Cover Image: Witch King

Witch King

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As a fan of the Murderbot series, I was really looking forward to a new fantasy by Martha Wells. And while I really liked this book overall, it is different than Murderbot. The world building is expansive, detailed and really really intense compared to the first Murderbot book. This isn't a bad thing at all; everything was beautifully intertwined and interesting but it was still A Lot. One thing that definitely is similar to Murderbot is the attitude and snarkiness of the main characters. They all felt like real people with real gripes, habits, and personalit -- rather than fantasy stereotypes and cardboard cutouts. The plot is a fun combination of a journey + political plotting and turnarounds, which I found engaging and refreshing, especially with the flashback chapters adding to the complexity. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a rich world fantasy with fun characters that are easy to love.

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Witch King is an adult fantasy novel following Kai who after being murdered and trapped finds a lesser mage trying to gain control of his powers. Kai, along with his friend Ziede, must figure out why they were imprisoned though Kai might not like the answers.
The world created here is very different from other fantasies with a very unique magic system. The story goes back and forth between the present focusing on the mystery of what happened to Kai and his past and how he became know as the Witch King. Martha Wells does this so well that the reader learns what is going on in the present at the same time as the characters. The flash backs give enough information on the world and the past events to be informative while also leaving a mystery.
This is one of those books that is good on a first read but will be even better on a reread when you understand what is going on Witch King is currently a stand alone but is left open enough to have sequels in the future if the author wanted to.

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Waking up and discovering someone made a strong effort to make sure your dead and stay that way is not a propitious day in a demon’s life.

I was all anticipation when I got my hands on this fantasy because I love Martha Well’s The Murderbot Diaries sci-fi series so I was willing to try her work in any genre. I already enjoy fantasy, but I don’t read it as often so it took me a bit to get settled into Witch King.

I liked how the reader starts off as clueless as the main character, Kai, about what is going on. But, then slowly the reader starts to get a picture as there are flashbacks to the past, explanations and meetings in the present as Kai the demon and his witch friend, Ziede, along with a few waifs they pick up along the way set out on a grand journey adventure to discover the truth behind the recent events and try to stay uncaptured and alive from the formidable groups ranged against them.

The setting is an earth-like place with an under-earth and lots of magical peoples and different races. Learning about this world is what keeps the reader digesting a lot of detail along the way. In fact, as much as I love audio editions, I’m glad I started this one in print first because I would have been thoroughly confused when it comes to the intricate details the reader needs to pick up to understand the nuances behind the broader plot. As it is, I’m pretty sure I missed some detail that would enhance my understanding so I’m already planning a re-read.

The characters beginning with Kai at the center of it all were fabulous. Kai was instantly likeable and I was engaged with him in all his colorful history from the beginning. I don’t usually enjoy split time plot threads equally, but I did in this case. I was happy to devour more details about Kai’s life. Martha Wells made me connect deeply with Kai and the others and really care about them and their circumstances.

There was a fabulous blend of worldbuilding, character development, and action which included some great twisting political intrigue. The descriptions of this world they live in and through the lens of the past as ways of life, races, and governments toppled and rebuilt over the centuries was full and rich.

The story wraps up in a good and satisfying place, but left room for more because the broad stage of things in both the past and the present time threads still have more play in them. Definitely recommend to other fantasy lovers.

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Unfortunately Witch King was a DNF for me at 32%. I liked the premise of it but I found it difficult to follow. I did try to push on in hope that I would gain a better understanding given high fantasy can sometimes be a little confusing at the beginning but I couldn’t grasp it and didn’t connect with the characters. I think the writing style maybe just wasn’t for me. I don’t believe I should give it a rating because I put it down to my personal view and not that of the book itself.

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He guessed his demeanor was not engendering confidence.

