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Deep Witches #1

The Blackwing War

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Three thousand years ago, the Deep appeared without warning. This alien life form was quickly put to service teleporting people and cargo across great distances, which allowed mass colonization throughout the galaxy. It has also allowed Lancaster, the organization which controls access to the Deep, to grow wealthy and powerful. Cross Lancaster, and you are forced to travel between planets using standard faster-than-light technologies. Nobody wants that!

Tembi Stoneskin is having a very bad day. A Witch in service to the Deep, she spends her time disarming bombs in shipping stations. On her way home to Lancaster, the Deep shows her the aftermath of a weapons test powerful enough to slice a moon in half. While the Deep is a vast intelligence, it is a terrible communicator, and relies on its Witches to translate humanity’s requests into thoughts, moods, and impulses that it can understand. Tembi is a young Witch, but she is a skilled translator and she has learned how to speak with her powerful alien friend.

As they set off to find the source of the weapons test, Tembi and the Deep are pulled into the ongoing war between Earth-normal humans and genetically modified humans. But all wars are founded on excuses, and the Blackwing army has much more to hide than a simple shattered moon.

285 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 10, 2021

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About the author

K.B. Spangler

16 books111 followers
K.B. Spangler lives in North Carolina with her husband and two completely awful dogs. They live in the decaying house of a dead poet. She is the author and artist of the webcomic, "A Girl and Her Fed," and author of novels and short stories. All projects include themes of privacy, politics, technology, civil liberties, the human experience, and how the lines between these blur like the dickens.

If you enjoy mysteries, you want to read the RACHEL PENG books.

If you enjoy fantasy adventures, thrillers, and necromancers with ADHD, you want to read the HOPE BLACKWELL books.

If you enjoy sexy romances with sexy people who solve unsexy crimes, you want to read the JOSH GLASSMAN books.

And if you enjoy coming-of-age stories with intergalactic intelligences, you want to read STONESKIN.

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5 stars
114 (52%)
4 stars
77 (35%)
3 stars
20 (9%)
2 stars
3 (1%)
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4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,652 followers
February 7, 2022
Intricate and intriguing SF. 'The Deep' is an...alien life form? god?...basically incredibly powerful being that can change reality and transport people and things across time and space. It's also probably very young and friendly and just trying to help but doesn't really know how. Think a Lovecraftian elder god as a puppy.

The Witches are people with whom the Deep communicates. Most of them treat it like a tool or a pet: Tembi treats it as a friend.

This is a highly political novel: the Witches have their own corporate organisation but they're caught in the middle of various factions and corporations and armies including the genocidal Blackwings, who want to eliminate races of genetically modified people, and the resistance/terrorists opposing them. It's a complex set up with a lot of politics and plotting, and a lot of resonance for our times, dealing with some very grim issues, but it's written with verve and pace that keep it from being unbearably grim. The Deep is a wonderful concept and Tembi is a hugely likeable heroine. I raced through this and am looking forward to the next.
474 reviews34 followers
May 25, 2021
I enjoyed this so much that I read it all in one sitting. I've been waiting on shelving it because I wanted to write a review that could do it and my feelings justice, but it's been 2 months now and I'm afraid that if I don't list it now I'll accidentally forget to do so!

It wasn't necessarily an easy read. It deals with some brutal topics and situations. Genocide, war-crimes, poverty, murder, abuse. There's a lot going on in this. While nothing is precisely glossed over, it doesn't go out of the way to be too graphically detailed either, for which I was thankful.

I really liked the main character, she's not perfect and that's what's so great about her. She doesn't want to be perfect, she doesn't want to be seen as extraordinary, she just wants to be herself and to live a simple life.

Yet through-out the book she learns that's not a privilege she can be afforded as she uncovers, wrestles with, and ultimately tries to accept why the Deep chose her (and others) to communicate with and what it's trying to tell them.

This author also has a pleasant writing style that just seemed to hum along with just enough description to make everything feel alive, but not enough to become tedious. The pace was also excellent, neither dragging in one place or speeding ahead without pausing. Very comfortable overall.

