Wit'ch Fire
James Clemens
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the curledup.com RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Get *Wit'ch Fire* delivered to your door! The Banned & the Banished:
Wit'ch Fire

James Clemens
Del Rey
June 1998
448 pages
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

previous reviewnext review

First-time author James Clemens, a veterinarian by trade, makes his fantasy debut with the first book of the epic "The Banned and the Banished," entitled Wit'ch Fire. Several aspects of the novel give Clemens away as a novice. There's a rampant overuse of apostrophes; the main character is surrounded and aided by a motley crew of multispecies and multiracial outcasts; the protagonist comes into her heritage of magic with the onset of her menses. Yet a number of details and storyline points balance that which is overeager and overdone, including the ancient-mariner life of one important character and Curled Up With a Good Book the origins of the requisite overpowering evil that awakens from its slumber and must be defeated to protect the very existence of the world, as well as the hint of the story itself being forbidden knowledge.

Elena Morin'stal, the young daughter of orchardkeepers, longs to leave the valley of trees where she's lived her short life to see and experience more of the world. She is a child of Alasea, a land whose inherent magic of Chi long ago deserted it, leaving the land and its peoples all but helpless in the face of Gul'gotha invaders from across the ocean. Alasea's peoples have been subjugated and assimilated, and its true history has been destroyed. Small, secret cadres and a few individuals know the long-forgotten truths of the land, but Elena is privy to none of them as the story begins. After a long day spent working in her parents orchard, she is surprised and delighted by the long-awaited occurence of her first blood. The joy of becoming a woman is short-lived for Elena, though. A bizarre, uncontrollable power courses through and from her, and the forbidden magic awakening in her calls the attention of an ancient evil that has waited centuries for a prophecy to be fulfilled.

A young soldier and a wizened darkmage come to Elena's parents, demanding that she be turned over as a wit'ch. When her parents refuse, all hell breaks loose in appalling fashion, with powerful magics and revolting otherwordly creatures leaving Elena bereft in less than a day of nearly her entire family. Her beloved brother Joach is taken by the Dark Lord's dragonlike skal'tum, and Elena is left to the assistance of a small and extremely diverse group of erstwhile companions. They, too, have been drawn by the budding of her power and by the lines of prophecy. Er'ril of Standi is a wandering one-armed juggler, handsome but unbelievably ancient, cursed by the failure of a desperate attempt against the invading Gul'gotha to wander Alasea for centuries on end, never aging and never dying. Nee'lahn is a nyphai, a tree sprite who is the last living of her kind. Kral, a towering mountain man come down to the valley to avenge the death of a kinsman on the skal'tum, is drawn into the fight to keep Elena from the clutches of the Dark Lord.

As public opinion is (shockingly easily) swayed against Elena, and while Er'ril and the others battle and flee to keep her from being taken, another group of odd companions is being formed. Tol'chuk is a half-breed og're banished from his home for accidentally killing another of his tribe. Mogweed and Fardale are si'lura twins, members of a shapeshifting race who are unfortunately stuck in the form of a human and of a treewolf respectively. They too are banished, until such time as they can free themselves of their static shapes and become true si'lura once again. The og're and the si'lura agree to travel together across og're lands, and unwittingly accept into their party Rockingham, the young soldier who came with the darkmage to steal Elena away, and who is a creature far more of the Dark Lord's making than even Rockingham himself is aware of. The two groups will come together under a mountain and face off against the Dark Lord and his powers in the first battle of the war for the soul of a land.

Wit'ch Fire is a serviceable first installment. With the main characters introduced and their stories begun, the sequel should walk a smoother road. Writing is art and craft, and as with either, improves with practice. With momentum and the rocky first novel behind him, James Clemens might just be able to carve a niche for himself on the crowded shelves of the epic fantasy genre.

buy *Wit'ch Fire* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.