Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Publishing Date: August 2011
Genre: fantasy, young adult
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.
Everything about the Baen, the dark-haired and brown-eyed people, bothers Ryder. His mother’s consumption of maiden’s woe is to blame for her insanity and obsession with reviving her witchcraft. Ryder feels burdened by his life, growing up into the father figure of the household before he was ready. But great things are happening. When the Baen Falpian enters his mind, Ryder is determined to seek him out and exact revenge. Upon meeting Falpian, and their connection and talent as one, Ryder’s plans begin to change in the midst of a Baen and Witchlander war.
If high fantasy is your cup of tea, Witchlanders is it. Coakley expertly creates an entirely new world for readers, with everything one can relate to: mental instability, skepticism in lore, love for family, unexpected burdens. These trials and triumphs are set in the backdrop of a highly prejudiced and beautifully descriptive magical world, the Witchlands and the Bitterlands. It was stunning and I wanted to learn more.
Falpian and Ryder were interesting characters as well. They were quite complex characters, never truly seeing eye to eye with one another due to their deeply ingrained prejudices, and yet they understood their purpose in the impending war and worked together. Every step these boys took had disastrous consequences. It was difficult to side with one over the other due to the psychological and emotional complexity, which was actually very refreshing to read.
There is very little YA out there with high fantasy like these and characters as difficult as Falpian and Ryder. This novel is meant as a stand-alone, which is rather a shame. I’d love to read more about the Witchlands and Bitterlands. The ending is a solid one, but there so many other aspects to this world and to the characters that I’d love to explore.