A deeply immersive throwback to a beloved (and for me, foundational) species of 1990s fantasy doorstop, is full of cataclysmic intrigues between mostly immortal families, complete with map and dramatis personae ... Kai’s timelines play off each other wonderfully: Elements introduced in a dizzying rush of world building become welcome context for the flashbacks, which in turn escalate tension in the present. Wells is working at the height of her powers here, and it’s relaxing to be carried along for a ride in the company of such a phenomenal storyteller.
Regular readers of sci-fi know Martha Wells from her Murderbot Diaries ... Witch King is a fantasy novel about as far from Murderbot as it’s possible to get, and the fact that the author does it so well is a testament to her range and abilities ... What starts off seeming to be the tale of two vampiric lovers who kill and consume anyone in their way turns into a story far more complicated and fascinating ... Ms. Wells creates uniquely fascinating cultures and abilities for the people who live in her universe, including magic systems that are fully developed and beautifully described.
The complex and thoughtful Witch King is her return to the genre, a product of a master world builder with a flair for creating sweeping stories and lush settings ... The brilliance of Witch King is that it captures the feeling of this tentative peace with emotional depth but also has plenty of nail-biting moments of combat and dazzling magic, too. While its memorable characters and clear stance against authoritarianism are similar, Witch King is no Murderbot. Its prose is more lyrical and complex, less full of punchy one-liners (though there are flashes of the sardonic humor that marks Wells’ other hallmark series). What the two do share, however, is a compelling story that understands humanity at its best and worst—despite being told from the perspective of a robot or a demon.
The characters are bright and exciting, rooted by Kai, this villainous, pain-powered demon with a soft, loyal center, and the relationships that push and pull between these characters. High-fantasy fans will want to dig into this new, inventive world from one of our sf and fantasy masters.