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Heart of the Witch Kindle Edition
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Zerrick Dhur is trapped between two drives: as the son of the pastor, he is expected to be an example of proper behaviour; as a curious teenager, he wants to learn all the magic his mentor can teach him. But, studying magic is not just inappropriate it is sinful, forcing him to learn in secret. When his mentor is arrested for witchcraft, Zerrick is forced to exchange his comfortable life for one of running from both the righteous and the criminals who lurk in the jungle.
Goodwin’s world-building is solid. Both the colonials and the natives have a distinct society but are composed of disparate groups, creating an immediate feeling of realism.
The revelation of both magic and the more unusual flora and fauna is well-paced, allowing the reader to share Zerrick’s learning experience without having to experience long periods where little develops. Both the risks of magic and its source are plausible, creating a balance between solving problems and causing them.
The religions are similarly skilfully crafted, offering both benefits and disadvantages to followers. And – unlike some fantasy novels – there is no hierarchy of worth; no one religion overcomes the others, or is ethically superior.
The dénouement, when it arrives, is both satisfying and consistent with the rest of the book.
Goodwin’s characterisation is as sound as her world-building. Zerrick’s combination of self-doubt and arrogance is a very realistic response to the stresses he faces. He also develops plausible phobias and drives from the events he faces.
The other characters are similarly rounded, with even minor characters having a distinct personality.
Goodwin also balances the power of the main characters with their involvement in the wider world. While the key actions are taken by the protagonists, many of the actions necessary to get them there require the involvement of other characters. This provides a sense that the supporting characters are the heroes of their own narratives.
However, the romance plot might be annoying to some readers. The early confirmation to the reader that the characters each care for the other, followed by their misunderstandings and conflicts for many chapters can become wearing for those who do not share the characters teenage social skills.
The book contains a few character sketches, which – while they do not detract from the work – do not add significantly to the impression of the characters.
Overall I enjoyed this story greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking an accessible but complex single-volume fantasy novel.
Zerrick is a well-developed character and following him through his coming of age story was a treat. The elements of fantasy that can be hard to create, such as the rules of magic, were done nicely and were easy to follow. The world created for the story was well though out and interesting.
Overall, this is a great story that will hold your attention
Zerrick, hearing differing histories and views from both his father and his mentor, is conflicted from the start. On the one hand, he is taught that magic is evil and dangerous, a gateway to the domain of Angist. His father also teaches that Ainera, the Goddess of magic, is also evil, a trickster to fool people into using and abusing their magic. On the other hand, Zerrick is taught that Ainera and the magic are not inherently evil and that the magic is natural and beneficial. Only men with evil hearts who listen to the lies of Angist use it for evil. This contradiction forces Zerrick to consider each side for himself. But the conflict doesn't remain an internal one for long, because the benevolent Ainera and the evil Angist eventually take note of him.
Overall, the plot, characters, mythology, and cultures within the story are both well-developed and believable. I enjoyed the parallels drawn with Christianity and with colonial pilgrims (including their fear of witchcraft). Although this is a work of fiction, it's obvious the author draws from extensive knowledge of these subjects to weave such a vibrant world.
I love this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves thought-provoking fantasy that doesn't strictly adhere to the cliched norms of the fantasy genre.
I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The first half of the book felt like a religious lecture against slavery and the second half was a very standard fantasy story about a young magic user finding his way. The problem is that he has so little confidence in himself that it is impossible to see him as a hero, but more as a puppet of the Goddess.
The book is also rife with spelling, grammar and consistency errors, which get especially bad in the 2nd half of the book, almost as if the editor was getting bored and just wanted to be done with it.
There are a couple instances of significant time and action changes that are signified by nothing more than a paragraph change. When the adventurers get to the city of Aloria they are eventually shown to a room to settle in. However, in the next paragraph it is 3 weeks later. I had to stop reading and go back to see if I had missed a few pages or something. A 3-week break in the story should be a far more significant event than a paragraph change, most likely a new chapter. With errors like these causing me to leave the story over and over it is very difficult to read and that is why it took me so long 5+ weeks to read.
