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High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published August 30, 2011

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About the author

Lena Coakley

8 books296 followers
Lena Coakley is the Toronto Star and Globe & Mail bestselling author of Worlds of Ink and Shadow, a YA portal fantasy about the young Brontë siblings and the imaginary countries they wrote about in childhood. It made both the CBC and Quill & Quire’s Best Books of the Year lists.

Her previous novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award and was a White Pine Award honouree.

Her first middle grade novel, Wicked Nix, will come out in October of this year from Abrams and Harper Collins Canada. She lives in Toronto.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 452 reviews
Profile Image for Cara.
279 reviews721 followers
December 14, 2013
I am going to open this with something a tad irrelevant, but I kind of do that all the time huh? Anyhow, when I first put this book on to-read I took a quick glimpse of the cover and thought it had an ice landscape as the cover, and low and behold when I actually get the book I find there is an actual GIRL on it! On that note what a cool cover right?

This book, goodness..., it was just great. Ok I need to do better than that *shakes head*. I haven't read any hardcore fantasy in a while but this book rekindled my love for it. It has excellent world-building, complex characters, complex problems, and a sense of an epic quest. All the ingredients needed for a well-told adventure.

We have two main players in this book, Ryder and Falpian. The two leading males could not be more different. Ryder is a strong young man who lives in the witchlander territory. He has the responsibility of a family and their farm since their Fa died, and has to watch over his troubled mother and two younger sisters. He basically resists the whole idea of magic being real. Falpian on the other end is a privelged young man from Baen (enemy of the witchlander country), and has recently suffered the death of his twin. He has been exiled to pay grievance for his brother's death. Magic has been shoved down his throat since he can remember, and despite that he hasn't able to do much of anything dealing with magic. These two young men's storylines and perspectives will intertwine in the most surprising and intriguing way. They both will play a key role on what is happening between their two lands, and will find out the reason behind all these attacks on Ryder's home turf.

The actual mastermind/villain behind the whole thing isn't revealed right away and I'm surprised to say that this hasn't been the case for the books I've been reading lately. Part of the fun of reading a fantasy book is finding out who is behind the turmoil, and follow how the characters in the book find out for themselves. I could also visualize the world so clearly, and it felt believable and the explanation of how the magic works makes actual sense. This book concentrates on the "bromance", there is only a teensy eensy inkling of a romance that could develop with one of the main characters and a withclander. I have to say this gave the book more kudo points because though I love my romance it's always nice to see a change. And I also like the fact that though the two main characters are guys the girls are a force within themselves as well. There are a lot of strong women in the witchlander community and can flex their power. What I loved the most though were the characters, especially Falpian. He has a tender heart but throughout the story we see him grow into himself.

I could probably write so much more to explain why I loved this book so much but I'll just say when I finished reading this I could tell I had read a quality story, and I for one am awaiting a sequel. Please let there be a sequel.
Profile Image for Amelia, free market Puritan.
349 reviews34 followers
Want to read
June 16, 2011
Reasons why this book looks amazing

1. It sounds like the MC is a guy! I ALWAYS love those in fantasies! :D
2. It sounds like it's a high fantasy! Don't see enough of those!
3. witches and magic in a non-boarding school setting - immediate WIN!
4. there is a freaking SWORD on the cover. LEGIT!
Profile Image for Sarah Maas.
Author 89 books337k followers
October 24, 2011
Absolutely stunning. The world, the characters, the writing--it all left me breathless. One of the best fantasy novels I've read in a while!!!
Profile Image for Holly.
578 reviews
September 6, 2021
One of the best YA books I've read in ages and one of only a handful of novels I've read recently and didn't skim.* But there's not much to skim here: no extraneous details, no pointless action, no characters who don't actually advance the plot. Instead, there's an original, interesting story, well and concisely told.

There are enough well-placed clues about where things are headed that readers can feel smart for figuring things out, but there are also some very nice surprises, so that it's actually rewarding to watch the story unfold. For me, the experience of grasping the central conflict at the novel's heart mimicked what the characters felt as they grasped it too: discovering something so old it feels new, comprehending a myth so forceful it feels like obvious fact.

I really liked that while the two view-point characters were male, this was a book that takes female power and female suffering really seriously. The epigraph to part three reads
Cursed are those who believe in a Goddess, who cannot see that a world created by a woman would be a backward place, that rivers would run uphill, animals would rule over humans, the sun would give off darkness instead of light.

But worse still is the Baen woman who tries to sing. Remove her from the company of other women. Cut out her voice, and fill her mouth with mud.

Make her be silent.

The book explores the long-term legacy of those attitudes--which really are not so different from the attitudes of traditional mainstream Christianity. There's a philosophical inquiry into the nature of difference: how different are light and dark, male and female, music and silence, and what is the power of each? When is the other not the Other but a part of yourself?

Were I ever to base a religion on something in a novel, it just might be this novel, with its foundational belief that the world is a living thing that communes with the creatures on it; the premise that prayer is not just words but a yoga-like ritual of disciplined, embodied metaphor requiring and cultivating flexibility and strength; the exploration of the power of patriarchy and the terrible cost of misogyny; and the richly developed goddess religion administered by both priestesses and priests--with plenty of warning thrown in about religion's general ability to corrupt its adherents.

My biggest complaint about the book is really nit-picky: there's a character named Pima, which is the name of a Native American people in southern Arizona where I grew up. It's also the name of a county (Tucson is in Pima County), a town, and a variety of long-staple premium cotton grown in the American southwest. The world in "Witchlanders" is northern European in flavor--the Baen, whose massive ships have tall, carved masts and are powered by rowers in addition to/instead of sails, are basically fair-skinned, dark-haired Vikings. Finding a character named Pima in a setting like this is as jarring as if there were a character named Dakota or Cheyenne. It just doesn't fit.

ETA 2019: I picked this up recently as an antidote to a bad mood, and it worked like a charm. Sometimes when the world feels rotten I need the intellectual equivalent of comfort food--by which I don't mean intellectual junk food, since food that provides comfort can often be tasty and nourishing (my mom's spaghetti or her coleslaw, a good grilled cheese sandwich). But I need to read something I know I will like that makes the world feel a little less onerous.

*Yeah, I've turned into a skimmer. NEVER used to do that--if I read a book to the end, I read every word along the way, which is probably why I gave up on a lot of books. But now I want to list them as read on Goodreads, so I skim the crappy ones to the end.
Profile Image for Viktoria Winter.
107 reviews440 followers
December 7, 2015
“The Great God Kar sings the world into being. He is singing even now. If he stopped, everything from the mountains to the oceans to the ink on this page would disappear. Kar’s magic comes from harmony, and yet the God is alone, singing with his many mouths and tongues, watching mankind with his thousand eyes.

Once, all men could hear his songs. They joined their voices with their brothers, imitating the harmonies of creation, until they made a magic that rivaled Kar’s. And so the jealous God sealed up their ears to his music. He created war and discord. Now few can hear his songs –and those who do, find that their brothers are scattered to the winds.”

