Just one more flower and I’ll know everything.”
“No,” Ryder said, stepping away from her. “No. This is nonsense.” In three long strides he crossed the room and gathered up every one of the black blooms.
“What are you doing?” Mabis stumbled forward and bones scattered. Ryder looked around the small room, flowers in his hands. His eyes lighted on the fireplace.
“Don’t!” she shouted. Lunging forward, she lost her balance, bones under her feet. She fell heavily onto one knee. Ryder seized the opportunity and tossed the maiden’s woe into the fire. The black trumpets hissed and popped, sending sparks up the chimney.
Mabis struggled to her feet and ran toward him. “I need them!” she pleaded, sounding desperate. Just in time, Ryder grabbed her wrist and stopped her from plunging her hand into the flames. Mabis turned on him. Her face, lit by firelight, was twisted with rage. Before Ryder could do anything, she slapped him across the cheek. Hard.
Skyla rushed in from behind the curtain. “Mabis, stop it!” she cried. But by then there was nothing to stop. Mabis was leaning against the fireplace, avoiding their gaze, her breath coming in shallow gasps.
“Do you see?” Ryder hissed at Skyla. “This has nothing to do with the bones, with the future.”
His sister’s eyes were wide with fright. From the sleeping area, Pima’s voice came loud and shrill.
“Maba, I want Maba!”
“Just go help Pima, will you?” Ryder told his sister.
“I’ll go,” said his mother. Her voice was small, and she still didn’t meet his eyes.
“No! Pima can’t see you like this.”
His mother winced. Skyla took a breath and nodded, then went off to comfort the crying four-year-old. When she was gone, Ryder turned to his mother. “This has got to stop.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said. She sank to the floor with her back against the wall.
“Sorry,” he repeated, putting his hand to his cheek.
He dropped down next to her on the floor, and for a while neither of them spoke. Outside, trees creaked in the wind. The stones of the fireplace were warm against his back. He tried to hold on to his anger, but as he sat there he felt it slipping away from him, leaving a hollowness in his chest. Skyla was singing softly to Pima in the other room—a lullaby of Fa’s—and without warning, a feeling of loss pierced him. He’d become used to it since Fa died, surprise attacks of emotions that came out of nowhere, left him breathless. But he realized it wasn’t his father that he was missing so painfully at this moment. It was his mother. His mother as she used to be. Mabis had been like iron once. She’d been like stone. Nothing could break her. And he’d felt entirely safe.
Slowly Mabis got to her knees and reached for something under the table. One of her bones, the smallest one, had skittered there in the scuffle. She tossed it into his lap before sitting heavily back down.
“What’s this?” he said.
“You’re right. It’s got to stop.” Her eyes were already beginning to clear. Maiden’s woe gave Mabis a burst of frenzied vision, but the effect soon dissipated, leaving her moody and tired—until she took more and it all started again.
Ryder picked up the fragment of black bone. Unlike the others in the set, this one had no marks scratched into it. It was a piece of vertebra most likely, but it was so worn he couldn’t tell from what animal it had come. He’d never noticed it before, had never cared enough about his mother’s bones to distinguish one from the other, though they’d sat on the high shelf above the kitchen pots all his life. His mother had always been so quick to deride them, to belittle anyone who believed they had something to reveal. “I don’t understand. Why are you giving this to me?”
“It’s the anchor bone,” Mabis explained. “It’s very old. A casting wouldn’t work without it.” She pressed his hands around the small black knob. “You keep it for me. Without it, I won’t be tempted.”
The meaning of his mother’s words began to dawn on him. Could it be that simple? Could hiding this little thing really keep his mother away from the maiden’s woe? He should have thought of it before. He would have tossed the whole set of bones into the river if he thought it would stop her from taking the flower.
“And you were right about something else,” she said. “The witches in my coven, they must see the assassin too. I’ve got to speak to them about it. Ryder, we’ve got to build a firecall.”
“Please, I won’t be able to stop thinking about it. . . .”
Ryder was about to refuse. He knew the witches wouldn’t come, wouldn’t allow themselves to be summoned by the village fortune-teller. But then, maybe being ignored by the witches was just what his mother needed to bring her back to herself. He glanced at the shuttered window for any sign of light slipping in between the cracks. As yet, dawn hadn’t reached them, but he was beginning to suspect he wouldn’t sleep again that night.