In a world of demons, hierarchs and ferrying whales, our hero is Kai - a demon prince of the underearth who has earned the title Witch King. The novel begins with Kai's escape from an imprisoning trap. The full stakes and situation become apparent as we bounce between his history and present day. In some ways, it reminds me of Martha Wells' earlier fantasy The Death of the Necromancer, where you have to read through much of the book to get a full picture of what's under the surface.

There's a lot here to like. Wells' descriptions can almost make you smell the tang of salt air on a coastline. And she continues to write extremely human characters, whether they are human or otherwise! Finally, while I wouldn't call this a romance by any stretch of the imagination, love drives our character and the plot in believable ways.

You, like me, might struggle with Kai's pain magic, which is triggered by intense pain and too often initiated by Kai for my taste. Self harm is cemented into the story in that way, but not in a way that I found gratuitous.

Ultimately, if you're a fantasy fan, consider this one a safe bet. Witch King will sweep you up in its current. 4/5

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Martha Wells is a genius. I fell in love with Murderbot and have devoured everything else she created since. This is a stunning world with interesting side characters. The only critique is that the naming in this book is incredibly confusing and overwhelming as too many characters have similar names, and frankly too many characters are named in general. It's too much to keep up with. But overall, what an incredible book!

So thankful to have gotten an ARC of this!

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Before Martha Wells created the amazing Murderbot stories, she wrote great fantasy stories, including The Death of the Necromancer. Her first fantasy novel in more than 10 years is Witch King. Kaiisteron, or Kai, is a demon in human form and a witch. Kai's story is told in two timelines. The past, where he first took human form and played a crucial role in overthrowing the invading Hierarchs. In the present, Kai's consciousness becomes aware sometime after his body is entombed in a watery prison. Finding a new body to inhabit, Kai frees his companion Ziede, herself a witch, and sets out to discover who murdered him and what has happened in his absence.
Wells does such an excellent job with characters, plot, and world-building. The world-building occurs in the background as you get to know the characters and follow them on their journey. In the past, Kai learns his powers and weaknesses as he is caught up in a war and captured by the Hierarchs. Prince Bashasa rescues him and uses him in his plans to free the lands from the Hierarchs. In the present, Kai searches for his murderer as well as the plot that he is certain is working to undermine the new rule. Wells uses both of these timelines to sketch a complex world with a diverse cast that have different powers, politics, motivations, and cultures. The complexity of this world is part of its charm. The alternating timelines also highlight what has changed and what has been lost.

This is a fascinating world to visit. Fans of Wells' fantasy are in for a treat!

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher.

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This was kind of a bummer for me. Let me just say that it had nothing to do with the writing or the worldbuilding. Both I liked. But more to do with the characters and plot. I unfortunately couldn't connect with any of the characters, and the plot was so slow at first, and then it just didn't hold my interest. I think the main focus for the book was the relationship between the characters. A found family relationship filled with comraderie and just a sense of knowing each other so well. Especially between Kai and Ziede. But I never got the warm and fuzzies like I wanted.

There were cool magical aspect that I really loved though, like the part with the barge. In fact, the magic system as a whole was really cool.

Thank you to the publisher and author for the copy to review!

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The plot was very convoluted to me and hard to follow. I definitely struggle with that kind of plot. I know I also struggle with dual timelines, even if I really want to find one book with that concept that I like. It helps if I can become attached to the characters to carry me through the story. Unfortunately, we don't really delve that deep into the main character, Kel. The relationships with the side characters were also not well flushed out.

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I absolutely loved this one! One of my biggest pet peeves for a first fantasy book is authors infodumping about the world or magic system within the first few pages but martha wells did a really great job of twining the information in without explicitly listing how everything worked right off the bat. It was a really good first fantasy and first in a series and I’m already excited for the next one!

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I have loved all of the Murderbot stories so I was excited to read a book by Martha Wells that was set in a full fantasy world. A world with magic, demons caught in human bodies and a conspiracy to take over the world.