–The Magician’s Enchiridion Part I.


I can barely remember where I came across this book, but I’m so thankful I found it. Honestly, I’m shocked there hasn’t been more talk about this masterpiece!? It’s unique in ways that are unexpected and exciting, and it pours a wintry ambiance into the reader’s mind. Lena Coakley has an excellent writing style. There was never a dull moment. I even enjoyed the few passages that would, in any other scenario, seem mundane (ie. growing plants and whatnot) but Coakley is a wordsmith magician! This is not so much a book as it is a journey. That is to say, reading this novel felt more like a quest to decode the ending before its upon you. So many plot-twists and shocking revelations, including an open ended finale that will leave you questioning whether it is a cruel cliffhanger or a metaphor for the cycle of magic.

Ryder, a young hicca farmer with no faith, has worked his family’s lands in place of his late father to gather a sacred herb that gives the mountains their vibrant crimson coloring…and is also used as a tithe to pay the witches who reside there in return to keep the village protected. But Ryder is skeptical and doesn’t believe in the twin Goddesses Aata and Aayse like his wayward mother and younger sisters do. He dreams of the sea, although he cannot swim. He has no hope in the rocky soil that permeates the grounds of his cottage, somewhere between the safety of the nearest village and the witches’ territory. Ryder, for all that he once found bright, has lost himself to the ways of a post-war realm.

Falpian, a Baen Prince whose twin brother drowned at sea, is dismissed to a brief ‘vacation’ in the middle of the woods, perilously close to the Witchlands, to mourn his lost sibling in solitude. His dreams of the sea are far more harrowing than Ryder’s, yet the two share a bond unknown to the waking world. Humiliated and disgraced with himself for not being able to conjure his ancestors’ magic, Falpian has no other aspirations for himself other than to stay alive. But that would mean breaking the one last thing he can offer his father, and the pain from his brother is still so very raw that it haunts his nightmares…and Ryder’s dreams, too.

When the two inevitably meet, in the bleak rust of any icy dawn where the trees bend to white wisps of snow and the wind shrieks like an angered God (as you can tell, this book made me highly nostalgic), the divided realms of Witch and Baen will face a truth so terrifying that war just might brew over. However, theirs is not a story of battle. Rather, it’s the unity of light and dark and all that which comes in between.

“They were so beautiful in their opposition - like two sides of a coin.
They were... balance.”

And like most beautiful friendships, especially those that come forth in the midst of a war where either friend is on a different side, the bickering and brotherly snipping between Ryder and Falpian was hilarious.


If you’ve read A Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and loved it, then I have an inkling you’ll really enjoy this book as well! What better than an overpowering, overwhelming, earth-shacking bromance? Also, if you’ve read to the third installment of Throne of Glass, the Carranam aspect is toyed around with in this novel –referred to as Talat-Sa, or spirit-bound!

The pace was perfect for this book, and the descriptions were nearly lyrical (emphases on the lyrical bit because…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out). But by far, my favorite aspect other than the characters themselves–who, I must add, were very problematic but in the best of ways that described how relatable and real they were– was the world-building. I read a lot, that’s unquestionable. But I’ve never read something that made me feel so deeply for a fictional place before! Witches in long, billowing capes with swinging lanterns, Gormy Men made from the soil and salt of the earth that wreak havoc on villagers, folk songs that lull life into plants and can grasp a person’s heart in their chest…It reminded me of all my favorite fantasy realms combined. What more could I ask for? Coakley, you brilliant women.


If I have to criticize anything it would be that I wish there had been more. I don’t particularly mean the ending –in general, I just wish there was more to the story. It was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but it stayed on a single, steady track (which some readers may enjoy) yet I wanted to explore the realm of Baen and find the sea where Farien –Falpian’s twin –died, the same sea that Ryder wished to venture. Not to mention, I’m still conflicted with the last chapter of the novel and how certain questions where left unanswered. It’s driving me insane. I love it but hate it. Can anyone understand that?

My final thoughts are just a lot of incoherent words because I still can’t get over that ending. Just read this damn book!It definitely deserves way more attention than it already has.
Profile Image for Zoë Marriott.
Author 15 books782 followers
July 26, 2011
The Synopsis:

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

The Review:

Firstly I have to say that although that synopsis above sounds really cool, it bears very little resemblance to the book I read. I'm going to take a wild guess that it was not written by the author of this book, but by someone who was (in a well-meaning sort of way) trying to make the book appeal to the widest possible audience by giving the impression that the book is a traditional high fantasy with the character of Ryder as The Chosen One and a romance with that 'beautiful and silent witch'. Perhaps part of the same team that put a wistful looking, long-haired girl on the cover in the style of a paranormal romance, when there is, in fact, no female viewpoint character?

In any case, Lena Coakley's book is far from a traditional high fantasy, and nothing like a paranormal romance. And thank God for that!

In fact the character of Ryder is one of two narrators in Witchlanders, and the other isn't the witch of the synopsis, but Falpian, a boy of the Baen, the historical enemy of Ryder's Witchlander people. Neither of them precisely fits within the heroic stereotype of The Chosen One.

Ryder dreams of leaving the hardscrabble drudgery of his parent's border farm and going to sea, but when his father unexpectedly dies, he's forced to stay at home and keep the farm going, driven by a curmudgeonly sense of responsibility that doesn't really conceal his deep love for his eccentric, crumbling mother and effervescent younger sisters. He pooh-poohs his mother's bone-casting and resents the high-handed witches who serve as religious and political leaders from their mountain fastness. And he struggles to deal with his mother's increasingly erratic behaviour as she falls deeper and deeper into her dependency on ingesting hallucinagenic flowers.

Falpian is a sensitive, pampered young man who is sent to live alone in a tiny cottage on the Baen border during the winter of the story by his father, as part of the traditional mourning period for his twin brother, who recently drowned at sea. He's fighting not only his own loss but the despair of knowing that his father despises him for failing to inherit the war-like 'singing magic' that supposedly runs in their family. He wants nothing more than to see his father look at him with pride again, and when the man escorting him to the cottage gives him a special scroll which he is to open after fifty days, he believes he has been offered the chance to complete a mission which will win him his father's respect.

This pair are opposites in every way, from their appearance to their religious views to their family backgrounds. By every rule of both their societies, by everything either of them has ever been taught, they are destined to be bitter enemies. And they are. But they are also fated to form a friendship which will endanger and save both their lives, bring them closer than brothers, and thrust them into experiences that no one else alive can understand.

Lena Coakley's command of language in this novel is breathtaking. She narrates both viewpoint characters in a close third person, unspooling the essence of their souls onto the page with seemingly effortless skill that never resorts to awkward info-dumping, and creating a pair of voices which are utterly distinct, even as Ryder and Falpian's different worlds collide. So deeply enmeshed in their emotions did I feel that when I came to write this review, I had to go back and check that I wasn't imagining that the story had been in third person, because normally only first person creates that kind of an empathetic bond for me.