“And if we build this call and the witches don’t come, will you promise to stop all this? Will you face the fact you can’t see any visions in the bones?”
Mabis smiled, and Ryder could see the black stains on her teeth. “I’ll promise anything you like,” she said. She pulled herself up from the floor, brushing the dust off her dirty reds. “But the witches won’t ignore a call from me.”
On the other side of the border, Falpian Caraxus watched the column of greenish smoke rise up over the shoulder of the mountain. Dawn was breaking. Behind him, his father’s men hovered around cooking fires, rolling up blankets or talking softly over last cups of steaming tea, careful not to disturb his thoughts. Some had already taken their leave with a nod or a silent bow and were leading their horses down the steep path.
Falpian stood in the dewy grass on the edge of the plateau. The mountains were a stunning sight. The zanthia trees had changed their color, turning every peak to crimson.
“The witches are in their reds,” he said to himself. Here, so close to the border, it was easy to see how the Witchlanders could believe in Aata and Aayse, the witch prophets. Even the red trees seemed to honor their customs.
Bron, his father’s kennel master, came up quietly beside him, his great shadow spilling over the lip of the plateau. “Firecall,” he grunted, frowning up at jagged peaks.
Falpian hadn’t considered that. At first he’d thought the rising smoke must be a funeral pyre, but then he remembered that Witchlanders didn’t burn their dead; they buried them in the ground, or worse, preserved them in dank catacombs.
“Black for war, green to gather, red when the coven is under attack,” Falpian recited. He turned to Bron. “Some witch calls for a gathering with that smoke. Do you think they know something?”
Bron took a moment to answer. “What is there to know?”
“I’m not a fool.”
After another pause the kennel master said quietly, “It’s always best to assume the witches know every move we make. And every move we’re going to make.” He turned to Falpian now, as if to use his face to make the point. Falpian was used to the cruel scars that slashed from left to right across Bron’s features—souvenirs of war—but seeing them now made him flinch. Witchlanders were a vicious people.
“Maybe I should just go home with you,” Falpian suggested hopefully. “These are dangerous times.”
Behind them on the plateau, some of the others had noticed the smoke and were murmuring and pointing. They were young men mostly, too young to be veterans of the war like Bron, too young to remember when the fire-calls all burned black.
“It’s all right!” Bron shouted, but his words were for Falpian as much as for them. “I expect a call’s a common enough thing in these parts!” In a lower voice he went on, “There’s nothing to fear. The witches won’t break the treaty.”
“I don’t want to go back because I’m afraid,” Falpian snapped. Bron raised an eyebrow at Falpian’s tone. Although a servant of Falpian’s father, he demanded respect from someone so young. “I’m sorry, Bron. It’s just . . . I should be home. I should be training with the others.”
“Why do you pretend not to know what I’m talking about? There wasn’t a spare bed the day we left—there were even boys sleeping in the stables.”
“Men have always sent their sons to your father to learn their battle skills.”
“Never so many sons as this year.”
Bron pursed his lips and stared out at the scarlet mountains as if he enjoyed the view. He must be under orders, Falpian thought. He’d tell me if he could.
“We’ll await you in the gorge,” someone said to Bron, and the last of the men and horses began to make their way down the path.
Falpian watched the last horse disappear and felt a weight settle over him. Soon Bron would leave as well, and Falpian would be alone, alone at Stonehouse for a hundred days with only the dog for company—and even Bo’s company couldn’t be counted on. He was off chasing rabbits now, enamored of his new freedom.
Of course, Falpian would want for nothing during his stay. His father had sent crates of poetry, bags of flour, jars of honey, barrel after barrel of dried fish—everything he’d need and plenty of things he wouldn’t. Somehow the man could make even bounty seem like a slap in the face. In the old days he would have told his son to live by his wits, that hardship would make him strong; he would have scoffed at the idea of reading poetry and insisted Falpian study logic or military history. Now he didn’t seem to care.
