Monday, October 30, 2006

Review: Warrior and Witch

The follow-up to Doppelganger, Marie Brennan's Warrior and Witch details what happens after her main protagonist, Mirei, effectively refutes one of the fundamental beliefs of her society.

Having proven that killing the witch's doppelganger robs the Witch of the fifth element, the Void, Mirei is offered little time to rest. Witch society at Starfell fractures and nothing short of a civil war ensues. The other surviving doppelgangers are immediately placed in danger, and Mirei leaves Starfell to gather the four doppelganger children who reside at Hunter schools.

One of the things I loved about this book is that Ms. Brennan has made Satomi, the Void Prime, a viewpoint character. Satomi's was my favorite character arc in the first book, and it was wonderful to see her character used to her full potential in Warrior and Witch.

Part One mainly deals with Mirei's quest to retrieve the doppelganger children. (My favorite of the four is Amas.) I enjoyed the quest; it's well-paced and believable.

Part Two deals with the dissident witches, who have aligned themselves with a territory whose religion agrees with their viewpoint—that the Void is unnatural, and so is Mirei. This is the part where Brennan's writing skills truly shine. She crafts both believable physical fight scenes and some very impressive magical duels.

Plus, part two has exceptional plot twists. One of the twists, involving the identity of the witch who has been spying on Starfell for the dissidents... well, I don't want to ruin it for you. I'll just say, nice slight of hand, Ms. Brennan.

As for two of the other surprises waiting, well, they both managed to elicit audible gasps. In fact, after the second one, I actually had to pause reading for a moment to take in what had happened.

Very few books lately have offered an impacting twist as believable. It was natural, so entirely appropriate for the character, but it still wasn't what I expected.

I noted in Doppelganger that the dialogue wasn't quite up to the standards of the narration. Well, it's improved in Warrior and Witch. There's a greater sense of individual tone for the characters, and a fantastic scene in part one where Mirei's dialogue style and tone changes because she's putting on an act.

A lot happens in the novel that we hear through other characters, which is done well. However, two of the characters introduced as playing relevant parts disappear for the middle of the book. I understand that in order to include more scenes of them, the novel would have increased in length, but I still found myself wondering what Eclipse and Eikyo were doing.

I was particularly interested in the Eikyo plotline, and I would enjoyed seeing it featured more with her as a viewpoint character. (So we were shown what happened instead of being told of it by Nae and Rin later.)

The ending of the book is lovely, but not quite as satisfying as the ending to Doppelganger. Mainly because I found myself wondering what became of Indera. (I'd like to think that she joins a troupe of temple dancers, and over time, the emptiness in her heart fades and she's able to lead a happy life, using her talents to honor the Goddess.)

Regardless, I'm pleased to say Marie Brennan has earned a place on my shelf of favorite authors.

Rating: B+

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