“Witch King” by Martha Wells | Book Review

“A demon is not afraid of a beast, no matter how big. What are you afraid of, Kai?”

Witch King by Martha Wells

Witch King by Martha Wells

LENGTH: 426 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Tordotcom

RELEASE DATE: 30 May 2023


From the breakout SFF superstar author of Murderbot comes a remarkable story of power and friendship, of trust and betrayal, and of the families we choose.

“I didn’t know you were a… demon.”
“You idiot. I’m the demon.”
Kai’s having a long day in Martha Wells’ WITCH KING….

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.

WITCH KING is Martha Wells’s first new fantasy in over a decade, drawing together her signature ability to create characters we adore and identify with, alongside breathtaking action and adventure, and the wit and charm we’ve come to expect from one of the leading writers of her generation.

My Review

When Kai returned, Sanja was explaining about Menlas and tell- ing Ziede what had happened in the tomb below. “He said he was going to enslave a great demon, make him a familiar.”

“Yes, that’s what all the idiots think,” Ziede told her.

So like, I was uber excited for this book. Like, when Witch King was announced last May, I was here for it. I absolutely couldn’t wait. I loved The Murderbot Diaries, and I really wanted to see what else Martha Wells was capable of with her writing.

And then I read The Cloud Roads. And I… didn’t like it all that much. But! I was still excited to read this book when it came out!

But I found that Witch King fell short of expectations as well. I dunno if I just don’t like the way Wells writes fantasy, or if it’s her style in third person, but I haven’t liked any of the fantasy books that I’ve read by her. Yet.

(And yes, this is why the Witch King by Martha Wells book review took so long.)

The Stuff I Liked

Ziede’s turned inward. “How did it come to this, Kai? I remember how we started. Now you’re all razor barbs and I’m an angry shrew.”

“No,” he said, stung by that description of herself. “You’re righteously furious. You’ve always had the high ground, Ziede. Don’t let them say you don’t.” She was still looking away into the dark. “You’re right about me and the razors, though.” Most of the time Kai felt like he was made of razors, bleeding from the inside.

She reached over and squeezed his hand. “I’ve always liked your razors, Kai. They’ve cut us out of a number of tangles. But it would be good if one day you could stop bleeding.”

I’ll definitely give her credit where credit is due though. Her characters are once again, fantastic. I love Kai, and I love his little team. They’ve all just got an instantly likeable dynamic, and you can just tell what kind of people everyone is in just a couple of sentences. Martha Wells writes characters extremely well. And the dialogue was once again *chef’s kiss.*

Also, I really liked the magic system in this book. Magic drawn through pain? So cool.

All the Stuff I Didn’t Like

Expositors didn’t draw power from pain in their own body, like Kai did, or by forming relationships with the spirits inherent in the different levels of the world, both living and otherwise, like Witches. Expositors drew their power from life: new life, stolen life, life on the point of death. It was why they were so dangerous, why greed was their driving force. It was why their power was so susceptible to a true demon’s ability to steal life from anything living or once living. But that was something the Saredi hadn’t realized until it was too late.

But other than that, I didn’t really care for pretty much everything else about the novel. Yes, it has a strong start; but I don’t feel that it kept up the momentum.

Part of this is because the book pretty much constantly switches back and forth between Then and Now type chapters. Yes people, this is one of those kinds of books. It’s a 2-in-1 story. And yeah, I sometimes like those, but that’s only when the past chapter ratio is very low compared to the rest of the story. I’m sure that this is a personal preference thing on my part, but I just couldn’t get past the storytelling here.

Another thing about this book was that I found it to be somehow boring. Like, stuff is constantly happening, there’s really never a dull moment. But at the same time, it’s boring?!? I don’t really know how to describe it, honestly.

I also normally would’ve DNF-ed a book like this, but since I was anticipating it for so long… I wanted to know how it ended.

Kai stepped close, circled to face his prey, and wrapped his hand around the ghoul’s throat. “Do mortals just walk into your charnel house all the time? Am I one? Am I stupid?”

The ghoul choked out. “I didn’t know you were a…”

“Say it,” Kai smiled.

“…a demon.”

“You idiot,” Kai leaned closer to whisper, “I’m the demon.”

And one last thing: I found the plot summary to be extremely misleading. And the quote from Witch King included with it is in the book a completely different way in which it’s presented there. It’s also, like, halfway through the novel, which is someplace that I didn’t expect it.

Final Thoughts

But yeah, that’s my book review for Witch King by Martha Wells. I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. Heck, it only gets another half star than it otherwise would’ve gotten because Martha Wells wrote it. (Otherwise I would have rated it two and a half stars.) And yeah, I don’t really know if I can recommend it because of that.

Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and have an awesome day/night!

See ya ~Mar


The Murderbot Diaries Review

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