Sunday, May 26, 2013

The MIst-Torn Witches - Barb Hendee

The Mist-Torn Witches
Barb Hendee

This novel, the first in a new series, is set in the world of the Noble Dead series, written by the author and her husband.  I admit, I haven’t read any of those books (for reasons I cannot figure) but I have read most of the Vampire Memories series by this author and find them to be unique and entertaining.  This is all to say that I am not qualified to detail exactly how linked this series is to the Noble Dead series.  I’m just taking this book on its own merits, and it succeeds quite well.
Celine and Amelie live in a small village.  As two girls alone (their parents are both dead) they eke out a living in their mother’s apothecary shop.  In addition to being a healer, their mother was a seer with a true gift.  Celine quickly learns to “read” customers who come to her, wanting information about their future.  She feels a bit guilty about it, but figures there’s no real harm done.  Until a member of local Prince’s household arrives with much-needed coin and an order to tell a woman that her proposed marriage will be happy.  Celine agrees, since refusing could result in her death.  When the woman arrives for her reading, Celine is shocked when she receives a true vision of the woman’s future.  To her horror, the proposed husband will have the woman killed.  Celine is completely unable to lie to this woman and tells her the truth.  Hours later, the shop is firebombed.
Running from the fire, Celine and Amalie are rescued by men in strange livery.  They’re from a neighboring Prince’s household.  The two Princes are brothers, vying to be named their father’s heir.  The two are taken to Prince Anton’s castle.  It’s a revelation.  The castle is surrounded by a village full of prosperous and safe people.  Here, the Prince’s men bring order and safety.  Prince Anton tells the sisters that they can have the local apothecary shop to live and trade in, as long as Celine uses her gift to help him solve a local mystery.  Recently, several young women have been killed by means unknown.  They go to bed perfectly healthy, only to be found in the morning, still lying in their beds, but as dessicated husks.  The deal is too good to pass up, despite the inherent risks when dealing with royalty.

Whether you know the Noble Dead books or not (I don’t) this is a solidly entertaining fantasy.  The sisters have very legitimate reasons for acting and reacting as they do.  They’ve spent years fearing the local Prince and his men-at-arms.  Being suddenly offered a life of safety and prosperity seems too good to be true.  Both sisters have a lot to learn about life in general and their mother’s past.  The inhabitants of the castle and surrounding village all seem very realistic.  The pacing is so quick that the pages seemed to turn themselves.  If you like your fantasy on the dark side with a dash of intrigue, you'll enjoy this book.  I hope for many more books in this series.
Rating: 8
May 2013
ISBN# 978-0-451-41415-1 (paperback)


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