Witch King by Martha Wells

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Eric Mok (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Audio
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 414 pages (13 hours 9 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s).

WITCH KING is excellent and I had a great time reading it. The worldbuilding is nuanced and well-developed, with factions and history in a way that implies much more going on, but not getting bogged down in little details that don’t matter to this particular story. It deals with colonization and empire from the perspective of a quasi-immortal character (Kai) who has not been around forever, but has been around long enough that things which are part of his culture and history are now details that would fascinate only historians. The narrative shifts between two time periods in his life. This means that some events are mentioned before they were actually shown, but it was generally in a way that made the whole thing easier to follow. The two timelines are connected, as the main characters are trying to figure out whether the plan they were working on when they were betrayed is still salvageable. 

I like the friendship between the two main characters, with zero hints of any romance. Kai is trying to figure out their next moves, piecing together what changed in the years since they were shut away. They’re stalwart companions in a way that is frustratingly rare in an opposite gender pairing of protagonists, but is very good here. I love the worldbuilding and characterization, and especially how those are intertwined in the person of the Witch King. He explains things in a way that inform the current plot points without slowing down the story. Kai's method of quasi-immortality is a neat bit of worldbuilding, one of several kinds of magic which are practiced by different groups. There's the feeling that they're all part of one world but are following different culturally-specific pathways to magic. Kai's work-around for accessing magic which should be off-limits to him helps to bolster this initial impression. I want there to be more in this world, I want more time with these characters. The story is very self-contained and, narratively speaking, doesn’t need a sequel, so I just have to read some of this author's earlier fantasy books to get what I’m looking for. 

Moderate CW for blood, violence, slavery, torture, animal cruelty, self harm, war, genocide, murder, death.

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