Member Reviews

Martha Wells continues to be a master storyteller. The depth of her characters and world-building is nearly unmatched in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. I hope this series continues in the future.

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Monika's reviewApr 10, 2023 · edit
it was amazing

I've just finished reading an e arc of Witch King by Martha Wells and what a ride that had been! I'm very grateful to Netgalley and Tor Publishing for granting me access, I was so excited to read it and I'm not disappointed!

First of all, I've read and loved Murderbot Diaries by this author and I've been team SecUnit and felt like we're dealing with similar issues. Here I'm sympathizing with a demon, apparently. 😅

I'll take the drawbacks out of the way. For me, in the beginning there were too many descriptions at times (weirdly specific, but especially clothes descriptions) and I was hoping for a bit different ending for some things. But the descriptions have provided a good insight into this world and the ending- I just would want to read about the characters for way longer.
And that's it to be honest, the rest of the review is going to be very positive.

We have two narrations here, one in the present and one in the past. I've often caught myself admiring how perfectly they tied together. The past narrative is very well woven into the book, we often get there glimpses of the past that are explaining character's reasoning for decisions or showing a history of the characters in a specific place that we're 'currently' in.

The action is fast and pretty easy to follow, despite being more convoluted at times.

The characters themselves are very likeable and I really wanted to hug them for most of the book. We have themes of prejudice, betrayal, trust and an amazing found family. There's also sarcasm woven in. Also, I really liked the attitude to gender and sexual orientation in this book.

I could write more and more about 'Witch King' and my love for it, but I just overall really recommend it.
Being thrown pretty suddenly into the world in the beginning paid off as I've felt like I was really spending time with the characters.
I can't wait to get a physical copy of this book and it will go straight on my favorites bookshelf.

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Thank you to Tor Publishing and NetGalley for the eARC of Witch King in exchange for my honest review.

The first 40% of this book is hard to get through, while even the middle 20% struggled a bit as well. The world building was extremely dense, even more so than I feel like a normal fantasy book tends to be.

It felt as if much of the book was meant to be left up to the reader’s interpretation of the book. Kai switches bodies and the narrative switches from past to present so often that I was left attempting to play catch up. This made it so the emotional beats of the story just didn’t hit like I feel like they were meant to. I almost feel like this would have worked better with the past information being it’s own book and the present being the second book.

I’m assuming this is going to be a series and it will continue to build and grow so I’m not necessarily ready to count out more of these if that’s the case. Hopefully further books can help expound a bit and be a bit more of a straightforward timeline! I also think I could potentially benefit more with a physical copy to make checking information that happened prior a bit simpler.

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3.5 stars - Is anyone surprised that a new Martha Wells cast is delightful & memorable? No, no they are not, since character work has been a consistent strength in her work. The writing and setting were also great, but plot wise, this was oddly paced for my tastes. I think this would have benefited from being shorter (dare I say even a novella)

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Thank you for this copy of Witch King.
I loved the story as it's a really original world with lots of informations in the first half of the book. The characters are well-described and I could easily jump into the story once I better understood who is who. The fact the story is told at the present with chapters about past events is really interesting as it's fluidly written and makes total sense. The only down point for me is a slow start and lots of informations (which is necessary) as I prefer fast-paced stories but I still really enjoyed it!

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The kind of rich, developed world that chugs along of its own volition long after the reader has finished the book.

Wells continues exploring recurring themes such as being an outsider, found family, grief and loss, as well as hitting juicy pop-culture favorite tropes like hurt/comfort, long established relationships, and accidental adoptive parenting. Not cozy fantasy exactly, but still sure to be an instant comfort reread option for fans of second-world fantasy.

Highly recommended for new fans and old.

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“Witch King” is a complex, dizzying, engrossing fantasy epic. I love fantasy, but this I felt had a steeper learning curve than most. You’re dropped into the middle of this world without any context and asked to go along for a slow burn fantasy mystery epic. It’s a little bit like learning a new language. Once my brain started piecing things together and sorted all the characters and their backgrounds and worlds and histories out it got a bit easier but I’m not gonna lie and pretend I wasn’t confused at many points throughout this story. It’s complicated even more by time jumps back and forth in time. Still it’s a testament to what a fantastic writer Wells is that none of this pulled me out of this world and away from these compellingly fascinating characters. Kai and Zeide will become fast favorites and you will be begging for more of them by the end of this unique work of fantasy. An epic, yet intimate beginning to what hopefully is a wonderful new series. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

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This was an incredibly intricate and involved novel. There are dual timelines, clearly delineated and only one narrator/pov which is also helpful to keep things straight. Theres a LOT of action and show, don't tell which is how you learn to the players (demons, witches, Hierarchs, etc) and what they're capable of. The ending is actually quite masterful and well done. I still have some questions but I don't know if I just missed it in the story or if it wasn't fully explored. Very much enjoyed this; Wells is a really great writer.

