The Mist-Torn Witches is a book that kind of leaves me torn. In some aspects, it’s a really great fantasy book and in others it just lacks… something. The Mist-Torn Witches is a rather short, fun little murder mystery with some magic thrown in for good measure. It’s the kind of fantasy that is a lot of fun to read, but ends up being not quite so memorable.
The two main protagonists in The Mist-Torn Witches are sisters, Celine and Amelie. Celine earns their money by pretending to be a seer and her sister Amelie is the tom-boy, protector of the two. She can kick ass and take names. The plot really starts running when it becomes apparent that two princes are vying for power over their area. One of them is shadowy and presented as being almost unbelievably evil. The other is a haunted ghost of a man who, in contrast to his evil brother, is almost so good and angelic he’s unbelievable, despite the fact that something is obviously wrong with him.
This somewhat illuminates my underlying problems with this book. The Mist-Torn Witches is a lot of fun. It’s tightly written with a fast plot, but the book itself lacks some depth and thought that would have made it more enjoyable and believable. The characters, as I described, are fun and interesting, but their characterization is two-dimensional and predictable and this makes them pretty forgettable and hard to care about. The world itself suffers from the same issues. Despite the fact that Hendee obviously thought deeply into a rather complex(ish) political system, there’s a two-dimensionality to it that makes the world feel small and pastel in color.
The two sisters are called to help the (good) prince discover who is stealing souls from the young women in his castle. Celine and Amelie both learn more about themselves as they investigate these murders. They also uncover some side plots and the world and political system grows a bit more interesting due to the fact that they are in the middle of it. A few of the castle servants seem to know more about the girls and/or what is going on than they should, so clues are dropped throughout the book. There are a few small info-dumps, which can be annoying but I honestly don’t know how else Hendee could inform her readers of certain aspects of the world and plot without infodumps.
It’s obvious that The Mist-Torn Witches is the first book in a series, and Hendee spends plenty of time laying the groundwork for the rest of the series. Again, this is a slight issue. While I generally expect the first book in a series to lay groundwork for the rest of the series, I usually expect to be a bit more impressed by the groundwork. Instead of creating a very visual, vibrant, memorable world, it’s rather forgettable and lackluster. This allows Hendee to basically do whatever she wants with her series in the future, but it’s hard for me to be excited about a series with such a lackluster world.
I might be complaining a lot, but there are plenty of good things about this book. For example, Hendee knows exactly how to pace her plot. Things happen quickly, which makes this a very fast read and even though the book itself lacks depth, it is surprisingly absorbing. The sisters are interesting (if not memorable) and Hendee left plenty of room for them to grow. There is a hint of romance for both sisters, but Hendee is smart and keeps the romantic notes as a hint rather than overpowering. Instead, she is doggedly focused on the plot and she drives it forward at a shockingly fast pace. She leaves plenty of the questions open at the end, which will require further installments for answers.
The Mist-Torn Witches is fun, but forgettable. But I look forward to seeing if it improves as the series grows.
The Mist-Torn Witches — (2013- ) Publisher: National bestselling author Barb Hendee presents a dark, fascinating new world and the story of two sisters who will discover they have far more power than they ever envisioned…. In a small village in the nation of Droevinka, orphaned sisters Céline and Amelie Fawe scrape out a living selling herbal medicines in their apothecary shop. Céline earns additional money by posing as a seer and pretending to read people’s futures. But they exist in a land of great noble houses, all vying for power, and when the sisters refuse the orders of a warlord prince, they must flee and are forced to depend on the warlord prince’s brother, Anton, for a temporary haven. A series of bizarre deaths of pretty young girls is plaguing the village surrounding Prince Anton’s castle. He offers Céline and Amelie permanent protection if they can use their “skills” to find the killer. With little choice, the sisters enter a world unknown to them — of fine gowns and banquets and advances from powerful men. Their survival depends on catching a murderer who appears to walk through walls and vanish without a trace — and the danger grows with each passing night.