Witchlanders is a daring story. It deals deftly with themes of religious and racial prejudice. It takes on the horrors of war and the effect that these can have on the survivors even among the victors. It looks at the more personal tragedies of ingrained misogyny, addiction and self-deception within families. It offers no easy answers. It focuses not on any traditional romantic relationship but on the deep, brotherly love and respect that grows up between two young men despite the fact that each of them is working to preserve their own people, even at the expense of the other.

Given the trends in the current YA market, I'm delighted that a publisher was willing to take a risk on such an unconventional book, one that defies categorisation and which doesn't offer a High Concept hook. But I can see why. No editor with a soul could have passed up such a beautifully written, perfectly characterised, masterfully plotted book when it happened across their desk. Witchlanders is good enough that it doesn't HAVE to fit neatly into a genre or sub-genre. It strides confidently past them and makes a space for itself.

It's well known that I'm not a fan of cliff-hanger endings, and I suppose that some people might term the open-ended conclusion of this novel a bit...unresolved. It's clear that the Witchlander and Baen people both face uncertain futures, and that none of the characters we've grown to love are necessarily safe. I really hope that the author continues the story she has begun in Witchlanders with a sequel or even two. But even if she doesn't, after the unexpected and profound emotional experience of reading this book, it seems ungrateful not to be perfectly satisfied.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,239 followers
August 8, 2011
Before I begin discussing the story, let me point out that the cover is entirely misleading. At least, it misled me into believing that the main character would be female. He is not. He has two sisters though, who might end up having their own stories somewhere down the line but Witchlanders has a male protagonist. Over at my blog, I confessed how more times than not, I feel disconnected from male protagonists and how this results in me not enjoying the book as much I could. I am glad to tell you that this was not the case with Witchlanders.

Another thing you should keep in mind before reading is that Witchlanders is an actual fantasy. High fantasy, I believe the genre is called and not, as is more common nowadays, urban fantasy. The difference lies in the world in which the stories are situated. In urban (or paranormal for that matter) the world is basically identical to the one we are living in except for the odd werewolf, vampire or other supernatural creature. In high fantasy, the world is different. The countries and the people are different. That said, let's move on to the actual review.

The world building is off to a great start in Witchlanders as Ms. Coakley lays down the foundation and starts creating the history and mythos for a world where there are two countries: Witchland and the land of the Baen people. The characters are also well developed and the plot creeps up on you as you wrap your mind around a mother who is a witch who doesn't believe in witchcraft and a father who was not a witch but believed in witchcraft. Ryder, his sisters and the relationship between them are the strongest parts of the novel. Falpian and his estranged family are also intriguing. I also loved the dog. For all his silence, he seemed like a major character in the story. The plot has a brisk pace and the descriptions are just enough to draw the world without overwhelming the reader.

What I loved about the book was how it tackles some issues that are relevant to society without seeming preachy. For instance, discrimination both racial and sexual are themes in the story. There's also grief and how the failure to meet expectations of parents can hurt the child more than the parent. And then there's the story that is at turns compelling and thrilling.

This is one book you should keep an eye out for. In a market flooded with love that occurs too quickly and events that defy logic, Witchlanders is a satisfying read that will leave you wishing for more.
Profile Image for Azbaqiyah.
782 reviews52 followers
March 22, 2017
Just finish reread one of my favourite book! Witchlanders is really one of my favourite. Wanna know why? It's is all because of the soulmate theme.

So what do you think of soulmate? Is must be that someone that are meant for you. The person is a part of you. No matter where you are, the person will be there for you...

Romantic right?

But have you wonder what would happen if your soulmate is the same gender with you!? What if each of us is way too different? Or worst each of us are suppose to be enemies?

That what happen to Ryder and Falpian. Ryder is a Witchlander and Falpian is a Baen which are suppose to be enemies. But fate brought them together. That's is the original that I like with this book.

The story plot was amazing! The plot twist was trully cunning. You wouldn't thought who is the master mind behind the scence.

Well not to mention the humor that surround the couple. I always keep a crack of smile at my mouth because of the silly moments. Ryder is such a hot headed person, stubborn and a very rude person. As for Falpian...my! He such a naive, adorable and a dork! He even cooed at a big poison spider that want to gouge his eyeballs!

I really wish this book will be continue but according to Lena Coakley, she can't make the continuation because of a contract. So frustating.

Then I shall give this one 5 stars!
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,808 reviews800 followers
September 19, 2016
I absolutely adored this book! I was completely hooked from page one and couldn't put it down, It was such a fresh, original take on magic. I loved the concept of bone-throwing and the idea of spell weaving through singing. I also loved the main character Ryder. It's rare that I read a book with a male main character so it was a nice change from the usual. And I quite enjoyed that there was no love story, it allowed the book to focus solely on world building (which was spectacular!) and developing the characters. All in all, I loved everything about this book and am quite disappointed it's a standalone, I would have loved to see more of this world!
Profile Image for Danielle.
13 reviews13 followers
October 16, 2011
Witchlanders was a really interesting read, and very different from a lot of the books that I’ve read recently. First of all, no romance. (Thankfully, that means no love triangles, either. Am I the only one getting tired of them?) Secondly, no weird paranormal beings popping out of nowhere. (Well, okay, there are witches. But I mostly meant there are no vampires or werewolves. I’m kind of sick of those too.)

I found both the cover and summary to be a bit… lacking. First of all, as pretty as the cover is, it displays a girl. Ryder is clearly not a female, so I’m going to assume that she is supposed to be one of the witches (probably the one in the description).

Also, the description didn’t mention anything about the other main character, Falpian. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the entire book alternates between Ryder and Falpian’s perspectives — I was definitely confused at first. Not because the actual switching was pulled off badly; it was pretty seamless, actually. But for some reason I kept thinking that Falpian was going to be some dude who we would get a little backstory on before being killed off or something, because he wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the description.

I really appreciated that Lena Coakley didn’t weigh us down with a ton of backstory. We were dropped right into the middle of Ryder’s world without too much description, and it was nice to learn more about his world as the story progressed. Personally, I can’t stand when authors spend like the entire first chapter describing the setting/telling us everything we could possibly want to know about a different world — it’s too much information at once and very boring. The author doesn’t do that here, all the backstory is on a need-to-know basis, which is way more interesting. Thumbs up for that.

What I also appreciate — this is a full, standalone story. We aren’t left at the end with someone smashing Ryder in the back of his head and his world fading into darkness, or a mysterious door being opened and we don’t know what’s inside. There’s a finite beginning, middle, and end, and even though there’s space for a sequel (or more), you aren’t left with a stupid cliffhanger. I do hope there is a sequel, though, because I think this storyline has a great deal of potential!

Just a note: if you’re looking for romance, this book isn’t for you. I could see the potential for it in later books, but this one has none. Nada. Zilch.

However, if you’re looking for bromance, you will find it in here! That was kind of fun. Although I did find myself wondering if Ryder and Falpian would have a thing. I’m going to chalk it up to reading too many mushy YA romance books recently, because I definitely have.

