‘Witch King’: demon princes deserve better than this

July 28, 2023

TITLE: Witch King
AUTHOR: Martha Wells
GENRE: Fantasy
PAGES: 415pg
PUBLISHER: Tordotcom

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

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DNF @ 60%

I typically have two rules for DNFing books: I don’t usually give them star ratings, and I almost never put them on my “read” shelf for my reading goal. I’m cutting myself some slack on this one, though, because I read nearly 300 pages of this book and it was a challenge.

Witch King is a book that I hoped to love, and by all reasoning, I should have adored this. Few things make me happier in stories than demons and antiheroes, especially when both are present in the same character, so if you combine that with Kai’s dry humor, protective nature, and hopeful-against-all-odds attitude, this demon prince should have gone down in the “Destiny’s favorite fictional characters of all time” Hall of Fame. And yet, even everything I loved about Kaiisteron couldn’t redeem this book from dreadfully slow, boring writing and a plot I couldn’t connect to, no matter how hard I tried.

Like many others, I’ve at least dipped my toes into Wells’ Murderbot series, and I found the writing so witty and engaging in the first novella that I assumed all of her books would be equally well-paced, but this felt like I was reading an entirely different author’s work. There were brief moments of the deadpan humor here and there that I loved, but they were few and far between. Mostly, Witch King was endless info-dumping, far too many characters to keep track of, and flashbacks to Kai’s past that I wish had been cut out altogether in favor of better story buildup in the story’s current day.

This was one of the toughest DNF choices I’ve made in a long time, because again, Witch King was brimming over with potential for greatness, but it missed the mark for me in so many ways that I can’t bring myself to care enough to continue trudging through.

I read a final copy I purchased myself, but for the sake of disclosure, I was also sent an early review copy by the author/publisher. All thoughts are honest and my own.

content warnings →
WARNINGS (click to expand):

violence, murder, self-harm for magical purposes, kidnapping, implied child abuse, attempted child murder, grief, betrayal, war, implied animal abuse

representation →

queer main character, sapphic side characters, casual queerness in many side characters, multiple BIPOC main and side characters


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Oh man that is such a shame. I’ve heard of the Murderbot series. I do want to check that out. Sad to hear this good have been good but wasn’t 🙁

        1. Yeah I really need to check this series out. I’ve heard good things. I feel science fiction isn’t something I pick up too often. I’m trying to read more sci-fi.

    1. Oof! This makes me so sad as this is one of my anticipated releases for this year. Who doesn’t love a good demon prince?! And I just got the first book in the Murderbot series, All Systems Red recently, too. Hopefully the Murderbot series will be better. 💀

    1. I have seen so many similar reviews about this book, so sad! It makes me hesitant to try it, unfortunately.

    1. Oh nooo, I’m so sorry. I wanted to see what you’d think before picking it up myself. Think I’ll still try 😅 Just in audio prob as you said it was slow – to speed it up. But also, yeah, not a fan of slow writing so we’ll see how I feel (whenever I get to it myself).

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