I think I'd happily recommend this to others who want something that's more than simple entertaining fluff, but isn't so heavy that it stops being escapist fantasy. Also while this says it's book 1, it really works better having read Stoneskin first.
9 reviews
March 19, 2021
When you can do almost anything, what should you do?

This is an excellent novel. Five-star science fiction all the way around. An original fascinating setting filled with interesting, complex characters. I’ll say what I can with no spoilers.

A lot of the major characters were established in the prequel — if you want the new girl coming to magical school and to start out with more emotional attachment to everyone, start there. Or you could absolutely jump in here as things begin to get more complicated.

I love watching the heroine as she grows and gains wisdom. I love that even the bad decisions people make are understandable and believable. And I’ve never wanted to adopt a universal concept and try to make it feel better before.
89 reviews5 followers
September 28, 2022
If the prequel, "Stoneskin", was a YA novel, this one is much darker and troublesome. Tembi has grown up and tries to come to grip with a world where there is so many shades of gray and blackness but very little pure white. Tembi has seen so much of the war, working on a bomb squad to disarm bombs, and manoeuvring the politics of Lancaster, the witch organisation controlling the galaxy's logistics which refuses to pick a side in the war, despite one side being genocidal racists. All through the novel she tries to keep her head cool, to keep from doing something drastic even though she longs for it, all in the name of keeping the peace, no matter the moral cost.

And therefore I really appreciated the fact that Tembi at the end stops accepting all the diplomacy (keep everyone happy, do not pick a side, …) and instead goes back to acting on pure instinct: None of us might be absolutely good, but there is absolute evil, and the nazi-inspired Blackwings in this book are a prime example. At last she acts in the way she thinks is the right way, instead of letting others steer her; since almost everyone else in the novel is constantly plotting, never telling her the whole truth, and she is truly bad at that game and thus easily fall into their moral traps, finally going her own way altogether is the only thing making sense.

The writing is more uneven in this novel; whereas the prequel had a soft tone and a melodic language, this one is harsher written, almost angry at points. The Deep continues to be a fascinating creature, and the end promises that the next book will be more focused on it than this one was (and I was happy to see that my suspicion of what the ending words in "Stoneskin" meant seems to have been correct :) ). I think this novel was necessary to let Tembi grow as a character, but I'm really looking forward to focusing on the Deep itself.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
26 reviews
October 24, 2021
Wow. A complex, fascinating world.

A main character who becomes harder skinned ( literally) as risky things and strong emotions occur to her. A complex political environment. Redolent of James Schmitz’s Witches of Karres, and yet very different. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Terri Jones.
2,023 reviews26 followers
March 7, 2022
While I never lost interest in the plot, there were points where I wondered about where this book would end, and if I would care when we got there.

The ending is worth the journey.
I'm glad I read this. I will give the next in the series a try.

The only thing wrong with this far-future fantasy in space is the use of real-world current phrases, and the occasional reference to things like the characters of Toy Story, sprinkled throughout. And Tembi says a curse word in German for some reason. It was distracting.
2 reviews5 followers
March 13, 2021
Love at first read

How do you condense falling in love with this world and character building into a tidy review package?

I fell in love with Tembi and the Deep in the Stoneskin prequel. Their continued adventures and growth and development in the Blackwing War kept me turning pages and mourning things like bedtime and work days. I kept wanting to know what happened next and next and next! Now that I’ve finished, I’m left thinking about what I’ve learned and turning everything over and around to understand better. I will almost certainly read this book again to find new bits and nuance.

This isn’t always an easy read. The backdrop of this book is a war, and people die. Some of those people are characters i had grown to love. It was also hard reading about the cruelties of a people bent on genocide. I’m left thinking about the ways those cruelties show up here and now in real life, and how it can be easy to push people from small to much larger cruelties without them thinking too hard about it. We don’t have the tools that Tembi and her friends have, but we can take our heads out of our asses and do what’s right with the tools we do have.