Kia wakes in a room outside his body. He has no recollection of how he got there and who betrayed him. He is a demon cast out and stuck in the mortal realm, he can't die but the body he inhabits, well that is another story. With the assistance of his co-kidnappie, Ziede, he must figure out who in the present wanted him dead so much or at least out of the way. Sometimes the answers to the present lie in the past and as the story is told Kia's history is teased out. It may have some clues into the present dilemma he is in.
Mother bared her fangs. “Stop being overdramatic.” Kai would have loved to, if dramatic things would stop happening to him.

This was a strange and interesting tale. I kept thinking this book possibly when with another to explain the Immortal Patriarch's a little better. They are supposed to be 'the good guys' but didn't seem to be all that good. I'm not sure if there are other stories out there with these characters in them but they were introduced a little like the readers should know who they were.

The worldbuilding in this book was interesting. The openings between the demon realm and the mortal realm have been cut and Kia is trapped here never to return to be the demon prince he was supposed to be. He also has been able to accomplish some fantastic feats many years ago when he was part of an uprising. There was peace after the uprising but someone now wants to change the politics of the world and Kia is the only thing in their way.

The magic of this book was interesting. The mystery got a little muddy for me, so many names were very close and I lost track a few times. The pacing also seemed a little off in the present time, but the past PoV was action packed.

Overall this was a good fantasy book but the Murderbot stories are still by far my favorites and so if you haven't tried Martha Wells as an author yet I recommend to start with those.

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The beginning of this book was jarring, but having loved Well’s Murderbot series I stuck with and was richly rewarded. The more I learned about the story and the world being crafted, the more I wanted to explore! This book was so enjoyable I now want to read her entire bibliography…

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Thank you Netgalley, author, and the publishers for allowing me the opportunity to read this e-arc.

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I do love when a book throws you in to the story and you're left to catch up. This doesn't always work well if too many things are introduced at once. This had the potent to be confusing but with the flashbacks from before made it easier.

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Look, I tried. Twice.
But I just couldn't get through this one.
I dnf'd it at about 30%.

I was really excited to read Martha Wells' newest book. I love the Murderbot Diaries and since I am much more a fantasy reader than a SciFi fan I couldn't wait to read my first fantasy book by Wells.

And the beginning was ok. Nothing ground breaking but we get into the action immediately and that always helps. And then it's just...look I know I'm not the only one who said that, it's confusing. And not in the fun or mysterious way that many high fantasy books often are. It was just impossible for me to follow the story. There's way to many names, political factions, kingdoms and magic users way to early in the book.
And I really, really tried. I even tried to listen to the audiobook instead, after I had dnf'd the eBook. That wasn't better either.

I will probably give this one another chance someday, but at the moment I just can't deal with it anymore.
Looking forward to System Collapse instead.

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Recommended book which is well-written and will be enoyable fans of the author. Enoyable book and will look forward to more.

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Thanks to Netgalley for the eARC.
3.5 stars rounded up. Great writing and interesting characters; I loved the magic system created in this world! I had a hard time following the society structure and figuring out how far apart the different timelines were, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the overall story. I would definitely continue reading more books set in this world!

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Took me a while to connect with the characters but this was great. Always have been a fan. Was a little confused but I loved the cast of characters. Her writing style just works for me. The witty dialogue and funny commentary is part of what I’m there for. Loved this!

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I was enamored the moment I was thrown into the deep end in this weird story. Who are these people, why are they underwater, why does someone want to hide them away? Sometimes it's fun to be confused and feel like you're going to catch up eventually, and this was it. I didn't want this book to end. I've only read Martha Wells' Murderbot series so this was a swift and heady departure. I felt like half my questions wouldn't have answers, at least in this book. That's fine, to be honest. I felt like I met some friends halfway through a quest, jumbled around in their bag for a while, and got thrown out again when it was nearly finished. What a ride.

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A great start to a new series by Martha Wells. She's very good at making characters likable while not over-the-top righteous. I look forward to the next installment!

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