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I kind of loved this book. It’s an epic fantasy with a rich world that we get to see affected over a long period of time via these characters with long lifespans and through two time lines alternating between the past and the present. Seeing the results of the characters revolutionary actions in the past contrasted with what’s happening in the present and seeing characters who only knew about the events that happened from a historical perspective was something I really enjoyed. Seeing how the different people’s cultures and their politics interacted and the way the book explored gender identity dynamics was also really interesting. The magic systems are well constructed and smoothly implemented in the story in a really intuitive way. The story is rich and complex and yet how Martha Wells brings these elements together feels effortless.

This isn’t a quick light read, it’s something that should be enjoyed and savored when you have the time to dedicate to it and really get immersed in the story. Witch King is a stand-alone as far as I know and wraps up in a satisfying way but there is definitely more that can be explored and I would be excited to read more about this world if the author decides to continue it in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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This was an amazing fantasy book! I loved this so much. I was hooked from the beginning and I thought that this was an amazing read.
I just reviewed Witch King by Martha Wells. #NetGalley
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Publishing for giving me a digital copy of "Witch King" by Martha Wells in exchange for an honest review.

I think the best place to start is this: if you came to Witch King by way of Wells's sci-fi masterpiece Murderbot series, please be aware that these are very different stories. The subject, the setting, the tone, and the style, are all completely different. If you want Murderbot but in epic fantasy form, you will not find it in Witch King.

The story begins when demon Kaiisteron, Prince of the Fourth House of the Underearth (Kai for short) and his friend Witch Ziede Daiyahah awaken in a magical tomb, finding they've been betrayed in advance of a major world summit. Ziede's wife Tahren Stargard is missing and their collective absence from the summit could have serious implications. They immediately fight off an expositor (a type of magic wielder) who would have used Kai's abilities for his own nefarious purposes. They escape, hitch a ride with a magically encumbered whale, collect a street urchin and a mute Witch as sidekicks, fight another expositor, and set out to find Tahren.

If this feels like a lot, you are correct. It is. But there's more!

The story then breaks into alternating chapters of different time periods, The Present and The Past. The Present traces their journey to find Tahren. The Past traces Kai's arrival in the human world decades prior, the result of a peace treaty between underearth demons and an ancestor of the Saredi plainspeople. When members of the Saredi die, their bodies are inhabited by demons such as Kai, who then live among them filling the roles of those whose bodies they now inhabit. Among the Saredi, it's an accepted practice, but other societies are ignorant and fearful of the demons.

Kai isn't on the surface long when. a group called the Hierarchs appear on the scene and use an absolutely devastating form of magic to subjugate or annihilate the rest of the world, the Saredi included. Kai's entire adopted family is killed and he is taken prisoner. He is eventually rescued by, and then partners with, human prince-heir Bashasa. Bashasa is a member of the Benais-arik, held hostage by the Hierarchs to ensure his family's cooperation.

Kai and Bashasa's initial goal is only to wreck havoc and go down fighting; they have no expectation of surviving, let alone winning. And yet, somehow they do. Of course they do. Their path to victory parallels the path Kai and Ziede take decades later in their search for Tahren.

To be honest, I wasn't totally sold on Witch King in the beginning. The alternating timelines don't align with any real clarity until around 40%. World-building is a bit bewildering until you have collected enough detail to piece everything together and if you don't pay attention, you're going to miss important details. All of which means that this book requires effort. I almost felt like I should read it a second time before writing this review (I didn't, so please forgive an misrepresentations.)

As much detail as there is, some areas could have used more development. For example, their adopted urchin Sanja and Witch colleague Tenes didn't feel like fully-realized characters; they were convenient mechanisms to assist in the plot and to round out the Found Family vibe, but never really owned their spaces in the story.

If you're willing to keep an open mind and to make a commitment, you'll find an interesting story. I was particularly interested in the dynamics of gender identity and I loved the LGBQT aspects. I enjoyed the story, but I can't say it's for everyone.

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In the beginning, the Grass King clans made a deal with the underearth - they traded the death of a clan member for a young demon. Kaiisteron, the Witch King, was a demon living with the Saredi clan, until he was captured and taken to the Cageling Demon Court. Kai is rescued by the charismatic Bashasa Calis, a Prince-heir turned hostage, who leads the liberation of the Summer Halls.

