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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Witchlanders (edition 2011)

by Lena Coakley

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1492180,266 (3.77)2
Authors:Lena Coakley
Info:Atheneum (2011), Hardcover, 416 pages
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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley




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A nice after-the-war story, with an interesting world and conflict. I did wish that some of the minor characters had been more developed, but if there are more books to come (possibly hinted at but not necessary), that could change. ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
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 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A unique fantasy with a fantastic and believable world that revolves around magic, fascinating creatures, and well rounded characters.

Opening Sentence: Ryder woke to the sound of clattering bones.

The Review:

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley is a world filled with magic and fantasy. Not only does Witchlanders contain witches, but it also contains a very detailed world and a culture full of religious beliefs.

We begin the story with Ryder, the eldest son of a witchlander, who lives on the hills between the coven and the town. Along with his two sisters, they care for their land and also for their mother. One evening, Ryder finds his mother reading the future through bones thrown in a bowl. Regardless of the promise to never throw those bones again, she seeks for signs of danger in their future. In the midst of an ongoing war between the Witchlanders and the Baen people, Ryder is caught between his mother’s beliefs and his own. But who will he believe? What will he do to save his town from danger?

A decision creates a ripple as fast as fire to dry bush, and Ryder must take a journey and own up to his responsibility and his actions alone. There are questions left unanswered, and some answers too surprising even for Ryder. Ryder grows up a lot on this journey, accepting changes physically and spiritually. Never believing in his mother’s beliefs, he finds that he holds magic, and possibly share the same beliefs after all.

Falpian is the Baen, a young boy who has it all. Spoiled by riches and luxury, the one thing that he covets is his father’s approval. Without it, he feels he amounts to nothing. He mourns the death of his brother, and is somewhat exiled at the edge of the Baen border. Living in solitude, Falpian must find who he is and what his purpose in life is. Falpian meets an unexpected stranger and learns truths that shake the very core of his being. Who will he choose to trust and will he survive the journey to the truth?

Coakley surprised me with the world that she created. I must be honest and say that I was expecting a female protagonist. Only because of the cover art, but that is neither here nor there. Coakley’s world is so imaginative and detailed, that it became real. The hills that belong to Ryder, or the landscape that Falpian saw each morning, I was there alongside them, taking it all in.

The alternating point-of-views were a little confusing. I felt that a majority of the story belonged to Ryder, and that Falpian was an afterthought. I would have liked to understand Falpian more, and delve into his past and what past experiences made him who he is today. Both Ryder and Falpian each have their own struggles, and despite my wants and needs for this story, Coakley did a fantastic job writing their differences and conflicts, yet putting them in this linear timeline. They had symbolic parallels, adding to the engaging experience of the world.

Notable Scene:

Ryder had a moment to stumble out of the water and prepare himself. Then, like a heavy weight pressing down from above, the cold came. Ryder heard a hissing sound, like an intake of breath, as the water on his clothing froze stiff. He gasped, and Dassen let out a bellow of pain. Cold. Frigid cold.

“Hurry up!” said Dassen. “Keep moving.” His words were clouds in the air now, and his beard was white with ice. Above them the clouds, like purple fingers, seemed to reach out to grip the valley. Winter had arrived.

“The river will be frozen by tomorrow,” said Ryder. “What will we do about the creatures then?”

“We’ll fight. And we’ll pray to the Goddess. What else can we do? We don’t even know what these things are or what magic made them.”

What magic. Out of the blue, Ryder remembered the singing he’d heard in his mind, and he remembered the conversation he’d had with his mother that morning. Something even colder than the chilling snaked its way around his heart and tightened its grip.

“Yes we do know, Dassen,” he said. “My mother told me. She said there was a Baen in the mountains. He must have made these things.”

Dassen’s face hardened. Then he looked at Ryder and smiled grimly. “Well, we Witchlanders know how to kill a Baen, don’t we?”

FTC Advisory: Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Witchlanders. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Jun 26, 2012 |
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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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