2 out of 4 stars
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Welcome to “The Store”, where, today, we’re going to witness the adventures of Cadence Mage in The Three Witches and the Three Headed Dagger by Henry Regnault. If you look to your left, you can watch Cadence, an immortal with mysterious powers that even he doesn’t know about, fight against the forces of evil to save his family. What follows is a tale of mystery, suspense and magic as Cadence finds himself facing old enemies thirsting for revenge after the deaths of three of the people he loved most. Take a closer look and you’ll see him defend new friends and the only family he has left amidst betrayal after betrayal and the discovery that all is not as he believed it to be.
As you can see, dear reader, I really liked this book. Regnault constructs an interesting mystery with the murder of one girl that spirals into a deep dive into Cadence’s past that’s as filled with intrigue as his present is filled with blood, and boy howdy, is it filled with blood. This is not a book for the faint of heart, as there are very graphic descriptions of violence and gore that wouldn’t get past censors in a more visual medium. As it is, the author does not take any shortcuts when it comes to the fight scenes in the book, lingering over details like (and a warning for those who get triggered by blood) a hand being pushed through a chest, telling us exactly what kind of viscera comes out of the other end.
To preserve what equilibrium there is in the book, however, the characters are funny and even, at times, grotesque to the point of caricature. In another book, that might be a fatal flaw but in this one it seems to have been done potentially. Two of the three witches, Heather and Kaliea, are thoroughly corrupted, with Kaliea, the sole survivor of the two, degenerating into something less than human as the novel progresses. As such, so must her appearance and the way she carries herself, contrasting with the main villain and her father, Sam, who retains much of his human appearance as he maintains more control of his powers.
That’s not to say that this book is without flaws. As interesting as the story is, and it is interesting, the editing is truly atrocious. It’s riddled with errors throughout the book and the development of both plot and characters is done via a narrative shorthand more suited to comics that undercuts the story itself. Rather than letting the characters speak for themselves, Regnault relies on quips and quick mental asides to shape them, sometimes neglecting characters like Cadence’s niece, Jenny, or dropping seemingly important plot points altogether.
As such, it makes for a rough, rather scattered read that does the book very little justice for all the world-building that occurs, and there is a lot of it for such a short novel. Not only do we get Cadence’s history with Sam and his daughters, but also the context for his powers and the conflict with the blue-purple flame that dogs his steps. It’s not much when compared to other books, but, considering the rather short length of this one, it’s enough to take up at least a third of the book, spread out as it is already.
I love this book. Truly, I do. However, I have to give it 2 out of 4 stars because of its flaws. While it is an absolutely fascinating read for the start of a series I’m going to continue, I think it would have been much better off as a graphic novel. The prose needs a lot of editing and reworking for this to function as a novel, but it’s brilliant all the same. Fans of fantasy and series like Supernatural should check this one out, but be warned. There is, and I can’t stress this enough, a lot of gore and a brief sex scene or two.
The Three Witches and the Three Headed Dagger
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