3 out of 4 stars
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An enchantress named Sibele lives in an enchanted castle. The surrounding villages tell stories about her that warn young maidens from nearing the castle, else Sibele would capture them and eat their flesh. In her castle, she remains young and beautiful with the help of the Witchstone. Fenrulf, a young wizard, is working on a spell of destruction to get his revenge on the city Sangara. To complete his spell, he needs Sibele’s Witchstone. When he sends his servant, Orog, to steal the Witchstone, another steals the Witchstone from Orog. With the turn of this event, Sibele and Fenrulf must travel together, overcoming many dangers, to retrieve the stone from Wizard-King Rothric.
In The Witchstone, Victoria Randall takes two characters who are more like villains than heroes and follows them on their adventure to reacquire the Witchstone which was stolen from Sibele then Fenrulf’s servant. Both Sibele and Fenrulf character portrayals are very interesting because they could easily fill a villainous role. Although they might never become the hero-type readers are used to reading, they grow and develop throughout the book which leads to unexpected actions.
Randall sets the scenes in the world beautifully and creatively. There are unique places Sibele and Fenrulf visit that might not have been read before in other fantasy novels. One such place is the Lands of Gold, where the citizens are seemingly metallic and rooms are carved out of great jewels. The imagery weaved in and out of the novel helps readers to fully immerse themselves in the world. For example “...the air had the mintleaf taste of spring, the scent of rain-cleansed earth.” and “...the sun rose like a cup of gold out of the white mists of the morning.”
One element that could have been developed more in the book were side characters. Rothric, the main antagonist, only had one motivation for stealing the Witchstone away, which won’t be spoiled here. That single motivation didn’t seem to connect with why Rothric took the Witchstone to other kingdoms and lands. An old woman lives in the castle with Sibele, but why and how she got there isn’t well explained. She seems to be there for a chance encounter with Fenrulf at the beginning of the book. Even Orog, who traveled alongside Sibele and Fenrulf the entire book paled in comparison to their development and was dubbed Fenrulf’s faithful servant, nothing more.
Overall, I found The Witchstone an enchanting fantasy. I enjoyed each twist and turn the book took me through. There were times I was on the edge of my seat, reading further to know an outcome. There were a few typos I found while reading though it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel. I rate The Witchstone 3 out of 4 stars. I enjoyed the main characters Sibele and Fenrulf and their development but would have liked to see more development from Rothric and the side characters. I would be delighted to recommend this dark fantasy to anyone who enjoys the genre.
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