“I can’t be completely useless,” Falpian said to Bron. “Surely there’s something I can learn to do.” He pointed to the smoke over the mountain. “I hate them as much as everyone else. If there’s another attack planned. If it’s war—”
“Shh!” Bron warned. The men were gone now, but he looked to the mountain’s crooked peak as if, from their high covens, red witches were listening. “You are in mourning, child. This is a time of grief for you—a time of meditation and prayer.”
Falpian waved his words away. “There are a dozen retreats where I could spend my mourning season. But Father sends me as far as he can, for as long as he can. Am I being banished?” He bit his lip, remembering how cold his father had been when they parted, barely taking the time to say good-bye. “You don’t have any magic in you either, but at least my father can stand to look at you.” This was the heart of the matter, Falpian knew. His lack of magic. “All those men and boys back home, how many of them will have the gift? One or two, if any? But he doesn’t treat the others as if they’ve disappointed him just by being alive. He puts a sword in their hands and teaches them how to use it.”
“I seem to recall your father giving you many lessons in swordcraft.”
Falpian blushed hotly. Neither he nor his brother had ever excelled with weapons. “I thought,” he stammered, “I thought I would have other skills.” He paused, steadying his breath. The last thing he wanted was for Bron to see him cry, and report what he had seen to his father. “I shouldn’t have assumed.”
The kennel master set a thick hand on his shoulder. Falpian shrugged away his touch, but at least Bron wasn’t like his mother, constantly telling him that he was a late bloomer, that his magic would come. Falpian was grateful for that.
“Perhaps your father has a reason,” Bron said, still speaking in hushed tones. “Did you think of that? A reason for sending you so close to the border, in these . . . uncertain times.”
“What do you mean?”
Bron’s eyes were suddenly brighter, and the torn corners of his mouth turned upward to a grin. There was a leather pack at his side, and from it he pulled a metal cylinder that glinted dully in the sunlight. Falpian recognized it as a container for a scroll.
“I was supposed to wait until the last moment to give this to you,” Bron said, “and I suppose that time has come.”
All at once, Falpian was reminded of a day years earlier—the day he’d been given his dog, Bo. He remembered the kennel master holding the trembling ball of fur cupped in both his hands, that same glad brightness in his eyes: It was something special, this scroll. Falpian looked again at the cylinder. He’d never seen it before, but he recognized the Caraxus family mark etched over its surface: the words DUTY, HONOR, SACRIFICE coiled together in the ancient Baen script.
“Is it . . . from my father?” Something like hope fluttered in his chest. “But if he had a message—”
“Not a message,” Bron interrupted. “A mission.” He smiled again. “I wish you could have heard him. Your father did not confide everything in me, but he did say your presence here was very important, that you were very important.”
“Very important? Me?” Try as he might, Falpian couldn’t picture his father saying the words. “Important for what?”
“For what’s to come.”
Later, when Bron too had gone, Falpian stood at the edge of the plateau clutching the metal cylinder tightly in one hand, delaying for a moment the pleasure of opening it. He had a mission. A reason to be here. His father had not banished him after all. The red mountains had been just a pretty picture before; now they were strangely thrilling, as if his destiny were hidden somewhere amid the rocky crags.
Nearby, a stand of zanthias shook their branches, and a cloud of seedpods floated down on him like fat red snow-flakes. Without thinking, Falpian pulled one out of the air. It was soft and feathery. He’d read somewhere that Witchlanders made wishes on them.
“Let me do this well,” he whispered, “whatever it is. Don’t let me disappoint him again.”
Falpian blew a soft breath over his palm, and the seed-pod floated down on a current of air, disappearing into the gorge.
He’d rather die than disappoint his father again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was nice to have a break from a love triangle plot. This book takes awhile to get into because you need to learn the characters and the story is unique but enjoyed the friendships and mystery.
