Witch King by Martha Wells 📚

Everybody loves Murderbot, but Martha Wells writes other stories, including this recent novel set in a new fantasy world with complex magic, a great deal of (as yet) unexplored backstory, and varied set of characters with complex relationships and histories. Yet despite the completely different setting and cast there are several themes in common; the central character has a unique background which separates him from the surrounding world, but at the same time has strong personal relationships with a found family which anchors him there.

The structure is also different from the linear first person narrative of the Murderbot stories, following two different timelines separated by a number of years, the earlier story exploring the beginning of political and family relationships, the later a story of conflict against a mysterious conspiracy which threatens both. There is plenty of magical combat, with several different schools of magic, each with strengths and weaknesses, but without tedious exposition explaining each type in detail; the characters just accept magic as part of their world and use it to advance their aims, rather than sitting around discussing how it works.

Bouncing back and forth between timelines allows parts of both stories to provide context for the other, as we see the same people at different point in their story arcs. My only complaint is that I would like to see more about how the relationships begin, I felt like the earlier story line shortchanged the establishment of bonds of friendship and love at the expense of those big magical battles.

This book clearly establishes a framework for a series of stories, filling in the gap between the two timelines and continuing the battle against the conspiracy, which has received a setback but is certainly not vanquished.

Recommended (assuming that we get more in the series).

Book cover for Witch King by Martha Wells, a close up view of a figure in a dark blue robe with gold trim on the hood, hand outstretched.