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Fantasy Review – Witches in Red

Witches in Red by Barb Hendee

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


WITCHES IN RED is the second in the Mist-Torn Witches series by Barb Hendee. As in the first, there is a mystery to solve. I think a new reader could start with this one, as Hendee gives plenty of backstory to fill in about the sisters and how they got to where they are.

Sisters Celine and Amelie are settling in to their new home, the apocethery shop given them by Prince Anton.  Celine can see a person’s future by touching them, and Amelie can see their past. They solved the murders of several young women just a few months ago by using those talents, but they just want some peace and quiet. Such is not to be.

A messenger rides in from the prince’s father with an important request. In a remote forest, in his silver mines, soldiers are inexplicably turning into ravening wolf-monsters and slaughtering their fellow men. The Prince knows about the two seers and wants Anton to send them to solve this issue and get the silver mines back up and running. Or, he threatens, he’ll give the job to Anton’s brother, the wicked Prince Damek. Anton really, really wants to be dad’s chosen heir so of course he agrees. Celine and Amelie – especially Amelie – are not happy, but off they go along with Lt Jaromir and others of his men.

It’s a complicated scenario at the mine, with soldiers suddenly turning into monsters plus a comically evil officer in charge who’s effectively enslaved most of the mine workers and earned the contempt of his men.  Even though the workers don’t have the means to leave, they’re not about to head into the mines where they might be attacked at any moment. The soldiers now regard everyone with suspicion.

Celine and Amelie find that some of the mine workers are their own people, the gypsy-like Mondyalitko, and one of them has some special powers too. But the main focus is finding what’s happening to the soldiers.

Style-wise, this is much the same book as the last. There’s not much natural flow to Hendee’s writing and I think some of the descriptions are lifted verbatim out of the last book (I did not check, so that’s just my impression).  I felt her imagery was a little better though, I had a good mental picture of the surroundings and the characters.  The sisters remain easy to like with distinguishable strengths and weaknesses, and Lt Jaromir has both good and bad traits. Plus we learn something about Rurik.  I didn’t guess the murderer, although the motive became clear pretty quickly.  The action scenes are fine but once again, it all screeches to a stop when Amelie goes into a person’s past.  Mercedes’ story was long enough, but the part devoted to the murderer seemed to go on forever.  There is an undertone of romance here but the dynamics remain as they were in the first book.

This may be a series that’s better with a longer break between the books.  In fantasy, I’m looking for prose that makes me feel something and excites my imagination. So far Hendee is doing a lot of telling and very little showing.  I’m still interested enough in this world that I’ll look for book #3, and after that who knows.




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