Cover. I really like this cover. The ice that seems to hang around the girl is interesting. The knife as a line is very innovative. And the fact that the red cloth is really the only color gives the cover a very artistic look. However, after reading the book while the cover still look beautiful and dynamic it does not make as much sense to me.Plot. The plot was not as interesting as I had thought it would be. That is how it always it is when I see a book and get overexcited to read it because of the cover or recommendations that I have read. Ryder does not believe in the prophecies that his mother does because his mother taught him that they are all false and only fools would believe. Yet his sister, who lived in the same house and was raised the same way, is obsessed with becoming a boneshaker. And that is an important distinction that must be made. The people on the mountain are not really witches. They throw bones down and they make prophecies. Ones that may or may not come to pass. The Witchlanders and the Baen hate each other for what was done to the other side during the war and would take any reason to kill someone of the other tribe or race. There were plenty of twists at the end of the book to be thrown by something so if you like to be surprised you most definitely will be. The characters of the book are not really shown in depth but a few of them are looked at extensively.Characters. My favorite character was Ryder's younger sister, Pima. Although she was not actually in the book all that much. I liked how Pima and Ryder interacted. Ryder loved his little sister and it showed. My second favorite was Bodread. He is a wolf-like animal with saber teeth. What more do you need to know about him to love him? How about the fact that he is the most lovable blood-thirsty cutie ever because of the fact that he had been pampered all of his life? He is also more intuitive than his owner. And cuter, although that could be seen as a matter of opinion. After Bodread, I would have to choose Ryder because I spent so much time in his head that it was almost impossible to hate him by the end. Disagree with a lot of was he said, yes. Hate, no. He is a hardworking guy who just wants to live life how he has always remembered. He doesn't believe in magic and the fact that you have to follow everything without question and it shows in his actions throughout the book.Recommend? Yes.
I picked this up off of S&S¿s Galley Grab because I thought it looked interesting¿and it was. ¿Witchlanders¿ is an incredibly intriguing story, one that will be hard to put down. I wasn¿t sure what to expect going on. I was surprised, although incredibly pleased, to find out the story is told through two different male point-of-views. Lena Coakley managed to create two incredibly believable male characters: Ryder and Falpian.In the beginning, I found myself disliking Ryder, a witchlander. He¿s grown up not believing in witches and magic. He¿s believed that his mother found magic to be foolish, until he finds her throwing the bones. She sees danger coming and Ryder thinks she¿s acting foolish, insisting that there is no danger headed their way. When the coven comes to decide if the village is in danger, as Ryder¿s mother suggested, they tell her that she was wrong. And she willingly accepts their decision, for you do not question the witches. As they make their way back, the coven leaves with Ryder¿s two sisters, leaving him alone with his mother. After speaking with his mother, Ryder sets off to the river in search of a fish for her, the only food she¿s willing to eat. What he doesn¿t realize is that she¿s trying to keep him safe. For her bones were right, there is danger headed their way, a danger built from the earth itself ¿ a danger that can¿t harm them in the river.It isn¿t until the attack that Ryder begins to realize his mother was right. He sets off to the coven, only to be told that his mother was responsible for the attack, something he swears isn¿t possible. It¿s hard not to sympathize with him at this point. He¿s not sure what¿s happened to his mother, his sisters are now living with the coven, and his father passed leaving him the man of the house. He could stay behind with his sisters, stay with the coven his mother hates, or he can fix things. There¿s a baen in his head, he hears them in his dreams, and he¿s going to find them and kill them.Trying not to spoil the rest of the story, I¿ll go on to say this: ¿Witchlanders¿ is an engrossing fantasy novel. This is a book worth checking out.
My Review:Straight up, Witchlanders wasn't my cup of tea. It took me so long to get into the story. I started it, than started another books - finished them - then went back to this one. I just couldn't get into it. Witchlanders started out dull to me, there wasn't enough to keep me interested. Ryder, the main character, worked in the hicca fields to support his family. Mabis was dependent on a drug like flower and everyone wanted more than what they had. And there was some background information on the Witchlanders and the Baen, but as I said, there wasn't enough.Lena Coakley's writing wasn't terrible, I just couldn't get into it. Though after I finished about half the book, it started to look up! Ryder set out on an adventure and the story took shape. The characters grew, the plot thickened and I was captivated. But this didn't last till the end unfortunately. It was over within a few chapters.I really did like Ryder though, he was a strong character and it was nice to see a female author write a male main character and do it easily and make it work. Ryder has to take on a lot of responsibilities and his stubborn and reluctant attitude flow well with the story.The idea of witches, witch magic and throwing bones to see outcomings is original and I was definitely intrigued. But I just couldn't get into it. There were so many good moments throughout Witchlanders that had me on the edge of my seat, pushing me to read more, but not enough of those moments to make this debut novel a memorable read for me.