Find more of my reviews at Dannabella.com :)
Profile Image for Krystle.
913 reviews335 followers
August 30, 2011
I totally thought this was a paranormal novel when I first glanced at the cover. I mean, it sorta reminds me of witches and vampires for some strange reason because it doesn’t give off the aura of “Hey! I’m a fantasy novel!” which this is. High fantasy, to be precise.

The book is told through alternating viewpoints of Ryder and Falpian. (When I first saw his name, the image that came to mind was of fallopian tubes… Don’t judge. LoL.) But what’s great about them is they’re both distinct characters and don’t sound like stuffy middle aged women spouting off poetry. We’re starting off good already.

Now the plot for this book is not one of those flash and glamor novels. It’s actually a slow almost deliberately nuanced piece that’s laden with subtle foreshadowing and tons of metaphors/symbolism. It’s not fast-paced but it certainly did grab my attention.

I love how there’s this theme or idea of growing up and dealing with familial pressures and forcing oneself to live up to them and how not meeting them becomes a heavy burden for both sides of the equation. One usually filled with anger, frustration, and lots of misery. Another great aspect of the story was the friendship between the two boys. Real friendship that they had to work at. There is no annoying love triangle or forbidden romance here. It’s about a tale between friends. Also, there’s the tricky slope of prejudice and how it’s prevalent in their societies and how hard they have to fight to combat it.

The magic is actually more of a grounded down to earth type of a system rather than a bright and flashy one. I loved the whole singing and true twin bonding thing that went on. It certainly brought a fresh angle to things.

I did get confused at times on whose background matched up with whose. But for the most part this book was pretty good. The writing was more than capable and had great descriptions that were like a delicious dessert rather than the main course.

Definitely recommended if you wanted something away from the obvious cast of choices in YA. It is quite the hidden gem.
Profile Image for Evie.
714 reviews930 followers
August 9, 2011
*** this review will be posted to Bookish on August 20th ***

Lena Coakley uses her writing to weave a potent and unforgettable story, filled with magic, adventure, love, betrayal, revenge and long-buried secrets. Witchlanders is not only beautifully written and absolutely compelling, but with its unique take on witchcraft, fantastic characters and exquisite winter scenery, it is a true gem among the Young Adult fantasy books of recent years.

The main protagonist, Ryder, works hard in the field to make sure his mother and sisters have enough food to survive the winter. He’s a practical, simple guy, who doesn’t care much for the witchcraft. In fact, he doesn’t even believe in magic and he definitely doesn’t like the fact that every year he’s forced to pay tithes to the witches. The witches live high in their mountain covens. They claim that they’re protecting the village by praying to the Goddess and throwing bones to predict the future. Ryder thinks it’s all fake and he’s extremely irritated when his mother, Mabis, starts throwing bones herself, foretelling the arrival of an assassin and other hard-to-believe events. He refuses to believe in her visions, convinced that they’re nothing more than hallucinations caused by the maiden’s woe, a highly addictive river plant.

The attack of man-shaped creatures made of packed brown earth makes Ryder realize that he was wrong about many things. Everything he’s ever believed about magic, witches and, most importantly, himself will change forever. Nothing will ever be the same again and the most shocking discoveries are yet to come.

Witchlanders is a beautiful and mesmerizing tale of friendship and brotherhood, revenge and betrayal, love and trust. It was the shortest 411 pages I have ever read and how I wish I could jump into reading the second part straight away. Waiting for the sequel has never been more painful! I loved every word of this book. Lena Coakley has a great talent for words, her storytelling is flawless, smooth and very flavorful. I am a huge fan of fantasy in general and there are plenty of great YA fantasy books out there, but this one really stands out. I enjoyed the original take on magic – weaving the spells through a song, throwing bones, visions, etc. The world building was superb and I was amazed at how much effort Cloakley put into developing both the setting and the characters. I loved the breath-taking mountain scenery! Lena’s descriptive passages really brought everything to life, I had no problem whatsoever imagining all the places – the village, the mountain covens, the snow-covered fields, the caves and secret underground passages. Most importantly, the characters were absolutely fabulous! I liked Ryder from the get-go. I liked that he was skeptical about the whole magic-thing and had trouble accepting his fate. It was very realistic and added a lot of depth to the story. I really loved Falpian, too! He is such a likable character! Not to mention the interactions between these two, they were fascinating, and often hilarious.

And what about the romance? Well, there is no romance, and thank goddess for that! Lena Coakley managed to write a very emotional, touching story without spoon-feeding us with cheap and forced love-at first-sight BS. There is a potential love story here, though, but thankfully Lena didn’t go there yet. It turned out to be a great decision and, in my opinion, it made this book even more awesome.

Overall, Witchlanders is a fantastic read. The writing is captivating, the story intelligent, deep and entertaining. I couldn’t bring myself to put it down and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series. It’s a must-read for any YA fantasy fan.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,624 reviews80 followers
August 20, 2011
When I read the first couple of chapters I kept saying to myself: "I think I'm going to love this book...." but then it tapered off. I loved the fantasy elements of it and it reminded me of what I've been missing lately. What with all these dystopias and urban fantasies that have taken over my to-read pile. This was exactly the sort of book that I hoped would be positively refreshing and full of magical elements. And it was full of magic...but the story just didn't pull me in as much as I would have liked.

The premise is great. It reminds me of a cross between Sabriel by Garth Nix and the Bayern series by Shannon Hale. But I really wanted more development of the red witches and their powers. I wanted a deeper look into the beliefs of the two different countries and their people. The story was interesting, but I felt like something was missing. There were parts of the story that I found unengaging and random, but for the most part I was caught up in the story. I might recommend, but I wouldn't go out of my way to shove this book in your face or anything like that. It was a little bit of a letdown, sad to say.

*Taken from my book reviews blog: http://reviewsatmse.blogspot.com/2011...
Profile Image for Danielle.
656 reviews44 followers
January 14, 2016
I usually don't go for books rated below 3.8-3.9, as generally I have been disappointed ( with some few exceptions; e.g. Talon by Kagawa and Everneath by Ashton). But, Witchlanders looked like an intriguing book, promising rich magic, deep characters and a plot filled with twists and turns, so I decided to give it a go. It did not deliver.

Ryder, our MC, was very wishy-washy and undecided, a massive whiner and had the depth of a teaspoon. I had hoped that, after the first few boring chapters, he would grow and show a bit more oomph, but he was just such a 2D character and I didn't care about him. Now if I thought our MC was 2 dimensional, our secondary characters weren't even passable. They were just there so stuff could happen, they didn't actually add anything.

On top of our mediocre cast of characters, the pace was incredibly slow (except for the end), the plot was not super well done and quite frankly I was just bored and annoyed by the whole thing. The one and only positive I have about Witchlanders was that it did have some pretty decent worldbuilding, and the author must have spent a fair bit of time there.

