“The Witch King” is a fantasy parallel of real-world issues, for example: racism, slavery, and anti-LGBTQA+ movements to just name the big ones. This book is not an allegory of any of that, and is quite clear in its messaging. I don’t say this because it’s a bad thing, but it more to accurately summarize the plot of this story without getting into specific details that could be considered a spoiler. I want/need to read more diverse books so reading a book by a trans author about a trans witch was perfect, especially when you throw in the complications of two different worlds (literally) colliding and then the difficulties of fighting against a fated-mate type trope. But while I love the idea of Wyatt, as a main character I found him to be anticlimactic.
I’m still very much in a “I want only lite world building” mode, but this book felt like the world building was just a sheer layer put over the story in the second round of revisions. I have no clue if that’s actually what happened, but that’s what it felt like to me when you have Wyatt, who is a witch and not human (he tells us this many times) and comes from a secluded world where they are purposely cut off from human things who, after 2-3 years in the human world, is so ingrained in memes and pop culture that he doesn’t, at all, sound like he wasn’t born amongst humans. And while I liked the sarcastic voice Wyatt has, it bled over into all the other characters—fae, witch and human alike—to where no one read as a distinct entity to me which, in turn, had the whole world-building collapse in on itself due to contradictions. Which maybe wouldn’t have bothered me or I wouldn’t have even noticed if I ended up liking Wyatt more. While a lot of Wyatt’s anger is justified, we spend 200 pages easily on nothing but Wyatt’s anger—at people who do and don’t deserve it—as he plays petty pranks on the kingdom as a way to get them to hate him? Which they already did so it was pointless? I don’t know but I was getting annoyed by Wyatt knowing and acknowledging that he’s being a brat, and then willfully choosing to keep doing the “bad thing”. This shifts in the last 20% of the book or so, but by then I was too annoyed for things to really turn around.
By the time the twists in the story are revealed—and then nothing happens with them—I got the sinking feeling that this whole book was just a set up for book two in this series, as very little was actually accomplished in this novel. I was proven right and I hate that. I love a good fantasy allegory for real life issues, especially around BLM and LGBTQA+ rights, but this book wasn’t an allegory. The fantasy elements were not well applied and remain just as much a mystery as Wyatt’s magic is to him. I did really like how quickly things escalated toward the end, I just wanted there to be more of a payoff for all the things that happened, but given the placement in the story… that was never going to happen.
Overall I found the story to be just all right. The chemistry between Wyatt and Emyr wasn’t really there despite how often Wyatt tells us he’s gay—like really, really gay. Wyatt always seemed more in love with Briar than Emyr, but Briar wasn’t given enough growth in this book for her to be much more than a comfort character to Wyatt, which always felt like a missed opportunity to me. Hopefully their extremely co-dependent relationship gets more of the attention it deserves so both these characters can experience true growth, but, honestly, I don’t know yet if I care enough about the story to continue with this series. I loved just how much representation of so many different kinds of characters and orientations there were in this book, but without a solid plot foundation it’s hard for me to want to revisit this world or these characters, hence the 3.5 stars. I’m all for unlikeable characters who truly grow, I just don’t really think Wyatt did much of that, or at least not enough for me to NEED to keep going with this series.
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