D.J. Butler, Witchy Winter (Baen 978-1-4814-8314-8, $25.00,591pp, hc) April 2018. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.
War and winter are coming in this second volume in the epic flintlock fantasy series begun in Witchy Eye, which introduced this fascinating alternate history of a world where magic is real, and has greatly changed the course of history. Religions are fascinatingly altered, and the magic, from various cultures, is intriguing. Despite the changes, the sense of frontier adventure is familiar, and names remain, just tantalizingly changed: America is just the New World, where William Penn and Benjamin Franklin helped build an empire, and now their descendants are fighting for control. Very much a middle book, this sprawling volume follows various characters, spread out from New Orleans to Ohio and Philadelphia. Sarah Calhoun, now going by her rightful name Sarah Elytharias Penn, is heading for the Firstborn Kingdom of Cahokia to take her father’s throne, but of course it won’t be that easy, with the beastkind armies of Simon Sword attacking, the Empire’s agents working on the “Pacification” of the region, and other powerful Firstborn already vying for the throne. Elsewhere, conflict builds: New Orleans is caught in a power struggle, and Sarah’s sister Margaret appears briefly. In contrast, Sarah’s brother Nathaniel Chapel becomes a major character in this volume. He’s unaware of his true identity and thought mad because of the voices he hears, but he gets some unexpected help from an Anisinaabe tribesman. The Emperor, Thomas Penn, finally takes the stage as well, not the fearsome monster he seemed from a distance, but bad enough in his calculatingly ruthless way. There’s a lot going on, with plots on plots and a huge cast, but there are some wonderful characters and plenty of lively adventures to keep things fun and full of wonder.
Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.
This review and more like it in the May 2018 issue of Locus.
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