On the whole though, I would not recommend this book for adults; it may get by for pre teens, but anyone older than 12 should steer clear.
Profile Image for Erin Bow.
Author 10 books729 followers
February 15, 2016
Ah! Here is the truly original, sweeping yet intimate high fantasy that I didn't know I was craving. Beautifully imagined, beautifully written. I need to let it sink in and/or get my brain back before I can say anything useful about it. For now: if you're a fantasy fan, absolutely, read it. I'm sorry I missed it when it was new and I'm going to go get Worlds of Ink and Shadow as soon as I can.
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
April 18, 2013
Confession time: I picked up this book expecting it to be bad. But, you know, one of those enjoyable bad books that people love to snark at. I WAS WRONG. IT WAS AWESOME. Despite a cover that looks like it’s going to be all about a sad witchy girl finding love in the middle of winter and ignoring the plot, it’s actually about two boys from different sides of a building war and romance isn’t anywhere to be seen.

Really! Romance is nowhere to be seen! Now, I like me a bit of romance, really I do. But I’m just so sick of it lately, and it’s quite refreshing to take a break from that for once. This probably wouldn’t be a ‘good’ point, or at least no such an excitable point, if it weren’t for the context, but there you have it.

The setting! Oh, I love the setting. It strikes a nice balance between being too detailed and too vague. There’s a very narrow focus on this one little mountain area, which works wonderfully. That one little area really pops with some beautiful, vivid details, but at the same time we’re not bogged down with vast histories of an entire world. And at the same time as that, we actually do get some history for the conflict that’s central to the story, but it’s handled so well that I want to use it for a textbook. Just the right amount of light touch and non-info-dumping. (Well, until the end.)

The lore was excellent, too. I loved the two religions and the different views they both had on magic.

The two narrators were both unique enough to have their own voices and be distinct from each other. They didn’t work too well when they came together (I just didn’t feel the chemistry that was supposed to be there) but they were enjoyable on their own.

The plot was excellent. It was a twisty-turny kind of thing that kept changing, but it had a common thread running through it, and it seemed to flow and stay going in one direction. I really don’t know how else to say it without giving away details.

The quality started to break down at the end. Like the author was in a rush to get it wrapped up. It was still good enough to carry through, but a few things got a bit stretched. For instance: at one point a particular breed of spider becomes randomly important. So they show up out of the blue, and we get a page-long description of species and a couple stories about them. That really could have been edited into the earlier parts of the book to take the awkwardness out.

The climax was stretched out by unnecessary talking. The set-up and plot aspects of the ending were done well enough, and the book created a situation with some real danger and urgency. …and then everyone just wouldn’t shut up. Instead they hastily wrapped up a few plot threads and backstories through dialogue, and every one of them could have waited until the deadly monsters were dealt with.

Falpain, one of the main characters, had his twin brother die just before the events of the novel. And I never really felt any emotion from him about that. It was like he didn’t care and had completely forgotten about it by the time the book started. Oh, sure, he made a few passing comments about grief, but we never saw it in his actions. Even before the distracting part of the plot arrived, he barely spared his brother a second thought. I would have swallowed that a lot easier if his brother had died years – or even A year – before.

There’s no romance, but there is set-up for one, presumably to be consummated in a sequel. Unfortunately, the ‘set up’ comes entirely in the form of Ryder thinking that said Designated Love Interest is hot. Her beautiful looks are referenced in every scene she’s in. She has more character beyond that, yes, and that’s awesome. But I don’t like that the book used her appearance to paint a big neon sign of “LOVE INTEREST” over her head. If it needed to drop hints at all, it could have at least used a couple more traits to balance things out.

The two races involved in this book’s setting are almost polar opposites from each other in looks. Blond vs black hair, blue eyes vs dark eyes, brown skin vs white skin. And they’re one mountain away from each other and have a near-past history of mixing freely. There’s no way those two phenotypes stayed that pure with the populations co-mingling. It was the one major part of the world-building that really threw me off.

THERE’S NO SEQUEL! Despite the fact that it’s pretty clearly supposed to be the first of a series and ends with our boys off on another adventure. And as far as I can tell from the author’s blog, she’s not working on one. WHAT IS THIS, HOW COULD YOU, NOOOOOOO.

One of the two cultures is extremely misogynistic and violent towards women, going so far as to say that they don’t have souls. No, I don’t mind this as a narrative choice, because cultures like that did/do exist. But the book really didn’t have room to throw in ideas that heavy. If you’re going to have a setting where women get murdered for trying to do magic, don’t throw that in as a minor plot point while 99.9% of the book focuses on something else. I’m not saying that it has to be the central plot, but at least give it due weight.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,005 followers
March 18, 2013
Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Since his father's death, life for Ryder, his mother, and two younger sisters has been unbearable. Not only has harvesting the hicca farm before the start of the winter's deadly chill become near impossible, but Ryder's mother, Mabis, has lost her grip on reality. Formerly an iron-willed woman who would laugh about the silly superstitions of the valley folk and the witches that portend to throw bones and foretell the Goddess's will, Mabis has turned in on herself, throwing her old casting bones and seeking comfort in maiden's woe - a weed with hallucinogenic properties when ingested. Try as Ryder might to keep Mabis away from the plant and to stop her from her inexplicable fascination with the witchery she once scorned so deeply, he cannot control his mother's erratic behavior. When she makes a firecall, summoning the witches from their isolation in the mountains to warn them of a dire vision she has had, the witches come but ignore her words as a false prophecy brought on by too much maiden's woe. When one of her dreadful visions of monsters rising from the mud to murder the Witchlanders proves true, however, Ryder knows he must heed all of her warnings, and heads to the border between the Witchlands and the Baen to seek the assassin responsible for conjuring the black magic.

What Ryder discovers in the snow, though, is hardly the bloodthirsty assassin he seeks. Instead, Ryder finds a young man named Falpian and as dark as Ryder is fair. Together, the unlikely pair of Witchlander and Baen, will find that everything they know about their worlds is a lie - and only through each other can they discover the truth and save their lands from devastating war.

The debut novel from Lena Coakley, Witchlanders is a kickback to the old school speculative fiction/fantasy novels I read in my youth - I'm talking Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Isobel Carmody, and the like. The world in Witchlanders is deeply torn after a long war between the Baen, whose magic lies in their voices, and the Witchlanders, whose magic rests with the prophecy of witches. Though the universe is relatively simplistic (two different cultures separated by obvious Mendelian physical traits and magical/ideological divides), in this contained, smaller scale novel, it works beautifully and effectively. There are lies and secrets on both sides of the divide, and though ultimately the truth is a little easy to figure out, the mystery of who is conjuring the black magic (and for what purpose) is a big twist that is handled deftly by Ms. Coakley.

From a character point of view, Witchlanders has two main protagonists and both are male - which is kind of a nice change of pace, especially in the YA fantasy front - and their combined voices are really what drive the novel. Ryder, our primary protagonist, struggles with his exasperation with his mother and his fervent desire to keep his family together and fill in his father's shoes. Falpian also struggles with the legacy of his father and his lost twin, desperate to live up to his brother's memory and become a true magic singer that his family can be proud of. Though they are from different walks of life - a farmer and a scholar - Ryder and Falpian are excellent foils, and I love the way their relationship blossoms over the course of this book, and how they also grow as individuals and learn to embrace some of the harsher facts of life. Also, can I just mention how incredibly refreshing it is to read a YA fantasy novel that does not focus on any romantic subplot? Not that I have anything against romance (and the seeds for a romantic future are certainly present in this book), but sometimes its nice to see themes of family and friendship take precedence.

