Some prophecies thwart danger. Others create it. “Fans of contemplative, psychologically rich (but no less action-packed) fantasies à la Ursula Le Guin will welcome this warm, inventive debut” (BCCB, starred review).
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
But it’s all 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.
Laced with rich, imagined histories; miles of catacombs; and prophecies true and false, Witchlanders takes place in an evocative, tantalizingly vibrant world and raises equally evocative questions: Who gets to defines history? When does a legend become a crutch? And why does the enemy in war look a lot like the hero? Lena Coakley’s first novel is a lush, chilling story that is sure to send shivers through your finger bones.
Living in the Witchlands, Ryder struggles to maintain his family's remote farm after his father's death. Falpian is a "blackhair" Baen prince from the Bitterlands, sent on a retreat to mourn his drowned twin. They are hereditary enemies, carrying the weight of disappointed expectations and unquestioned cultural assumptions. All his life, Ryder has been taught by his mother, the lapsed witch Mabis, to mock the prophecies of the coven that drove off the invading Baen army 20 years ago. When a drug-crazed Mabis returns to prophesying, Ryder considers her mad until the prophecies begin coming true. And if this madness is true, what about his own visions of black-haired sisters or the strange power of the songs he sings in the fields? In her first novel, picture book author Coakley (Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle) takes on faith, doubt, and dualities, exposing their flaws and strengths alike. Plot twists unfold at a riveting pace, the boys' characters are compellingly sketched, and Coakley explores her subject matter masterfully without falling prey to safe plot choices. Ages 12 up.