Wit’ch Fire

11 06 2008

Wit\'ch Fire Cover

ISBN: 9781841491509

Pages: 491

Publication Date: 1998

“Drums beat back the stillness of the winter’s valley, snow etching the landscape in silver. A hawk screeched a protest at the interruption of its night-time nesting.”

Jim Czajkowski, a veterinarian by trade and writing under one of his pen names James Clemens, makes his fantasy debut with the first book of his The Banned and the Banished series, entitled Wit’ch Fire. Published in 1998, and before the author achieved success with other series such as Godslayer and Sigma Force, Wit’ch Fire shows clear signs of a novice writer: such as the extensive overuse of apostrophes in almost everything, which seems novel at first, but quickly becomes an annoyance. Another sign is the relatively cliché theme of a band of misfit, multi-racial, multi-species characters banding together around a central character to defeat the darkest evil.

Character development in this book is kept to a minimum, which may or may not be deliberate, what with it being the first of a five book series and all. At times, however, the book comes across as almost like those old Goosebump books. You know what I’m talking about, when every chapter finishes on such a cliffhanger and you sort of hold your breathe and think “What’s going to happen to these characters?”. It seems like a you’re reading a soap opera, if that makes any sense, and for better or worse.

Elena Morin’stal, the young (she’s 13 years old when the novel starts) daughter of orchard keepers, longs to leave the valley of trees where she’s lived her short life to see the world. She is a child of Alasea, a land whose inherent magic of Chi long ago deserted it, leaving the land and its peoples all but helpless in the face of Gul’gotha, invaders from across the ocean. Alasea’s people have been subjugated and assimilated, and its true history has been destroyed, forgotten by all but a select few individuals. Living in the valley, however, Elena is blissfully unaware of most of that. All that changes when, after a long day spent working in her parents’ orchard, she is surprised and delighted by the long-awaited occurrence of her first blood. The joy of becoming a woman is short-lived for Elena though, when the forbidden magic awakening in her draws the attention of an ancient evil that has waited centuries for a prophecy to be fulfilled.

A young soldier and a wizened dark-mage come to Elena’s parents, accusing Elena of something horrible and demanding that she be turned over as a wit’ch. Her parents refuse, and all hell breaks loose shortly thereafter in appalling fashion, with powerful “magicks” and revolting other-wordly creatures leaving Elena without a family in less than a day. Her beloved brother Joach is taken by the Dark Lord’s evil, dragonlike skal’tum, and Elena is left alone in the world. Alone, but for the small and diverse group that has banded around her, also drawn by the budding of her power and the lines prophecy. Er’ril of Standi is a wandering one-armed juggler, handsome but unbelievably ancient: cursed by the failure of a desperate attempt against the invading Gul’gotha to wander Alasea for centuries on end; never aging and never dying. Nee’lahn is a Nyphai, a tree sprite who is the last living of her kind. Kral, a towering mountain man come down to the valley to avenge the death of a kinsman at the hands of the skal’tum, is also drawn into the fight to keep Elena from the clutches of the Dark Lord.

As public opinion is (shockingly easily) swayed against Elena, and while Er’ril and the others battle and flee to keep her from being taken, another group of odd companions is being formed. Tol’chuk is a half-breed og’re banished from his home for accidentally killing another of his tribe. Mogweed and Fardale are si’lura twins, members of a shape shifting race who are unfortunately stuck in the form of a human and a tree wolf respectively. They too are banished, until such time as they can free themselves of their static shapes and become true si’lura once again. The og’re and the si’lura agree to travel together across og’re lands, and unwittingly accept into their party Rockingham, the young soldier who came with the dark-mage to steal Elena away; who is a creature influenced far more by the Dark Lord then even Rockingham himself is aware of. The two groups will come together under a mountain and face off against the Dark Lord and his powers in the first battle of the war for the soul of the land.

Wit’ch Fire is a enthralling first installment to this wonderful five book series of The Banned and the Banished. It kept me turning each page against my body’s call of exhaustion and my interest never seemed to wane. Even though one knows James Clemens is a novice and his tell tale sign give him away, this story has proven a great and chilling read. It make the reader’s emotions go from gut wrenching fear to bile-stirring disgust. In one word: brilliant.

I give it 4 out of 5.

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3 responses

11 06 2008
Inkie

great review, really helpful and very balanced!! 😉

11 06 2008
kellyansara

LOL thanks Inkie!!!!! Great that it lived up to a Lovers standards… thanks for converting

15 04 2009
Marc Sleigh

I bought/read this book and then went out and bought the other 4. i think a rating of 4 out of 5 is to low 😀

Great Books

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