In short: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley is a fascinating and original high fantasy debut with a refreshing Bromance.The synopsis for this book is a bit misleading. You would think the story was all about Ryder but it was really about two main characters and their relationship: Ryder, a Witchlander, and Falpian, a Baen. The synopsis also suggests, to me anyway, that romance is likely between Ryder and this "beautiful and silent witch" he must confront, but there is barely a hint of such a thing. Also misleading: the cover. There is no character in the book who has the features of the girl on this cover, pale skin and blond hair. In the world of Witchlanders, the Witchlander race has brown skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, whereas the Baen race has pale skin, black hair, and black eyes. Even the one mixed race character of note does not have the features of the girl on this cover. So that's odd.Even though I was expecting a much different book, I loved the book I ended up getting. Witchlanders is a high fantasy tale with a richly developed and creative world. Coakley created her own complex and involved history of the Witchlander and Baen people and their longstanding feud. I was just so impressed by Coakley's imagination, to create a whole new world, creatures, magics, and religions. The background information is integrated so well with the story; the reader is not removed from the action in the process of learning more about the lore. The world building was definitely the highlight for me in Witchlanders.Something else that I really enjoyed and found refreshing in Witchlanders was the lack of romance. Instead, we got a hardcore Bromance between Ryder and Falpian. It was interesting to follow their story as they find each other and learn their destiny. Something I was less fond of was the character building which I found a bit lacking. I just needed a bit more. Sometimes I found myself confused with certain character motivations that weren't explained as well as they could be. One character that I truly loved though was Bo, Falpian's sabre-toothed Dreadhound, who was intelligent and endearing. Though if you know me, it's really no surprise that I would be so taken with a charming dog in a book.The pacing was well done and flowed quickly and the final action sequence was especially intense and lengthy. The final clues as to the antagonist and the reasonings behind their actions were uncovered brilliantly. The immediate conflict in the story was wrapped up nicely and yet, a continuing conflict was left open. I am unable to find any evidence of a sequel, however, leaving me to believe Witchlanders is a standalone. I didn't even know standalones existed anymore.
The Good Stuff Cover is hauntingly beautiful, found myself just looking in awe Leads are male which is unusual in YA fiction. Wonderful conflicted and interesting characters, from the lead right on down to the secondary character, with plenty of realistic character development I'm in love with Bo the dog Lots of action, twists and turns and surprises that you won't see coming Witches but at the same time has an almost Lord of the Rings feel to it (really wish I could explain that, but trust me) Just a fantastic tale that sucks you in from the first line and doesn't let you down. Lena is a born storyteller Nice morals thrown in about the stupidity of war, prejudice and forgiveness Wasn't majorly frustrated or lost as I often am with fantasy fiction involving different worlds & races - speaks to the magic of the storyteller that Lena is Vivid descriptions of the landscape make you feel like you are there One side is almost matriarchal and the other side patriarchal and the conflict between the two is fascinating Just go buy the thing, I don't have the right works to state how much I enjoyed it or why tonight -- damn you excessive heat keeping me up at night (BTW, this review was written July 6th)The Not so Good Stuff Some readers that would probably really enjoy (read males) may be turned off by more feminine cover Hoping there is a sequel planned or the ending would be a might frustrating -- there better be a sequel Lena, I need to know what happensFavorite Quotes/Passages"Ryder threw up his hands. "Yes, the Goddess and the lucky man. They're the ones responsible for this harvest. I might as well go back to bed.""They were beautiful in their opposition: dark and light, like morning and evening, like two sides of a coin.""No," he said. "He is not on our side. But Skyla, are we only allowed to care about people who are on our side?"Who should/shouldn't read Perfect for both male and female YA readers Anyone who enjoys fantasy especially involving magic and witches - you will totally dig this Quite frankly anyone who enjoys a tale will enjoy Passing it on to Natasha -- will be interested if she enjoys as much as I did4.75 Dewey'sI received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review - Thanks guys this was fantastic!
