Bloodwitch by Timandra Whitecastle
“What is history, but lessons not learned?”
-- Chris Wooding, The Ember Blade
The Bloodwitch novella was my introduction into Timandra Whitecastle’s “Living Blade” world, and it serves as backstory to one of the series’ supporting characters. If this is the level of high-stakes consequences, stimulating magic, and colorful prose I can come to expect from Timandra’s work, then she has earned a new fan.
We are first introduced to Jan as a street hustler, hosting a modified version of three-card-monte that she’s able to win at will. Jan has a knack for controlling and manipulating water with her mind, so she combines this ability with her oddly powerful gift of persuasion to swindle money out of common folk. We soon learn than Jan leads a double life when she abandons her fellow grifters to sleep at home each night. “Home” turns out to be an upscale manor owned by her rich aunt, who parades Jan around like a prized heifer ready to be auctioned off to the most noble suitor. Both of Jan’s lives seem to be hurtling towards disaster until a mysterious man shows up in Jan’s life, and immediately takes an interest in her abilities.
“Jan took a shaky breath and caught Jochanan’s gaze from across the room. As though he had read her thoughts. He raised his glass to her in a routine gesture, and it felt like singing into the softest of beds and suffocating under the weight of the feather cushions. It felt like standing alone in a room pressed with bodies, dizzy, restless, her heartbeat pounding in her throat with the desire to get out. It felt like death.”
Jan must make a life-changing decision on how she wants her future to play out, and in doing so, sets off a torrid chain of events that impacts the world at large. She encounters groups of X-Men-adjacent water mages, an ancient cult-like university, a dangerous hierarchy of power and control, a cursed race, and even more packed in to a story that feels too large to fit inside one novella. But somehow it does, and although the pace is breakneck at times, Whitecastle chooses to share landmark scenes that best displays the progression of Jan’s character. It’s a fine line to walk, as there are some time jumps that had potential to show some interesting scenes of learning and growth. Instead, we focus on stories that are both more personal, diving into Jan’s tragic past, as well as events more grandiose, such as how the history of the ancients is doomed to repeat itself.
There are several prevalent themes in the story I could discuss, but I’m going to focus on two of them that stood out the most. Jan’s progression in the book is comparable to Walter White, who Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan was famously quoted as wanting to turn his beloved character “from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” Jan certainly didn’t start out as a gentle English schoolmaster, but her progression into something darker and more vicious is a slippery slope, and a fascinating one to witness. Jan is cocky, which makes her dangerous. She lies, she questions authority, and she shows signs of ruthlessness. As her power grows, so does her ability to persuade and bend others’ wills to her command. How much is she a product of her environment, and how much is she the cause of it?
The mind-controlling persuasion techniques are also an interesting concept in this story. We witness some characters train to utilize these abilities, but it is discouraged to practice these tools on each other. “Know that these techniques exist, but do not use them.” One character ridicules this theme, thinking that at all times, everyone is utilizing skills of persuasion. These skills are directly influential on the result of any given communication. How could they not be practiced on each other? It is argued that this channel of artificial persuasion is human nature, tuned to a higher degree. This gave me pause and allowed me to think of how and why we phrase our requests in certain ways to achieve specific goals. Is it immoral to want to elevate that ability to achieve what you seek? What if the intention is involuntary?
Overall, I quite enjoyed this story, and read it in one sitting. Whitecastle does an admirable job of quickly introducing ideas, settings, and conflicts in a fresh and engaging manner. Every time I thought I knew where the story was headed, it veered off into unchartered territory, keeping me guessing as well as engrossed. There was an uneasy sense of malevolence that hung over the story, giving me a sense that I was witnessing a car crash in slow motion. It was an impressive feat to pull off in such a short novella. Like others, I wish it could have gone on longer, and spent a bit more time delving into details that were only mentioned in passing. Though I also feel like it did an excellent job introducing me to a talented new author, and the potential in the world she has created. A recommended read.
This Bloodwitch book review was written by Adam Weller
Have you read Bloodwitch?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Bloodwitch reader reviews
8/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Powder Mage Trilogy
The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his...
Seven Blades in Black
Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of...
The Magicians series
In a secret world of forbidden knowledge, power comes at a terrible price... Quentin Coldwater's life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turn...
In the first age of Andeira, men and dragons brought together the two halves of the elemental magic of the world to create a union through which their magic, and the world,...
Dawn of the Exile
For the damned, redemption may be just a mad dream…Years have passed since the demon Tarrik and his master, the sorcerer Ren, destroyed the servants of S...
The House of Shattered Wings
Aliette de Bodard
Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and...
Smoke and Stone
Michael R Fletcher
After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last of humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city. Beyond the outermost wall lies endless desert haunted by the souls of ...
Steel Crow Saga
A soldier with a curseTala lost her family to the empress's army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress's crimes don't haunt her ...
When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson. In fact, Dr Johnson was only half right. There is in Lo...
Great fantasy books published in 2018
"A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story," this #1 New York Times bestseller is "both epic and intimate in its scop...
Age of War
Michael J Sullivan
The alliance of humans and renegade Fhrey is fragile - and about to be tested as never before. Persephone keeps the human clans from turning on one another through her iron...
Legion: Lies of the Beholder
Stephen Leeds, also known as 'Legion', has a unique mental condition. He can become an expert on any subject in hours... and with every new area of expertise a new ...
A Veil of Spears
The Night of Endless Swords nearly saw the destruction of Sharakhai, and since then the Kings have come down hard on the rebelloious Moonless Host. Hundreds have been murde...
The Ember Blade
A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questione...
Fire and Blood
George RR Martin
From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones - one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series - comes a definitive history of West...
In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of S...
Iron and Magic
Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh ...
The Fall of Gondolin
In the Tale of The Fall of Gondolin are two of the greatest powers in the world. There is Morgoth of the uttermost evil, unseen in this story but ruling over a vast militar...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: