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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: August 30, 2011
Pages: 411
Source: For Review from Simon and Schuster Canada (Thank you!)
Rating: 4 Stars - I Loved It!

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?
But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—
Are about him.

In short: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley is a fascinating and original high fantasy debut with a refreshing Bromance.
The synopsis for this book is a bit misleading. You would think the story was all about Ryder but it was really about two main characters and their relationship: Ryder, a Witchlander, and Falpian, a Baen. The synopsis also suggests, to me anyway, that romance is likely between Ryder and this "beautiful and silent witch" he must confront, but there is barely a hint of such a thing. Also misleading: the cover. There is no character in the book who has the features of the girl on this cover, pale skin and blond hair. In the world of Witchlanders, the Witchlander race has brown skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, whereas the Baen race has pale skin, black hair, and black eyes. Even the one mixed race character of note does not have the features of the girl on this cover. So that's odd.

Even though I was expecting a much different book, I loved the book I ended up getting. Witchlanders is a high fantasy tale with a richly developed and creative world. Coakley created her own complex and involved history of the Witchlander and Baen people and their longstanding feud. I was just so impressed by Coakley's imagination, to create a whole new world, creatures, magics, and religions. The background information is integrated so well with the story; the reader is not removed from the action in the process of learning more about the lore. The world building was definitely the highlight for me in Witchlanders.

Something else that I really enjoyed and found refreshing in Witchlanders was the lack of romance. Instead, we got a hardcore Bromance between Ryder and Falpian. It was interesting to follow their story as they find each other and learn their destiny. Something I was less fond of was the character building which I found a bit lacking. I just needed a bit more. Sometimes I found myself confused with certain character motivations that weren't explained as well as they could be. One character that I truly loved though was Bo, Falpian's sabre-toothed Dreadhound, who was intelligent and endearing. Though if you know me, it's really no surprise that I would be so taken with a charming dog in a book.

The pacing was well done and flowed quickly and the final action sequence was especially intense and lengthy. The final clues as to the antagonist and the reasonings behind their actions were uncovered brilliantly. The immediate conflict in the story was wrapped up nicely and yet, a continuing conflict was left open. I am unable to find any evidence of a sequel, however, leaving me to believe Witchlanders is a standalone. I didn't even know standalones existed anymore.

Stalk the Author (not for serious):

*Read as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge


  1. "I didn't even know standalones existed anymore."

    Ha! True story.

    I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed this! It sounds completely different from anything else out there so I'm looking forward to picking it up. I'm especially curious to see how I'll do without a romance...hmmm. Interesting stuff! ;)

  2. Agh! Another whitewashed cover! Shame. Really the cover should have featured the guys or at least Bo! Me thinks.

    Okay, I'm not going to deny I squeed over the 'Bromance' thing.

    The world building definitely sounds fascinating. It excites me in unexplained ways when it is done well.

    This really does sound like a story in which you'd want a follow up, and hopefully if it is, better character development will present itself.

    This review makes me happy. I'm looking forward to reading the book myself. Can't wait to cuddle up with a sabre-toothed Dreadhound.

  3. I'm really glad to hear that you enjoyed Witchlanders! Thanks for giving me a heads-up about the misleading cover and how the plot summary doesn't necessarily reflect what's to be expected in the novel!

  4. Stephanie: You're right: it was completely different from any YA that I've read lately. I don't particularly need a romance for me to enjoy a story, myself. I'll be interested to hear how you fared without one and your thoughts in general on it.

    Missie: It really is whitewashing. I assume the girl on the cover is meant to be the one Ryder confronts in the synopsis, but she actually has brown skin, though paler than Witchlanders' skin and dark blonde, almost brown hair. And she really does not have a huge part in the story. There really should have been the two guys! Or Bo, I agree. He is just so loveable. I hope a sequel is in the works too! It's not necessary, but I know I would read it.

    Midnight Bloom: No problem. I wasn't disappointed or anything from not getting what was expected, because I actually enjoyed the real product more than what I was expecting!

  5. I haven't heard of this one before, but your review and the awesome cover have me curious. I will have to be on the lookout for it.

    Andrea @ Reading Lark

  6. I've been curious about this one, hadn't heard much about it until now but I loved the cover. Sort of bummed that it doesn't really have much to do with the story inside but glad that it was a great one. Will be looking forward to it. Great review! =)

  7. It's always a little off-putting when you go in expecting certain things based on the blurb only to find things aren't what you were led to believe at all. It's really nice that the story you got was entertaining and memorable though, and I kind of like the idea of a bromance instead of a romance. I'm a romance fan, but it's nice to have just a good story sometimes:)

  8. It sounds like this was a cover and summary fail.

    I wouldn't expect all you said about the book from the cover, it is very misleading.


    Still, I'm glad for a bromance! you see little of those.