Witchlanders is a cleverly written brilliant tale of magic. Coakley is sure to draw her reader's in with fantastic world building, memorable character's, unique storytelling dymanics, and a mystical plot worth reading more than once. It possesses all the elements that will leave its audience clammoring for more, once they've turned the last page. The worlds that Coakley has created and illustrated in Witchlanders are simply unlike any other that I've personally read before. They are rich and lush in the detail, that she pays so careful attention to. Readers will want to sink into to the pages of this amazinglycomplex story, in attempts at getting closer to the truth. What they will be met with is great loyalty, the suspenese of lies and truth meeting at a sort of crossroads, and the importantance of family, honor, and a very undeniable strong sense of duty only to discover that all of this is bound together by magic. Questions will be formed in their minds, about what the main protagonist believed to be true all his life and what really is true, and the answers to them will slowly begin to unravel and come to light. There are so many fascinating things going on in Witchlanders that have the ability to possess so much imagination and creativity in things such as the Gormy Men and the bone-throwing witches, which were interesting and captivating. The level of originality presented by Coakley will definitely astound any reader. Witchlanders has a lot of things going for it, but the two things that I found the most refreshing about it, was the fact that it's not a romance and it's also narrated by two males which is not very common in a lot of the young adult fiction that I've found myself reading. Ryder is an interesting character that's been very well developed, with a lot of thought put into him. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that he's one of the most realistically written and easily believable character's I've read in young adult fiction in the last several months. He doesn't believe in the magic, because his mother spent so much time telling him that "boneshaking" was more of a parlor trick, than anything with real substance to it. Ryder rejects the belief in magic or anything that his mother has to tell him as a result of the boneshaking and her predictions that an assassin will soon be arriving to cause them all great harm. He's a strong, yet determined and sometimes an angry young man, that's dealing with his own personal grief and realizing that he does have a certain sense of duty that he holds himself accountable to. These are wonderful qualities for any strong male protagonist to possess and the very reason, he's likeable in that sense that he's loyal and dependable. Coakley has this magical ability to ensure that all of her character's shine, whether they're main characters meant to move the story along with personal depth and growth, or they're smaller character's that server a sense of purpose all their own. They are all carefully crafted, well developed, and thoughout intelligent people who make the story worth the reader's time. In it's very essence, Witchlanders is a novel that is very compelling and eye-opening, with with an amazing world that has the ability to put the reader right there in the middle of it. This is fantasy at its highest level and I don't know any other way to say it, except to say that I fell in love with it - ALL OF IT - and I would gladly fall all over again willingly. Coakley just has this uncanny ability to convince the reader to put away everything and read this book. This is an author who writes with tremendous amount of integrity and it shows in her character's, in her world building skills, and her attention to detail by making all of the character's (small or large) shine in so many wonderful ways that it only illuminates the story being told m
My opinion: I loved it!! I've had this book on my shelf for a while now and when I finally got around to reading it I had to ask myself why I waited so long! Ryder and his sisters and mother live in the Witchlands, and Falpian lives in the Bitterlands with his father, mother and sisters. The Witchlanders and the Baen (from the Bitterlands) are mortal enemies following the great war, at which time the Witchlanders drove all of the Baen over into the Bitterlands. But there is a connection between Ryder and Falpian that could change the course of events drastically.I am a new fan of Lena Coakley's and will definitely be reading anything she writes! Her writing is flawless, the pace of the book was perfect, and talk about character development! Even the secondary characters, which are as well fleshed out as the main characters, grew over the course of the book! There was enough action to keep you reading from the first page to the last, and I actually read it in 2 days because I couldn't put it down! The author describes the surroundings in such a way that you can easily see everything that is happening.Here is a perfect example of what I'm talking about: "It's all over, he tried to tell himself. Things will go back to normal now. But dread lay coiled at the pit of his stomach. He had the feeling that the future was stealing up behind him, about to tap his shoulder with a cold finger, about to break the spell of this perfect twilit night." I get a shiver just reading it again!Things were tied up to a point at the end of the book, but it felt to me as though it was being left open for a possible sequel. I've looked but can't find any information on whether this is going to happen or not. I have a message in to Ms. Coakley now asking her just that question, and hopefully I will be able to update this post when I get the answer! Be that as it may, I absolutely enjoyed reading this book and can definitely highly recommend it to all fantasy lovers out there :)
Lena Coakley's first novel "Witchlanders" is an ABC New Voices selection and a Juniors Guide Library Selection.For Ryder, magic and fortune telling was a hoax created by the witches so that they can collect their tithes. He has enough to worry about with trying to keep his farm going and keeping his family safe, than worrying about magic. That all changes when his mother foretells something that will change the lives of everyone. Ryder goes on a quest to determine what summoned a monster to destroy his village and along the way old feuds will be rekindled, new allies will be made and Ryder finds a little bit of magic.Reader's will like this fantasy, that makes you think about real life issues. Lena Coakley takes you on an adventurous journey of magic, courage and faith.