Though it's a quieter book and not quite as epic as is the current trend in YA fantasy, I loved the clean, focused scope of Witchlanders, and I cannot wait to join Ryder and Falpian once again. Absolutely recommended, especially for readers hankering for a shot of old school YA fantasy, and for new readers trying to find a good story with a slight fantastical flair.
Profile Image for Missy.
421 reviews81 followers
July 30, 2011
Ryder doesn't believe in the power of the Witches that govern his mountain homeland. He longs to escape the hard labour of his family's farm in favour of a life by the sea, but his plans change drastically when he loses his father. Left to manage the farm, care for his eccentric mother and younger sisters, he is forced to accept the life he doesn't want. Falpian lives a very different life with the Baens. While mourning the loss of his twin brother at sea, he's sent to live alone in a tiny cottage during the winter. Fighting both his own grief and his father's discontent at his inability inherit the family's abilities, he finds his luck changes when a man appears with a scroll and tells him to open it in fifty days. Both Ryder and Falpian are set on a collision course that will ultimately define who they are as individuals and in their societies.

I don't read too much high fantasy. Honestly, I find a lot of it to be a bit too high-brow for me, and I want to feel like I'm becoming a part of the story. Witchlanders by the amazing Lena Coakley is one of those stories that allowed me to do so. Rich and engrossing, Witchlanders combines the enthralling nature of fantasy with powerful themes of tolerance, racial tension and religion. A single misstep could have unwound the delicate thread of this novel, but strong characters, a vibrant plot and a fabulous world within the pages kept the story alive and breathtaking. The world of Witchlanders is sure to live in my imagination for a very long time.

Alternate narration is always a bit tedious for me to read, but I have to say that Witchlanders manages to portray two very different boys with two entirely distinct voices with ease. By adding dual narration with views from both Falpian and Ryder, we're allowed insight into both character's minds, thus giving us insider perspectives to two very different and warring civilizations. Furthermore, it helped me develop a bond with both characters through Witchlanders, and it helped me feel like I understood where both characters were coming from with every action and inaction. The dynamic between the two (when they finally meet) also heightens the story astronomically. Truly, the nature and complexity of their interaction was tense, and true-to-life, as Witchlanders did not shy away from portraying their warring beliefs while feuding with their inner turmoil. Through it all, the prose is magical and picture-perfect, drawing you into a new world in Witchlanders.

All in all, Witchlanders was a beautiful and poetic read. The only thing I would wish to change would be the ending of the story. Though the ends are tied up, it's still a bit open-ended. Not quite a cliffhanger, mind you, but still a bit raw. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend this to both YA and adult fans, especially those who enjoy high fantasy novels.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
Profile Image for Aylee.
266 reviews66 followers
July 14, 2011
In short: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley is a fascinating and original high fantasy debut with a refreshing Bromance.

The synopsis for this book is a bit misleading. You would think the story was all about Ryder but it was really about two main characters and their relationship: Ryder, a Witchlander, and Falpian, a Baen. The synopsis also suggests, to me anyway, that romance is likely between Ryder and this "beautiful and silent witch" he must confront, but there is barely a hint of such a thing. Also misleading: the cover. There is no character in the book who has the features of the girl on this cover, pale skin and blond hair. In the world of Witchlanders, the Witchlander race has brown skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, whereas the Baen race has pale skin, black hair, and black eyes. Even the one mixed race character of note does not have the features of the girl on this cover. So that's odd.

Even though I was expecting a much different book, I loved the book I ended up getting. Witchlanders is a high fantasy tale with a richly developed and creative world. Coakley created her own complex and involved history of the Witchlander and Baen people and their longstanding feud. I was just so impressed by Coakley's imagination, to create a whole new world, creatures, magics, and religions. The background information is integrated so well with the story; the reader is not removed from the action in the process of learning more about the lore. The world building was definitely the highlight for me in Witchlanders.

Something else that I really enjoyed and found refreshing in Witchlanders was the lack of romance. Instead, we got a hardcore Bromance between Ryder and Falpian. It was interesting to follow their story as they find each other and learn their destiny. Something I was less fond of was the character building which I found a bit lacking. I just needed a bit more. Sometimes I found myself confused with certain character motivations that weren't explained as well as they could be. One character that I truly loved though was Bo, Falpian's sabre-toothed Dreadhound, who was intelligent and endearing. Though if you know me, it's really no surprise that I would be so taken with a charming dog in a book.

The pacing was well done and flowed quickly and the final action sequence was especially intense and lengthy. The final clues as to the antagonist and the reasonings behind their actions were uncovered brilliantly. The immediate conflict in the story was wrapped up nicely and yet, a continuing conflict was left open. I am unable to find any evidence of a sequel, however, leaving me to believe Witchlanders is a standalone. I didn't even know standalones existed anymore.
Profile Image for Cecelia.
400 reviews209 followers
October 29, 2018

That word doesn’t reference the content of this book, but instead how I feel about it. In particular, I am in love with the world of the Witchlands, with its red zanthia trees, its fields of hicca, the verdant valley and the mountainous backdrop. Lena Coakley has imbued the setting in her debut novel with something magnetic and deep, full of possibilities and beauty and peopled with flawed, courageous and mad characters. I am so very happy I read this book!

Witchlanders is, without a doubt, high fantasy. It is exactly what I’ve been craving in a story – strong world-building, mysteries upon mysteries, tensions running high among characters who may or may not have the motivations they claim aloud. It is also a feast for the imagination.

There were descriptive passages of Witchlanders where the mention of stark music and magic made me think of nothing so much as Adele’s raw and powerful song Someone Like You. I don’t know if I’ve ever matched a song and a story so closely in my head before, but the bittersweet lament seemed to fit the mood. I think you may see what I mean when you read Witchlanders for yourself.

The setting, of course, is not the only consideration. Let’s talk characters.Ryder is sure of himself and stubborn in it – he won’t accept a new reality until it’s forced on him. That immovability was so like my brother Peter’s personality that I accepted it immediately (you know you know someone like this. trust me). After all, it’s a standard convention that the stubborn ones need to be knocked over by magic before they’ll believe in it, right?

The story’s two small weaknesses, if they can be called that, were in the opening pages and the rushed pacing at the end. The opening of the book was the larger of the two, because I think it could turn less persistent readers away. I’ll just put it out there: the first bit, in Ryder’s home? Confusing. Partially because he’s confused, and partially because he is dealing with an unstable person, and the rest because everyone’s name is unusual and unfamiliar at that point. If you can push past this and acclimate to the world Coakley has created, you’ll get sucked into the story and its striking landscape.