I am glad I read this book and very much look forward to more books about Tembi and the Deep!
Profile Image for A.J. Seiffertt.
Author 1 book1 follower
June 12, 2021
The creativity of this is just so lovely. And even though I saw where the end was coming from way back in the previous book, it ended up being really really satisfying in that very last scene rather than feeling predictable or boring.
And the characters, I think KB could've maybe put a little more depth in the side characters - the first book did this better - but it meant that I wasn't as upset as I thought I'd be when bad things happened to people, which, not ideal but left me less depressed, so, win?
The plotholes weren't super distracting (until maybe 3/4 of the way through where I paused and was like, oh shoot they're really not going to fill all of them are they), and since I was still interested enough to suspend disbelief I still rounded up to 5 stars, which is super rare for me, so, super loved.
I think my favorite is that the overall worldbuilding while bringing modern-real-earth ethics and social justice themes (even the really really bad stuff humans do to others that happens daily) is still right on. I almost wish I'd discovered this 10 years from now so I could read the (hopefully?) several more in the series all at once! Nerd problems.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
221 reviews6 followers
October 2, 2022
The YA prequel Stoneskin has grown up, painfully. It has become “Blackwing War” – a grimmer, very angry tale. There is anguish and tragedy, and characters that make horrible choices for the right (or so they seem to them) reasons. The horrors of genocide and concentration camps are described in such a way that I could almost hear the author screaming in the background “why can’t they see?”

Tembi is more mature. I really liked how she becomes stronger, smarter, angrier, more independent, and makes her own difficult choices.

The Deep is also developing in interesting ways, and things that were hinted at in the prequel are beginning to come together in the end. Exciting…

I find that I have trouble letting this book go. I will now wait, somewhat impatiently, for the next one.
Profile Image for Miriam.
331 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2021
Oh dear. The last like 20% of this book are an inexorable tide of oh shit please no fuck stop.

It is very good.

Not quite as even as the first one - think knitting - this one has a few dropped stitches, or places where the stitches are so tight they've bunched, and possibly a hole where a cat pulled a thread.

Also I'm carrying an inordinate amount of frustration at clever people making stupid choices along with sorrow at the fact that good never completely triumphs over evil, the inertia of the apathetic, and the willful ignorance of those who place their own wants above others needs. But in all fairness, I carry these four things at all times and it isnt really Spangler's fault she wrote them into her story.

In any case I will gladly give this author more of my moneywhen the next two books come out.
Profile Image for Jenn.
16 reviews
March 14, 2021
This book is...

Horrifying, beautiful, political, infuriating, sublime. It was too quick to read, but also lasted too long. I missed Tembi's beautiful brittle stoniness after finishing Stoneskin. And she is still a vexatiously flawed lovely character. The world building is fantastic and so detailed without being too heavy.
Here's hoping we get to spend more time in this galaxy of joy and sorrow.
Profile Image for Alicia.
3,097 reviews35 followers
March 15, 2021

I was excited to read the further adventures of Tembi and the Deep, but this book was pretty grim. I mean, “war” is in the title, but that doesn’t necessarily imply genocidal Space Nazis running scifi Auschwitz. Which is a thing happening in this book. I still like the characters even if I found some of the motivations and politicking confusing, and I will probably read the next one to see what Tembi gets up to. But yeah. Grim. B.
41 reviews
March 20, 2021
A Sequel Worth the Wait

Honestly, if you’ve never read “Stoneskin,” you’ll still find this story... delightful? I’m not sure that’s an appropriate word. There’s war and death, loss and pain, but there is magic and witches and beauty as well.

