Balancing world-building and political manoeuvring with a fast-moving plot, Moss creates a fantasy narrative that will satisfy readers who love depth without losing those who seek a dramatic adventure.
This novel is the third volume of the Witch’s Trilogy. As such it contains spoilers of previous books.
Okira has destroyed the Kraken, driving the acolytes from the centre of their power. However, High Priest Alistir has fled to one of the island kingdoms and defeat has only made him more determined to eradicate every witch from the Sea of Tears. With the slaughter of acolytes by witches or their sympathisers likely to only support Alistir’s claims that witches are a threat, how can a young woman with no experience of civilisation – let alone politics – defeat his schemes?
Unlike some series, where the defeat of the big baddie partway through results in a steady escalation of still more dangerous monsters/mages/demons, Moss makes full use of the reality of defeating a monster in a society without the internet or broadcast media: most people don’t know it’s happened. With the Acolytes basing much of their power on stopping the Kraken from rampaging, absence of evidence is more than not evidence of absence; it can be – and is – cast as evidence that the Acolytes are protecting people.
Moss also takes advantage of other potential causes of distrust and paranoia: Korik/Brother Hawk is free of the Acolytes, but people who suffered at his hand when he was still cursed have little reason to welcome him with open arms; the only truth most islanders know is that witches are dangerous, so even peaceful efforts to stop Alistir risk being met with fear; and that most basic of human truths, a person who opposes one evil might not be doing it from selfless virtue.
In parallel with the political issues, Moss weaves physical ones; while the Kraken is gone, the other hostile creatures that inhabit the Sea of Tears are not, making travel still a hazardous business.
This novel is still as character-driven as the previous volumes: in contrast to Okira’s social naïvety and optimism, Korik is burdened by both years of experience and the crimes he was forced to commit during those years. In addition, the breaking of his curse might have taken the indestructibility that came with it, leaving him unsure whether the plans that would have worked before will now fail because he is weaker.
As befits a more political narrative, Moss has expanded the supporting cast to include characters from all levels of the wider society. While many of these do not feature strongly in the narrative, they each have both nuance and purpose, giving both a feeling of the wider society and the ways in which Okira’s struggle is more than just a fight between witches and Acolytes.
Overall, I enjoyed this book greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking fantasy that is light without being shallow, and political without being convoluted.
I received a free copy from the author in exchange for a fair review.