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Book Reviews by Kristie Groves

Warrior and Witch
Marie Brennan
Aspect Books, 2007

Review by Kristie Groves


Marie Brennan is the pseudonym of Bryn Neuenschwander, an associate instructor at Indiana University who has a degree in anthropology, folklore and mythology, magna cum laude, from Harvard University, and is currently pursuing her graduate degree in the complexities of role playing games - both narrative and live action - as they apply to her interests of anthropology and folklore.

She called upon her knowledge of folklore in her first fiction book, Doppelganger (2006) which revolved around the concept that for each witch born, there is a doppelganger born as well - the two bodies linked by one soul.

But, according to tradition, the doppelganger must be killed to ensure that the witch-half has control over her magic. That is, until the birth of the witch, Miryo.

At the end of Doppelganger, Miryo, a witch from Starfall, joins with her doppelganger, Mirage, a warrior from Silverfire, despite great opposition. For the first time, a warrior and witch come together as one soul and one body, and are know as Mirei.

This joining brings about waves of dissent in Warrior and Witch that rival all the drama of Doppelganger. Tradition has been challenged by Mirei?s very existence, and there are those who feel she is an abomination. Although she has been an outsider before, nothing can compare to the weight of suspicions by both warriors and witches alike in this new chapter of the story.

Satomi, the leader of the witches? ruling Primes, has become Mirei?s biggest supporter. However, some of the Primes do not agree and feel that Satomi?s support means the eventual death of all their traditions, resulting in loss of purity in the witches? future generations. A rebellion ensues between those who wish for a new path and those who will stop at nothing to stop the change brought on by the catalyst, Mirei?s continued existence. With magic, treachery, and murder, all factions thrust themselves into a bloody war for dominancy and the power to choose the way of life for the future.

We mustn?t forget the Warriors; they too have a place in this tale. They have hated and feared the witches since it all began. And their allegiances will be brought to the test during this clash between the witches. Who will they side with and whom can they trust? They will have to deal with whoever is triumphant in this upheaval and they must decide which side to champion.

Another twist to the story is the culture of the Cousins, those witches who fail their final test and yet survive physically. Not much is know about them, for they blend into the background to serve their witch sisters as servants and protectors. In this second book, their culture is touched upon, lending more political intrigue to an already fascinating world of divisions.

The main character in Warrior and Witch, Mirei, is likable and endlessly interesting. The reader will be eternally fascinated in what will happen to her next. No one can say Mirei?s adventures are boring or trite. As she struggles to integrate her two lives into one, she is beset from all sides. She must rely on her allies to help her quest to define her place in this world and be weary of traitors and spies. She is the first witch to become one with her other half and in all ways, she is treading new territory, with no one to guide her. She can turn however, to her friends, new and old, to help sort out her place.

For those readers who have not read the first book, the author does a fine job of catching them up throughout the storyline. Even more helpful is the glossary in the back of the book, which helps define the characters and concepts throughout both books. Brennan has created a complex world. Her fans will be delighted that she has not simplified the story one bit in this sequel to Doppelganger. While at times it can be confusing, no one can ever say this tale is lackluster.

Brennan has writing moxie; she has obviously taken great care to create the storyline and characters found within Warrior and Witch.

One weakness may be this very complexity, however. At times, the unconventional character names can blend together, leaving the reader no recourse than to continually flip to the glossary for help identifying her large cast of characters. However, despite this drawback, the story itself is intoxicating and begs the reader to press on. And if they do, they will be rewarded.

If you are looking for an easy read, this may not be the book for you. A simple romance novel will do the trick for that. No, this work is full of grand notions, multiple characters, and political twists and turns. And with that said, this reviewer recommends this book to all who enjoy a substantial read. This one has a sturdy fantasy backbone, fleshed out with a large amount of adventure.

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