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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Witchlanders (edition 2011)

by Lena Coakley

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1662071,708 (3.77)2
Authors:Lena Coakley
Info:Atheneum (2011), Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library

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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley



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First of all this is a very misleading synopsis, so I suggest you disregard it.

This book is pure fantasy YA, there is no love story here. The "beautiful and silent witch" mentioned is not even a secondary character, and she sure as hell doesn't hold any of Ryder's secrets! Sorry, bad descriptions make me a little bit angry...

The language is very lively and simple but beautiful. The story is a bit naive and more for middle grade than adult YA. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed it.

This is coming of age story of a Witchander, Ryder and Falpian, a boy from Baen. These two connect in unexpected ways, led together by series of circumstances and prophesies.

Ryder is a sceptic, who is trying to do his best by his land and save his people, so when his half-crazed mother, high on Maiden's woe (a hallucinogenic herb) and prophesies sees his future and tells him to find Baen otherwise his lands will be in great danger, that's what he does.

Falpian's twin brother just died and all his dreams of becoming a powerful magician and making his father proud die too. Now he is grieving on the edge of Baen territory and waiting for his father to send back for him.

When Ryder and Falpian meet they naturally act with distrust and almost prerequisite hatred of warring nations. But everything changes when they discover one thing in common and have to face a common enemy...

It was a very easy and enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to the continuation of the story which ended with the promise of great adventures. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
This is a strong debut novel from author Lena Coakley. I was captivated immediately by this story. Centering on Ryder, who is a well written, strong, male protagonist, we journey along as he reluctantly follows his Destiny to join with the known enemy, question all his beliefs and knowledge and decide if he wants to stay safe within the boundaries or risk all to save not only his world but that of his enemy.

Coakley imagines for us a well drawn world where I was easily able to envision myself as an observer to all that was occurring throughout the story. I could feel the bite of the air from the Chilling and cringed as I read of Falpian's mad rush to escape the Thief Spiders, feeling them fall on my shoulders as they fell on his.

She does not leave Ryder alone as the only well written character. She surrounds him with thoughtful and fully fleshed out secondary characters that you know will continue to play vital roles throughout what I'm hoping will be a series. I was surprised by Skyla's decision at the end of the story but believe that there may be ulterior reasons for why she made that choice.

I could not put the book down. When I did I was slightly surprised to see that I was sitting in my living room and not standing on a mountain side. ( )
  slsmitty25 | Feb 11, 2015 |
I so, so enjoyed this book. I don't stumble across a lot of new, high fantasy in the YA genre often, which is sad - because I do adore that genre.

This book has everything going for it: a shady clan in the mountain, a few crazy predictions that are somehow coming true, a former enemy bubbling to the surface, vindication, revelations, twins - oh how the list goes on.

What really impressed me was Coakley's ability to manage this rather complex storyline. There are actually two main characters in this novel (you'll notice I focused mostly on one and only briefly mentioned the second), and their stories are complicated and messy. But really, really well done. I noticed the book jacket description opted to focus on Ryder as well, and largely, I think it's due to the spoilers that are inherent to Falpain's most basic story. I actually wrote something, then opted to delete it because it was such an interesting, exciting thing that happened near the beginning of the book - I didn't want to give it away.

There are twists and turns in this one that are shocking (although the one depicted on the cover, I thought, was rather obvious) and Coakley does such a lovely job with the many plots. I would very much look forward to a sequel. A really wonderful, fun book to pick up and enjoy. ( )
  leftik | Apr 3, 2013 |
"He is not on our side. But . . . are we only allowed to care about people who are on our side?" (p.268)

Witchlanders is Lena Coakley's debut novel, a YA fantasy story set on a world divided between two peoples. The copper-skinned, blonde-haired Witchlanders worship two goddesses and are governed by the red witches, who predict the future by casting bones. Their traditional enemies, the Baen, or "blackhairs," were driven out of the Witchlands into the Bitterlands in a great war several years before the novel begins. The Baen worship a male god and practice a form of magic that involves singing (they do not allow women to participate.) Animosity runs high between the two, with anger lingering over the war and crimes committed by both sides. But there are secret histories from the ancient past which neither side remembers that have the potential to change everything.

The narrative follows two young men, one on either side of the border, one in each world, who are linked by a mysterious connection. Ryder is a Witchlander, although he is very cynical towards the witches. He lives on a small farm with his sisters, and a mother who was once a witch herself, and has developed a dangerous addiction to a swamp flower which she believes enhances her visions. When she tries to warn their village about an assassin, and monsters coming to attack them, Ryder doesn't believe her.

Falpian is a young prince of the Baen. A disappointment to his father because he never developed the singing magic that runs in his family, he is sent to a lonely outpost in the mountains, on the borders of the Witchlands, to mourn for his dead brother. Falpian has only his loyal dreadhound, Bo, for company, but he is plagued by strange dreams - dreams which somehow Ryder shares.

It turns out Ryder and Falpian share a magic bond - they are talat-sa, something like soul mates (though not romantically). They must unite to stop monsters and a plot to reignite the war between the Baen and the Witchlanders.

I found Coakley's writing smooth and readable, but style-wise the prose didn't blow me away. The pacing was good and brisk, and the twists and revelations at the end were very satisfying. There is also a good message about learning to look past things like race, religion, nationality and history, and to realize that people are people wherever they are from and yes, there really are no sides. Witchlanders is definitely a solid read, and I'll be curious to see what Coakley comes out with next. ( )
  catfantastic | Jan 23, 2013 |
I read pure fantasy infrequently, though the ones I have read I have enjoyed for the most part. Witchlanders , the debut novel by Lena Coakley, falls into that category. Full disclosure: I picked it up only because I heard her speak at a conference recently, where she was accepting an award. I very much liked what she had to say and it made me want to read her book. I am happy to say that I do not regret my decision.

Since his father's death, Ryder has been in charge of the small patch of scraggy earth he and his family farms to eke out a meager existence. On top of the grueling work, he also must look after his younger sisters and most of all his mother, who is descending into madness, reverting to her old ways when she was young and lived with the Red witches. She is eating Maiden's woe to cause the visions and is making crazy prophecies. But when a new magic comes and threatens the village, Ryder is forced to consider that his mother might not be crazy after all. If he wants to save his sisters and his village, he will have to rethink everything he has ever believed in.

The best thing by far about this book is Coakley's lyrical writing style. The way she describes the Chilling, the coming of winter. The way magic works in the Witchlands, by singing voices. It is very beautiful her world. Though the story can be hard to follow- with many characters and all that world-building exposition necessary when you are creating a whole new place, it is worth while. The characters are well-rounded - flawed but well meaning. There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader doubting about the cause of the evil- red herrings well-placed and subtle.

All in all, this is a strong first novel, with a different take on the way magic works. Although the book begs for a sequel, Coakley seems reticent to announce one. Will there? Won't there? I hope there will be. ( )
  wiremonkey | Jan 15, 2013 |
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After the prediction of Ryder's mother, once a great prophet and powerful witch, comes true and their village is destroyed by a deadly assassin, Ryder embarks on a quest that takes him into the mountains in search of the destroyer.

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