KB Spangler is an expert at creating worlds and people you care about, and writing in a way that makes reading both effortless and deeply enjoyable. I honestly make it my policy to read everything she writes.
Profile Image for Gillian.
185 reviews1 follower
April 3, 2021

I read a lot, it isn’t often that I come across a book that doesn’t just entertain me but delivers a throat punch. This one did.
Great characters, heavy emotional investment, a genuine want to be a better person on the part of the MC.
I don’t know if I should call it space opera, or high fantasy in space maybe? But it was a most WONDERFUL read that will leave me thinking about it at odd times for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Alex.
16 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2021
Fantastic start to a series

Absolutely loved this book! The world-building is fascinating without being overwhelming and the emotional depth of the main character and even side characters is wonderful. The quirkiness of the world-building was particularly fun - like the fact that an enigmatic being that exists outside time and space is particularly fond of cars and confused by human behavior. Can’t wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Zach.
3 reviews1 follower
July 1, 2021
Good but I'm not sure i will go for a second

The world building is superb, and I really like the characters, but the plot felt like it was something that happened TO the main character.

Id stay away if a main character not having much agency riles you up. I spent alot of the novel mentally yelling "Do Something!", and the few times that she does it feels like events were immediately twisted right around to subvert that decision into nothing. It was frustrating in the extreme.
Profile Image for David Bonner.
19 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2021
A really well done full serving of the world we got a peek into in Stoneskin. I'm amazed the author managed to give us a sense of stakes the whole way through, even with a mostly omniscient best friend watching over the main character.

Ends with a good hook for the next book without cheapening the ending to this story, which is a rarity these days.

I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
34 reviews
March 14, 2021
A wonderful full of wonders book!
Characters who are perfect in their flawed humanity as they deal with times of happiness and sorrow and horror and love and terror and the desire to try to do the right thing.
And at least one of them knows the meaning of "grok."
Looking forward to the next volumes because I know they'll be amazing.
Profile Image for Neith.
55 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2021
This book is about an empathetic, powerful young person trying and failing and trying again to do the right thing in a complex world where there might not be a right thing.

The plot twists and resolution felt a little disorienting, but I got the impression that they were that way because the author prioritized reasonable character decisions above traditional narrative arcs.
11 reviews
April 5, 2021
The best novel I have read in a long time

Warm, dark and bloody terrifying, The Blackwing War pairs cosy giant space kittens with the ever-repeating cycle of fascism to tell a story so fantastic - and yet so human.

An absolutely unmissable scifi novel for our times.
Profile Image for Rachel.
670 reviews53 followers
May 3, 2021
The Deep is awesome!

This book had a really engaging premise. Tembi is a great character, and the concept of the witches feels like it could generate an impressive number of stories. I’m looking forward to more!
Profile Image for Raven.
77 reviews1 follower
December 3, 2022
I really loved this book, but now and again i would be frustrated at it. there are relationships that happen and then ignored, it is unclear if the main char cared what happened to them or not. I can't wait for more about this world.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,081 reviews6 followers
January 16, 2023
I loved the final scene. Very thought provoking. The rest of the story, not so much. The pacing was uneven and I can't see why so many people considering tolerating Space Nazis was an appropriate/moral choice.
195 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2021
Wonderfully twisty

Great read! Hard not to spoiler, because there are an awful lot of surprises, one or two of which are also awful surprises... but most of which are awesome.
5 reviews
April 29, 2021
Fantastic setting, very different from other SF I've read. Absolutely grapples with serious moral issues, but in a way that has hope. The ending surprised me and I look forward to sequels!
121 reviews
June 11, 2021
I liked this a lot, but it was a much darker read than Stoneskin. It focuses unrelentingly on the titular war, and gives a few more hints as to the nature of the Deep.
Profile Image for Wetdryvac.
Author 258 books
June 11, 2021
A really well done personal investment grimness with some lovely humor and joy mixed in. Pretty sure I'm still dead from reading this - it hurt like hell, and was totally worth it.
Profile Image for Erin.
3 reviews
August 2, 2021
Did not end where I expected, so I'm really curious where the other novels will take the series.
September 9, 2021
Such a disappointment! "Stoneskin" is so good, and this had so much potential... all wasted into obviousness, forced storyline, badly patched plots in the holes, I mean, holes in the plot, and a bunch of Young Adult tropes.
This is oh so sad!
6 reviews27 followers
February 22, 2022
Wow, I just finished the book. It wasn't an easy read and, at times, very grim and intense. I think it is incredibly well written and would recommend it
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews

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