Finally! A book with NO love triangles! I was getting pretty tired of all the books w/ love triangles in them, in fact I was getting pretty tired of all the romance! I liked that this books theme was friendship. I am definately going to recommend it to ALL of my friends.
Loved read it 2years ago and reread it this year. I need a sequel some body write it!!!!!
This book is amazing! Istarted to read it at school but i had to return it because it was the end of the year, before my birthday i begged my parents to get it for me but they said that i already had too many books, isaid no one can have too many books they still said no! They surprised me and got it for me for my birthday!!! Ilove this book my favorite characters are:well all of them!!! Its a must read!!!!
Book was well written and the plot was thought out very well. The characters feel real in the fantasy. Would enjoy a second book to get "more" of the story, but it ended where you don't ask where the rest of the story is. Would reccomend to anyone over 7.
Lena Coakley's Witchlanders is a great YA novel that kept my interest. Set in a wonderful fantasy where witches and Baen live in a divided land seeded with hatred after the last war, in which the witches won and forced the Baen to the wastelands and poverty, one young man, Ryder, must face his mother's coven heritage and set out to save his family and their way of life from destruction. The characters are wonderfully developed and the plot has a few twists and turns you won't expect. I will be reading more from this author.
This book was rlly good. I luved the plot. It wasnt the best book ever but i reccomend it:)
This story features some paranormal aspects as it involves witches, but feels so different from other witch stories I've read. First and foremost is the fact that two boys are at the center of the story. The two different cultures clash quite well, even if you only get to see little bits and pieces of them when they are together. One of my favorite characters is an animal - but he's written with such finesse you get a grasp of everything he's thinking and he's pretty easy to fall for - even with the blood spilling. As I read I continually thought that it would be a story my 14 year old son would love. He is a big fan of the Rangers Apprentice series and I think this book would be one he would adore and finish as quickly as I did. All of the writing and descriptions are wonderful; the story flowed at a good pace the entire time. This would qualify for a book for reluctant readers as there isn't a dull moment. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
Witchlanders caught my attention immediately when a catalogue featuring the title arrived in my mail box. It wasn't the cover art so much as the premise, which promised something unique, interesting, and exciting. An unforgettable adventure is what I awaited when first propping open the pages. Witches, witches, witches. I've always been one to have trouble enjoying a novel when it involves or even mentions witches. It's never been about the magic or the stereotyping. Now that I think about it, my disapproval with witches in YA has always been due to the attempt at spinning a unique take on them. I've come across severely novels that have attempted such and had unfortunately done so without much success. Witchlanders, no doubt, is a novel that uses said unique take in creating a new tale. Fortunate for me it was something I could swallow and for that I send my praises to Lena Coakley. Witchlanders proved to be a difficult novel to complete. For the most part I found myself intrigued by the unique setting and prose. Unfortunately, what made me extremely uncomfortable was the pace. The pace was beyond slow and grueling. I also wasn't much of a fan of the dual POV. Rarely do I come across a novel that can successfully pull it off while also keeping the story on a steady course throughout. With those negative points aside, I enjoyed the characters who I found to be very well developed and interesting to read. In the end I found Witchlanders to be a great read from a debut author that I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for. Readers who love witches, adore adventures and enjoy discovering new worlds will find Witchlanders by Lena Coakley intriguing and worthwhile.