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Witch King (EBook, 2023, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC) 4 stars

Kai-Enna is the Witch King, though he hasn’t always been, and he hasn’t even always …

Witch King

4 stars

This book is the tale of Kai (a demon prince) who had been trapped with his witch friend Ziede, working to figure out who had trapped them and why, while also trying to rescue their missing friend Tahren. There's also a perspective of Kai from the past being trapped, freed, and working to fight against the Hierarchs.

I have some mixed feelings about this book. It certainly opens up very strongly and the characters, plot, and world grabbed me immediately. I am a sucker for a story with dual perspective, telling a story in the past as well as the present that echo each other. The worldbuilding ideas felt super fresh and I loved learning about the world, the politics, and the characters. However, I was disappointed by parts of the ending, felt overwhelmed by a lot of world detail for quite some time, and wished that there was a bit more character detail for anybody but Kai.

This book drops you squarely in the middle of worldbuilding detail (almost as much as Ninefox Gambit). Even by the end, I'm still not sure that I know what differentiates various magic types, what the Hierarchs are, or the different flavors of Immortal Blessed. I don't know that I need to know all of these things either, but it felt like I was left with a lot of holes in my knowledge.

Because of that, I hope that there is more than just this single book, because so much of it leaves me wanting. There's whole swaths of history that are not described in the past (e.g. Kai's grandmother) as well as between the past and present sections of the narrative. On top of that, it felt like there were some characters like Tenes and Sanja who didn't really get a lot of space on the page. It almost felt like the cast was too broad and so characters didn't get enough room to develop.

I certainly dig the gender stuff going on in the background. Kai is a demon who inhabits multiple bodies over time. There's also some snooty "oh these Arike folks have some binary gender hangups" in an epigraph before some of the chapters. There's some comments about mercenaries (normally women) being forced to present in ways that they normally wouldn't. This is all kind of in the background of the story, but mostly I just want to hear more about demon gender, thank you.

I think my biggest disappointment with the book is the method in which some of the plot lines are wrapped up. I'll leave those thoughts in a spoilerly comment separately.

Despite some negative feelings above, overall I really enjoyed this and it makes me want to go back and reread the Raksura books again.