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Monday, August 29, 2011

Witch Song by Amber Argyle

Witch Song by Amber Argyle
Fantasy: 305 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2011
from Rhemalda Publishing

The world is changing. Once, Witch Song controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons--but not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by a traitor. All but Brusenna. As the echo of their songs fade, the traitor grows stronger. Now she is coming for Brusenna. Her guardian has sworn to protect her, but even he can't stop the Dark Witch. Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find the traitor. Fight her. Defeat her. Because if Brusenna doesn't, there won't be anything left to save.

When I read the first page of this, I got kind of excited.  The MC, Brusenna, is simply trying to buy something from the village market and is being harassed by a vendor without having actually done anything.  I love a good outsider/underdog story, and the initial setup gave me flashbacks to Plain Kate, which I loved.  I had high hopes.  And though that Otherness, that outsider-ness is a part of the story, it turned out to be a sort of minimal part of the story.  Which is fine: it's not the story's fault that I didn't get what I thought I was going to get.

But what I did get...I don't have much to say about.  I don't know how to make this not sound like a really negative review, because in truth, it's not.  I didn't hate this book.  I didn't even really dislike this book.  But I didn't really love it or like it all that much either.  I experienced the typical "Oh I like that, eww that not so much"s that one does while reading, but it never really went one way or the other for me.  It was a wash, and in the end I was left feeling a little indifferent.

How do I explain this...

It's like soup.
You can make soup from a can and it's good, it's serviceable.  But it's one note, usually kinda salty and a bit mushy.  Or you can spend hours making soup from scratch, layering the flavors and creating something complex and savory, that bursts with flavor on your tongue.  Both are soup.  Both can be satisfying in their own soup-way.  But I'm not really a canned soup kinda girl.  I will spend hours making a frakking bowl of soup, so that when I sit down to eat it I can savor it.  I can taste all of those different ingredients in every bite, and the way they play off of each other to make something more.
soup vs Soup.
You eat soup for sustenance; you eat Soup because it warms your soul.
So this was like eating a bowl of soup when what I wanted was a bowl of Soup.  Not bad, but not something that's going to leave much of an impression.

If that much-generalized, utterly ridiculous metaphor doesn't do it for you, here are some of the specifics:

Things I liked:
  • The sort of adventure story, with the traveling and the procuring of horses and boats and whatnot.
  • The visual aspects of the writing.  I was really able to see the world Argyle created and picture how it looked, how it worked, etc.
  • Brusenna's personal story of growth.  It was not quite a coming of age story, but in some ways it kind of was.  It was nice to see her open up and let people in after the sheltered life she's led - and it was nice to see her stop pushing people away, which sounds like what I just said, but is different.  I was thankful for the time she finally stopped actively pushing people away and being self-pitying.
  •  Gollum Pogg.
  • Joshen.  I really liked Joshen.
Things I liked not so much:
  • The names.  Like, basically any of them.
  • I felt like the writing could have used a bit less Tell and a lot more Show.  It felt like surface writing, like we never got to really dig down deep and discover the world.  What makes Brusenna so special?  What turned Espen into the Dark Witch? I don't want to be told these things, I want to discover them, and be shown these things and fit them together into solid world-building.
  • The big BA witches fought with seeds.  Like, they had seed pods in their belts and they would throw them at each other like 4th of July snappers.  Yes, toxic vapors and killer thorns would come out of the seeds, which is coolish, and yes, the whole seeds and greenery and nature thing is very earthy and Wiccan, and I think what Argyle was going for.  But I just kept picturing this Gotta-Save-The-Earth showdown as Gotta-Catchem-All Pok√© balls being thrown around...
  • And speaking of the duel, it was...anti-climactic.  There was a LOT of buildup, but instead of being really tense during the showdown, I found myself on the verge of giggling.  And then it went on for another 50 pages, with a 2nd Big Bad, which I both liked and disliked.
  • And speaking of ↑↑, I hate even a whiff of deus ex machina, so this...  

I have a feeling I am going to end up in the minority on this one.  It's getting very high ratings and a lot of praise, so obviously people are connecting with it.  And maybe at a different time in my life, when I was younger perhaps, I would have liked this more and connected with Brusenna and her world, and would have cared a bit more.  As it is, I neither recommend nor discourage the reading of this.  It was middle of the road for me, and will likely fade from mind pretty quickly, but I am sure it will find its audience and ardent supporters.
And it's pretty.


  1. I agree with a lot of what you said here, although I do think that I liked the book more than you did. But mostly, I'm laughing hysterically because this review is bomb-awesome! Seriously- I LOVE it! (And I totally bugged about the dues ex machina too! And, umm... It's kinda of a lot more than a hint! Not sure I've actually seen such a blatant d-e-m outside of the Greeks... :P)
    But, I did like the book. I really liked the idea of the songs & ya, I liked me some Joshen too! :)

  2. I really liked the fact that you said frakken. Haha.

    This does sound like one I'd like to get to at some point, but I'm definitely not rushing out to get it.

  3. I have not quite finished this book, and I must say I agree with pretty much everything you've said. It's not a bad book, but it's not really great either. It's really just sort-of meh.

  4. I love how I had to look up what the "deus ex machina" literary device was!!!! Yup, awesome review!


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