Beyond the colonial town a vast wilderness with magical monsters, few venture into it . The hero is chased out of town, only to magic meets a young woman, Mira, who seeks to flee the constraints put on women in their society. Their adventure together and through their struggles grow emotionally vested in their relationship. Born is the coming of age turmoil of teenage angst.
By the time you are 75% into the story, the conflict between the higher powers becomes very clear and deity struggles become an active part of the adventure. I do not want to spoil your read so that is about all the detail I will provide. For me the coming of age emotions got old fast, with a very predictiable and familiar plot line.
The world building was good and that is what really held my attention. The development of the two main characters was done well, but all the other actors are secondary without real feel. Active deity involvement isn't really my thing so you need to keep that in mind when considering my rating.
Over all, I enjoyed this book. The magic system was understandable, and I don’t think there was a single time when I felt like the world lacked continuity. This can be hard to do in a fantasy, so thumbs up to Miss Goodwin. I can’t say the magic system was super original (is that even possible?) because it loosely followed a Satan/God/Wiccan outline, but it didn’t detract from the story in my opinion. The cultures were well defined and the motivations behind different groups made sense. The world was interesting and when I started reading I wanted to know what was going to happen to Zerrick and his teacher. The writing was pretty good and didn’t hang me up, but I didn’t feel a real emotional draw in, which is important to me. That changed with the introduction of Mira. Once I got to Mira, I really didn’t care about Zerrick anymore. She was such a likable character and she felt more real than any of the others. I wished the story had been about her and we’d only had Zerrick’s story from her perspective. The romantic tension from her end was fun and drew me in. From his perspective it was weird (but explained well in the story).
The reason I only gave three stars is this: For one thing, it took me a long time to get emotionally invested in the story, for whatever reason. As I mentioned, this is important to me. More important than plot or any other single element in a book, which is why I finished Twilight even though there are countless things wrong with that book. Anyway, after Mira was added to the cast I got invested, but then I felt thrown to a distance every time I read from Zerrick’s point of view. I have speculated on why this might be for a quite some time, but it isn’t worth writing all down, here. The second (and also important to me) reason for only three stars is that part way through the book the editing took a steep down hill turn. There were lots of typos and non-sentences that really should have been noticed by someone, but must not have been checked over. I’m not talking about their/they’re, but missing parts of sentences and sentences mixed up so it was hard to understand. I read this earlier this year, so perhaps those errors have been edited, I don’t know. This may not bother others, but it makes me a little crazy. The last thing is that as the book neared its end, I kept getting the feeling like things were rushed. I’d get an occasional scene, but a lot of things were skimmed over when they seemed like they could have been interesting. I got the feeling that Miss Goodwin was tired of the story, or maybe she just thought it was getting too long. I couldn’t stay emotionally connected, and had a hard time caring about any of the characters by the end. I think maybe there was too much from Zerrick’s perspective for my liking. You may well feel differently about the character, and in that case you wouldn’t at all have the same experience I did.
Language: Only a couple objectionable words, and nothing you wouldn’t find in a PG movie. At least, not that I noticed. I admit that I often read right over them without realizing it, probably because I’ve trained myself to do that.
Sexual Content: None. There’s an almost scene, but it doesn’t get very far at all. There are some thoughts from a man’s perspective, but not detailed.
Over-all Message/Plot: I didn’t catch any plot holes or inconsistencies. I can’t say there was really an over-all message, except maybe that we should all just accept each other and stop fighting over ideals. There was also and underlying theme about taking advantage of those who can’t defend themselves. I think most fantasy readers would enjoy reading this. There are some cool monsters and as mentioned, the magic system is nice.
I have ignored most syntax errors because the story is very interesting and kept my attention, however the above sentence makes absolutely no sense and really threw me completely out of the story. It threw me out so hard I had to write this and hope I can finish the story.
I was able to finish the story, however I must make note of the fact that while one can indeed LEAD people, the past tense is LED as in "Zerrick LED the group" not "Zerrick lead the group."
Also reading "Now that now that..." was off putting.
These were the worst errors as they threw me out of such an interesting story. I really enjoyed the cultures created and the characters that were written about. I would be interested in reading more from this author, but suggest she finds a good editor as there were myriad grammar errors throughout.
I do suggest reading the book as it is very creative and interesting.