Years later, Kai awakens in an underwater tomb to see his dead body encased in a glass coffin. A magician comes to enslave Kai, but he takes a new body and rescues his friend Ziede. Kai and Ziede must discover why they were entombed, who was behind it, and why their allies have disappeared. They need help, but they can’t trust anyone.

Being an avid fan of The Murderbot Diaries, I was beyond excited to read this book! It was engaging with a well-crafted plot and immersive worldbuilding. Witch King is a face-paced, action-packed fantasy with complex characters and detailed descriptions of people, places, and artifacts. The story unfolds in dual timelines, alternating between the character’s current quest for answers, and Kai’s past, as his origin story is slowly uncovered.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for providing this book for review consideration. All opinions are mine.

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This had a really promising start, and I thought I was well on my way to one of the best reads of the year. I eventually fell off a reading cliff here, and totally lost the hooks this book had in me. I suspect this book will be quite polarizing. In the end, it did not end up being for me.

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Witch King was A fresh fantasy from the queen of Sci-Fi, Martha Wells. Rich world building and I really loved it. I love the slow pace so I could understand more about the world building first. The characters were amazing, I love the dynamic between them.

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So much clever worldbuilding, not enough character.

The story starts out with a 'what happened before' scenario with the protagonist entombed, and the plot unravels from there. How did this happen? Who captured the Witch King and why? And who the hell are these characters we're meeting at the very beginning?
All of this is embedded in a very rich world with its very own system of magic, mythology and politics. From the very start I was eager to find the answer to all the questions above and more. And it's very promising that they might get answered in two timelines (past and present).
Unfortunately the book quickly gets deep into exposition of court politics and and introduces a lot of groups and people at once without explaining a lot. This made it hard to follow for me, while on the other hand the characters - who seemed really intriguing in the beginning - are hard to grasp.
So even though the world is really well thought through and like nothing I've ever read, I just couldn't fall into the world and could not go deeply into the characters and their inner life and motivations. For me the book was all description and facts, but not enough emotions and passion.
3/5 stars

Thank you so much @netgalley and @torbooks for the eARC

(Repost due to merging accounts)

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This was absolutely breath taking. A fresh new take on the genre. Everything about this is fun. Can’t wait to read more from this author

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Thank you to Netgalley, TOR, and the Author for this ARC!
I have had my eye on this book since it was announced. I was beside myself with joy when I got approved to read this book early. For my Goodreads peep reading this review, YES, pick it up and enjoy. From the very beginning, I loved Kai. He is beyond cheeky. His cheek and wit literally sparkle on each page. Martha Well sure does know how to write them. The story trope of Found family is well served in this book. Other things to know: Casual Worldbuilding, Nonbinary rep, and Sapphic rep.
Overall a real fun time.

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DNF-ed at 50%.

I don't think I would be this disappointed if it wasn't a Martha Wells's book. But after almost half the read of me not caring at all, I have to give up on this one.

I’ve ran into several books lately that start with a list of all characters, and I don't like this new trend. I guess the concept is supposed to make the narration flow easier because the author don't have to worry about introducing the backgrounds of the new characters. But that doesn't make the story flow better for us the readers.

First, we are met with a long list of names and titles we couldn't care less about because we don't know any of these people. And then, every time a new name is introduced in the story, I’m supposed to scroll back to the beginning to figure out who we are talking about? How exactly does that help my reading go smoothly?

Plus, everything was so slow and just – thrown in together. Not engaging and really hard to get through.

I loved this author’s previous work and I’d be willing to check her future books. But this one wasn’t for me.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the arc.

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This is an absorbing epic fantasy, with a story told in two alternating timelines and lots of intricate political, military, and interpersonal plots. If you're not interested in tracking lots of confusing fantasy names for people and places, this won't be for you. That said, if twisty epic fantasy is your jam, this book rules. Martha Wells has a fantastic gift for breathing life into characters. The magic and the world are fascinating, and unfold fast enough to keep you interested without being overwhelmed with information and names. I would be delighted to see a sequel or more stories in this world, but also think this could stand on its own, and am excited to read this again knowing how it ends and see what else I pick up on.

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I ended up really liking the world and the characters of Witch King, but I will admit that it took some perseverance. I can't quite point to why but it felt like the story didn't really get rolling until about 2/3 through the book. The world did feel very rich and interesting but I felt disconnected for the first part of the story--perhaps it was just too much unfamiliar stuff all at once. That said, I did get pulled in eventually, and ended up enjoying the book overall.

3.5/5

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