Full review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: With any Tim Marquitz title, the reader should be ready to know a few things will be expected in the story:
a) It will be dark and most likely feature a grey protagonist.
b) The story will fast paced and twisted to say the least.
c) The world settings will be grim and foreboding.
So after reading almost of his previous titles, I was very excited to see him try his hand at sword and sorcery. This would be his slant on this excellent sub-genre and with Tim at the helm, one can never foretell how the story will end.
Witch Bane begins by introducing the reader to Sebastian who is a warlock and a teenage one at that. The land of Mynistiria is one wherein witches rule and one of the cornerstones of their power is that all male warlocks are to be executed and their blood to be utilized for nefarious purposes. Sebastian’s mother was a witch who tried to save him but to no avail. She failed and was murdered, her husband Darius rescued Sebastian and has trained him to avenge his mother. Sebastian’s journey will be a difficult one as not only will he have to control his power but also he will have to also account for the characters that his father and he come across.
Tim’s storytelling abilities come to the fore with this standalone effort. Combining action intrigue and plot twists, he manages to give us a revenge saga that might seem to be a straightforward story but is definitely more complex than it appears to be. There’s also the complication of the white witch and the person that she seeks. The witches’ council has their own problems to contend with as their power and status as rulers is being contested. There are further side plots to the story however the reader will have to find them out for themselves.
Firstly this story will be a treat for fans of David Gemmell, David Dalglish and R. A. Salvatore. The story has a brisk pace to it that keeps the reader unsettled and the plot twists come left and right to further entangle the plot threads that are complex to begin with. Characterization has been Tim’s forte and it is no different with Witch Bane, be it with a troubled teen like Sebastian or his withdrawn, silent father Darius, to the taciturn and deadly Victor or the unsuspecting, sheltered Emerald. Each character has their own quirks and the reader will have to decide which among them is the true victim.
This story while being a revenge drama also has shades of being a thriller. There’s plenty of action and intrigue. Tim Marquitz knows how to tell an epic story and with this one, he manages to narrow down the focus to a few characters. The epicness of this tale is quite understated and this story is all about one young lad’s search for revenge. He’s however bereft of the wiles that one gains with experience and Darius struggles to help him gain that edge which will help him in his quest. The story is mainly about Sebastian trying to find out who he is exactly and at the same time trying to find and kill the witches that have murdered his mother. This book can thought of to be a coming-of-age story but its one that’s dark and violent as one of Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
Sebastian as a character is the most endearing of the lot of POV characters as he’s been trained for revenge and revenge only. He doesn’t really know about foibles of mankind. He soon learns that not every issue is black and white and there are more than two sides to every issue/problem. The book also has another protagonist Emerald who discovers the life beyond her ivory walls and the story is mainly about the growth of these two. The story however doesn’t give us much time to dwell on these two characters as things keep on happening and we are taken to the visceral and unsettling climax. Tim has another ace up to his sleeve as he puts in a final twist and then ups the ante in the epilogue as well.
This book is a dark fantasy thriller and one that excels on the strengths of the author. This book has a few downsides in relation to the type of being story told. It doesn’t give the characters enough time or space to develop. The story being on the shorter side, the readers get a short brutal look into the lives of these characters and with many of them meeting gruesome ends. It feels as if we only get to know them partly. With the story’s length being what it is, readers wanting a deeper nuanced storyline might not find it entirely to their liking. There’s also the question of world building and in this case, it's on the lighter side and therefore the reader will get a world that appears to be more but its secrets might be revealed in future books (if any).
CONCLUSION: Witch Bane is a dark story; it combines themes of revenge with that of a coming of age storyline. Tim Marquitz deftly handles these themes and gives the reader another quick-paced, twisted story about a boy who is learning to be a man and also avenge his mother’s death. Such a theme is very similar to that of Harry Potter books however this is far away from that memorable tale. Witch Bane is for those that like their tales darker, heroes gray and outcomes ambivalent. Read this book if you like to be thrilled and surprised.