  9. I hadn't heard too much about this one, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! I love high fantasy, so I think Witchlanders would be right up my alley. It's a bummer that the summary and cover are misleading, though! But yay for bromance! :p
    Great review, Aylee! :)

  10. Andrea: The cover is quite awesome and is part of the reason I wanted to read it... too bad it just really did not fit with the actual book.

    Cynthia: It was a relief for me that even though the story didn't fit the cover, at least that wasn't a complete disappointment because I actually liked the story I got better than the one I was expecting to get!

    Jenny: It was off-putting but I got over it fairly quickly when I realized it wasn't going to be about a fair-skinned blonde and a romance. The actual story is much more interesting than that! Though I hope you can still like it without a romance.

    Alex: It was so nice and refreshing to see a good, if totally unexpected male friendship. I'm not sure how the cover and synopsis could be so off. I guess they probably know what they're doing to sell books, much more than I do.

    Lauren: I love high fantasy too, though surprisingly I'm not too well versed in it to be honest. I read much more urban fantasy, perhaps because there is a higher prevalence of that in books today. I'll have to make more of an effort to seek out high fantasy reads.

  11. A misleading cover + summary? Yikes.

    But regardless, your review has me even more interested in the book! I love richly developed worlds. Nice review! :)

  12. It's always annoying when the cover and summary don't match up as well with the book as they could have but in this case, it wasn't a disappointment which is a relief!

  13. I hadn't heard of this one before your review but it sounds interesting. And even though I like my books with romance in them, it is always refreshing to read a book where that isn't the main focus.

  14. No romance?? Blasphemy! I'm totally curious by the bromance though :P I haven't read too many books about witches, let alone male ones. Thanks for the review!

  15. Bailey and Laura: Heh, I hope that despite there being no romance, you can still enjoy it. The bromance was pretty cute, I thought!

  16. No romance! That is refreshing. Not every teen book has to have it. I love the cover! Glad to hear the world building is good :)

  17. Yay for standalones! This one sounds fabulous, Aylee, and I'm so glad to read your review because I just received it, and I was totally hooked by the premise. I'm glad to see I won't be let down :)

  18. Ooh, I'm on board for a good bromance. I don't always need a love interest! This one sounds refreshing and exciting.

  19. Julie: I agree that not every YA has to have a romance that the plot revolves around. There certainly has been a prevalence of them since Twilight, it seems.

    Melissa: I'm not 100% positive that it's a standalone but it seems like it may be one because I didn't see anything on Goodreads (not that Goodreads is the most reliable source or anything). I hope you love it! The premise is pretty unique!

    Logan: Hurray for a lack of love interest! Don't get me wrong though, I mean I do like reading about cute romances too. It was just a nice change of pace.

  20. You gotta admire standalones these days, sounds impressive :)

  21. I haven't read too many books with a Bromance. That sounds really fun. I'm all for romance but like everything else, it gets tiring. It's nice for a change. This sounds like a great book.

  22. Blueicegal: Indeed. For an author to be able tell an involved, detailed story in one book is impressive these days.

    T.B.: It is nice to read a standalone. That's not to say that I don't enjoy my series and trilogies, because I do, I love them. But it's a nice change.

    Alison: I haven't read too many books with a Bromance either. But I really did enjoy watching their friendship grow. And it's definitely a nice change from the usual romance.

  23. Lol, I always find it strange too reading a standalone because everything seems to either be a part of a series or have an open ending.

    The summary would suggest that there's going to be a romance but I'll take the bromance since it's something different :)

  24. I downloaded this one from galley grab. I planned to start reading it but got all caught up in The Unwanteds. Ok that story rocks!

    Readingbyour detailed review rekindle's my excitement for Witchlanders. I like dog characters too. Plus, thank goodness you straightened me out on the romance piece because I've read too many overpowering romance books lately. But I have to ask what is "Bromance".?

  25. Zahida: This one I believe is a standalone but it had a pretty open ending I think, as well. There could be a sequel... and I hope there is! I think the summary suggested at a romance because that's just what's popular these days in YA.

    Gina: Ooh, The Unwanteds sounds awesome! It definitely sounds like my kind of read! "Bromance" is a term that describes the love and affection shared by two straight males. Basically, a friendship :)

  26. Wow, this book sounds amazing. Thank you for such a great review!! (:

    -Haley from Ya-Aholic (:

  27. I really liked this one too! The bromance was my favorite part. And the world building. I really hope she writes another book to continue their story together. I want to explore the world of the Baen and see Ryder and Falpian's relationship grow even more.

  28. I hope she writes another one too. I heard maybe a hint from somewhere that she is thinking about it so I look forward to that!

  29. I love that you used to word Bromance in your review. I am excited to get to this one! It's coming up on my TBR. Thanks for the review!

  30. Heh, it seemed like an appropriate term to use. I hope you love it!