Recommended for: fans of fantasy (and especially high fantasy), those who can appreciate the ordinary magic of a landscape, appreciators of complexity of life, and anyone who has ever thought that singing is a sort of enchantment which never seems to get its due.
Profile Image for Emilija.
286 reviews72 followers
December 29, 2015
I'm having a hard time expressing my feelings for this book. So in conclusion - this book was... stunning.

The writing was beautiful and it flowed smoothly. It never felt as if the book was disjointed - in other books it's sometimes so clear like bad jump-cuts in movies that make no fucking sense, but in Witchlanders I never even considered the thought. The plot was just outstanding. There were unexpected twists and turns, it made my heart race at times and that was freaking awesome. One of the biggest things I loved about this book was that the villain was revealed only in the end. We literally read the whole book not knowing who the bad guys is - bad things just happened and everyone looked at each other and didn't know what the fuck they need to do or who to trust. That was such an incredible thing to do and I applaud Miss Lena for being able to keep that mystery under wraps so well until the very end - the reveal was mind blowing and I could practically hear the author going "MUAHAHAHAHA BITCH! DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING DID YOU?!" Miss Lena's evil scream of joy made my ears bleed out my brain.

The one thing that I absolutely loved the most by far was that there was no romance in the book - it was not needed and wouldn't have added anything to the story and Miss Lena realized that adding romance as a subplot would have been a bad thing to do and that just made my brain cum. There was so much action going that romance had no place there, plus the characters were so well developed that they actually had priories and... stuff. That's a foreign concept in YA/NA today.

I also want to add that I hate Vissier. No not hate - loathe. Loathe so freaking much that I wanted to literally rip pages out of the book. But again, I applaud Miss Lena for being able to conjure up such strong emotions from me.

The whole concept of the Witchlanders and the Baen and their legends and beliefs was so freaking interesting, I mean, it was a little hard to wrap my head around for about the first half of the book but things became clear as things went on and I appreciated that all of the lose strings were tied. For some reason some authors think it's a good idea to spare us the important details.

Another thing I need to add - this is not your typical YA book - this is some hardcore fantasy going on. Plus the male POV was really refreshing. GODDAMN THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME.
Profile Image for Cinnamon.
162 reviews80 followers
September 2, 2011
Imagine two points of action, like the ends of a string, fluttering around in a breeze and slowly drawing together. Suddenly they meet with fireworks, explosions, and huge bursts of color. For me, that just about sums up the POV within WITCHLANDERS by Lena Coakley.

Unlike the cover of the book might lead one to think, the main POV in WITCHLANDERS is not a female, but a male. More to the point, it's actually two different males. We switch back and forth between the stories of Ryder and Falpian, enemies by birth and yet unlikely allies by the time their "strings" finally meet. While the POV switch could be confusing if not worked well, Ms. Coakley obviously put a lot of energy into making sure that they meshed well. I've read books (as I'm sure we all have) where the POV switches can really kill a story. I'm happy to say that in this case, they add to WITCHLANDERS instead of detract.

About this time I always try to consider what my favorite part of the story was. In this case, I'm having a hard time picking one aspect as my favorite. The characters, their struggles, and the conflict between them is done wonderfully and truly builds the story. The world and the history of the Witchlanders and Baen add a fantastical element that keeps the reader engaged and wondering what's going to happen next. If I had to pick one thing, however, I think I would pick the scenery of the story as one of the aspects that really made this book memorable for me. Ms. Coakley did an excellent job building her landscapes and creating a place where the reader could jump in and experience the story along with the characters. Although I've come across many stories that I love, it's not as often that I find a book where I find myself wishing that I could see the scenery for myself and experience the colors, sights, sounds, and smells there. Ms. Coakley creates such a story.

Although WITCHLANDERS didn't seem to have a huge romance emphasis, I think fans of many genres will find something to love here. It has a touch of a high fantasy feel, a bit of romance, and a ton of adventure. Family and personal conflict abounds, hooking the reader and developing into a story that is very difficult to put down until the last page is turned. I highly suggest WITCHLANDERS and, if you haven't done so already, suggest you go find a copy and settle in for some good reading.
Profile Image for Mara.
661 reviews104 followers
April 26, 2016
Cover Blurb: I really like it. I love the ice-blue, the red banner, the sword - which is rather prominent in the story, - and how when you look closer, you notice the girl in the background. I love all these little hints about the story itself; it’s well done.

What I Liked: Both Ryder and Farien are very good male protagonists. I loved observing their developing friendship, how they came to realize that they were, despite being enemies, very much alike, and also accepting their differences. I also really liked the interaction between Ryder and the White Witch. It was blessedly lacking in flirtation! His observations of her beauty were very matter-of-fact, very Hey, she’s pretty, but that’s not important right now. And the White Witch herself was wonderfully practical and not toting at Attitude, and actually doesn’t play as big of a role as the Reader is led to believe. The Gormie Men were a little bit scary, for elemental monsters, and the thief spiders were so cute!

What I Disliked: Honestly, nothing.

Believability: Not very applicable to this story, except I will note that the beliefs and superstitions of the villagers felt genuine, as did Ryder’s doubts in the Witches’ powers.

Writing Style: It was good. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of winter, and how Farien’s people believed that everything in nature was connected to music. The Author had a very beautiful way of depicting all of this in words. I absolutely love that she chose winter as her story’s season. It really fit the tone. And I positively love the “brotherhood” relationship between Ryder and Farien; the Author develops it very well.

Content: None.

Conclusion: While the villain does give a monologue on what her dastardly plan is (villains should never do this), this didn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. It kind of worked; she was trying to persuade Farien to her side while at the same time justifying herself to Ryder. The ending also gives a rather tantalizing hint to a sequel - a sequel that could actually be very good. But it also wouldn’t require a sequel.

Recommended Audience: Readers who aren’t into hard-core fantasy, but enjoy some of mystery that fantasy stories can have. This is a guy and girl read, and appropriate for any age.
Profile Image for Kaye.
214 reviews430 followers
June 20, 2011
I was really fortunate to notice this title in this month's S&S Galley Grab. Definitely one of the more enjoyable books I've had occasion to peruse this year, and one that I highly recommend. I hope that there will be a sequel.

Ryder has a lot on his plate - a farm that he has to tend alone after the death of his Fa, a so-called witch mother addicted to the maiden's woe that both incurs visions and an early death...and the dreams. There is a Baen in his head, that he is sure of - an enemy witch, playing games with his mind, even as his mother claims that she has seen her most important prophecy: an assassin across the mountains that he must stop.

Falpain is in mourning for his twin brother and supposed soul mate. Sent by his father to Stonehouse for seclusion, he is all too aware of the invisible barrier between Witchlander and Baen, and the consequences of crossing it. But for the sake of his family, he knows all too well that he will have to face death in the eye. He doesn't know how soon that will be.

Coakley seamlessly alternates and merges the two points of view, raising sympathy for Ryder in one moment before she turns back to Falpain's mind for clarification in the next. I particularly loved how she created her own patchwork world out of various traditions and suggestions of real world cultures - ie. a village that sounds European in its way of life, golems and spoiled boys who are allowed lapdogs.

