When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. The mother normally kills the doppelganger on the fifth night during a ritual. The witch cannot master her powers until the twin is dead. Everyone knows this. Everyone accepts this.
When Miryo became a full witch, she was unable to use her magic. She must search the world to find her doppelganger, that has somehow survived, and kill it. Until then, Miryo must resist using her powers or they will kill her. But with each hour that passes it gets harder to keep from using those powers. Soon Miryo will be unable to resist. Miryo has another problem plaguing her mind too. Since the doppelganger has lived twenty-five years, will it still be a shell without a soul? And if it does have a soul, can Miryo bring herself to kill her twin?
Mirage is a bounty hunter. She lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. This mission she must work with another hunter, Eclipse. This is not too difficult since she knows him well and they have worked together before. But this mission is a rare one. To accept it, Mirage and Eclipse must give a blood oath. They either succeed in the mission or die. Their task is to find out who assassinated Tari-nakana, a witch that was high in her Fire Order. After killing the person who did the deed, they must also go after the one who ordered it done. Sounds simple, but nothing is simple when it involves witches.
**** Hard to believe that this is Marie Brennan's debut novel. The author has crafted a divine world of magic and warriors. She gives just enough information to make it real. This could easily evolve into a wonderful series. Recommended. ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
In her 25th year and following life long study, Miryo faces her witches trial and passes; allowing the magic within her to finally flow freely. Yet despite passing and now formally recognised as a witch, Miryo has no control over her power and learns her slightest magic could prove devastating to both herself and those around her. It is during this time that a dark secret of the witches is revealed. At birth a witch baby become splintered; one twin containing the channel to access magic and the other viewed as a soulless doppelganger; killed shortly after it comes into existence during the fracturing. Now Miryo must find her surviving doppelganger; a thing of destruction and imbalance and kill it with her own hand before the untapped power within her consumes her.
Mirage is one of the best bounty hunters around. Despite her aversion to witches as she is often mistaken for one due to her red hair, she finds herself blood oathed by magic to find the assassin of a high ranking witch and the person behind the execution; should she fail, she dies. Yet during her investigation she learns that the assassination was an internal affair and to go public means facing the wrath of the Primes, the five most powerful witches alive.
Both Miryo and Mirage are great characters and MB certainly creates a great contrast between two people who are effectively the same person; showing how their lives have marked them in different ways. Although emphasis is placed on the fact that Mirage should die, I found myself preferring her to Miryo, yet in all fairness Miryo is kept at a distinct disadvantage throughout most of this book; lacking the fighting skills of her doppelganger and unable to safely cast the most simple of spells. Although Miryo has no wish to kill Mirage after discovering she is not the soulless creature she was led to believe, it is Mirage, the trained killer who is the driving force behind trying to find an alternative plan. She is definitely not just the brawn to Miryo's brain.
The general concept of "Doppelganger" reminded me heavily of Jane Yolen's "Great Alta Series", a trilogy featuring light sisters and their dark sister counterparts; yet whereas JY's "twins" lived predominantly in harmony together, the existence of Mirage and any other doppelganger is regarded as a threat to the existence of magic; with many powerful witches believing any located should be destroyed. In fact it is positively chilling the way many refer to Mirage as an "it" when she is such a well constructed character.
I won't give away MB's stunning conclusion in this book; however I will say that it was cleverly done. After such a great start to this series, I have ordered this books sequel "Warrior and Witch" and eagerly await its arrival.