Warnings: Character deaths, golem attacks and fearsome spiders - if that type of thing bothers anyone except for a certain person who watched Arachnophobia *shudders*

Profile Image for Lisa  (Bookworm Lisa).
2,216 reviews172 followers
August 19, 2011
Ryder is a farmer on a rocky terrain. He is trying to get the crops in before the winter freeze and take care of his sisters and his drug addicted mother. She uses a plant to enhance her ability to cast bones and see the future.

The future she sees is grim. It fortells disaster and death. In an attempt to let her coven know, a message is sent using fire to call her coven to her. Her message falls on death ears and disaster ensues.

This takes Ryder on an adventure that he didn't want. Leading him to a future that was fortold that he was unaware of.

In a parallel plot line, Falpian is a young man from a neighboring country. His country has a tenuous peace with Ryder's. It appears that was is brewing. It is through the efforts of Ryder and Falpian that it will be averted.

This book reminded me of the stories that I read growing up. It is fantasy at it's best. I enjoyed the plot that Lena Coakley created. She has taken witchcraft into a different form and I loved it.
Profile Image for Mili Fay.
Author 24 books12 followers
August 20, 2014
I LOVE this book!

I sat down yesterday in my backyard and began to read, I did not stop (except to have family dinner) until it was done. The characters in this book are wonderful. Ryder is my favourite character of all time. He is the older brother I always wished I had.

What I love about this book is that even though the story has familiar fantasy elements and the common "two houses divided" theme, the twists and turns, and adventures have kept me mesmerised. However, the crowning achievement is the characters of this story. They are so real!

I literarily have no words to explain how much I LOVE this book. I'm giving up. All I'll say is that I cannot wait for the next one.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,117 reviews40 followers
March 23, 2020
As they watched, the chilling clouds parted, revealing a patch of brilliant sky. They both stared—stars were a rare sight in winter. Ryder knew he should be moved. "Yulla says that when the Goddess made the world she threw the stars into the sky like a casting, and that the witches of old could read a person's destiny in the stars the same way they read the bones."
"Any star tries to tell me my destiny, I will wrench it from the sky."
Skyla laughed at that. "Of course you will."

I've been procrastinating with this review.
In large part because I don't have a hell of a lot to say.
Not because I didn't enjoy it; I did.
Not because there aren't many things to be said for the language, the world-building, the magic, the characters; there are.
And not because I don't want to tell you how much I enjoyed this; quite a lot, to be honest.
But because sometimes my brain gets stupid and stuck on an idea.
When I first started reading Witchlanders , I almost instantly experienced that hopeful, prickling Spidey-sense feeling that maybe, just maybe, I'd found the answer to my endless search for something to replace a book series I love, miss terribly, and think of far too often.
The Old Kingdom (or The Abhorsen) series by Garth Nix.
(My favourite being the fourth in the series, Clariel. It's the most painful of them all, of course. I still haven't forgiven Mr. Nix)
This wasn't the case.
And that disappointment affected my dedication to the story taking place in front of me because I so desperately wanted it to be the one.
And it should have been.
In the space of 400 pages (probably more like 200; large font in my edition), Lena Coakley paints a vibrant, cruel, earthily magical landscape for her story of occult nuns, elementally made monsters and soul-bound songsters to, at her will, run riot in.
Her world felt like the Abhorsen world.

Ryder knew he should stop singing and bolt for the caves, but now that he'd started, he couldn't make his tongue stop moving. Everything had become bright and blinding—the snow, the trees, the stones, the purple clouds. It was if a skin had been peeled off his eyes and he was seeing the world for the first time in all its frightening beauty. He didn't want to see it. He hadn't asked for this. Skyla wanted magic, not him. There was too much to know. The snowflakes falling languidly around him all had names. Why couldn't he stop singing, for Aata's sake?

Ancient, terrifying in its beauty, and yawning.
Like great jaws arching up from the Hadean depths of the earth to take an assured and fated bite.
And bite it did.
No one leaves this book unscathed.
There's murder and heartbreak, bad parenting and familial betrayal, cultism, jingoism, spite and ignorance.
And hate.
So much hate because of a story of old held onto by traditionalists and bigots.
Sound familiar?
Tale as old as time and all that shit.
So, it's all there.
The drama, the characterisation, the believable history of the magic, the land, the people.
Witchlanders  has all the right ingredients and it sucked me in, made its mark but unfortunately left me wanting more.
Because aside from being damned with my somewhat biased comparisons to The Old Kingdom pentalogy, it has one fatal flaw.
It isn't a series.
It should be a series.
Three books at the very least.
There is so much to be experienced here.
A veritable glut of potential storylines Coakley could draw us into.
And I can only hope that perhaps one day she might let us travel them with her.
Because I did enjoy this story.
It's why I'm so annoyed.
I'm essentially the literary version of hangry and I want more, dammit!
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
198 reviews164 followers
November 10, 2017
I give this a 3 1/2, I struggled with whether I should give it the full 4 stars, but in the end I decided it didn't impress me enough, but it certainly deserves more than just 3 stars.
Now, when Ketsuki recommends a book to me, I should spend less time questioning and more time reading, I've now learned my lesson. They obviously know my book tastes well enough.
For a debut novel from this particular author, this book is marvellously imaginative, the story has set up an entire world for me to process in a matter of 100 pages. This book has the makings of a full, 3 book series at the least. This is where it's losing points for me. I want more, the book leaves off rather uncertainly, there is so much more to be resolved. I think leaving off without a detailed ending to be certain of can be beneficial for some books, but for this one I just feel it feels incomplete.
However, I must applaud the serious level of character development within this novel. Our main character is seriously ignorant at the start, and by the end he is extremely close to a person who's species he hated at the beginning of the story. What's more, he's learned so much that flip his entire view upside down, you can certainly see he's an entirely different person than he was before at the start.
The set up for this novel was very good. Everything was very fleshed out, but like I said this does have the making for a series, but I do have to acknowledge that an entire storyline that could work for an entire book series, with the amount of imagination in this vast fictional world that was rather unheard of to me before was wrapped up amazingly all in the span of 400 pages, aside from that incomplete ending, that is.
This book was published back in 2011, but I would really appreciate and look forward to a sequel. Other than that, I think it is a very good stand alone book.
Near the end, the two main characters, Ryder and Falpian end up becoming extremely close in such a short span of time, enough that Ryder is actually willing to cross the boarder into unknown territory to him for a fate that is not assumed to be good, just to make sure that Falpian remains safe and alive. And it is carefully hinted that they would miss each other otherwise.
With that, I just have to say it would have been so much better if it was gay.
Profile Image for adithi.
209 reviews
April 29, 2019
4.5: wow don't judge a book by its cover! (i don't like it oops) i'll admit this was the book i least wanted to read in white pine 2019 but i was pleasantly surprised by how well it went. i loved that the protagonist was a male character because we don't get that enough. the story was pretty cool, characters were nice and yeah it was a good read!
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