Witchy Kingdom (Witchy War #3)
Written by D.J. Butler
Published by Baen
August 6, 2019
Paperback, 847 pages
I like to do things that make you think. My day job is solving data problems, to be smarter than a computer. When I put the puzzle pieces in front of me, I can usually figure out the solution, even if I have to get creative and take a risk. A cultural pastime that has emerged in the last few years are these escape rooms. A team is placed in a room with clues and objects to figure it out to get out of the room and to the next level. Eventually you either succeed or run out of time. Why mention an escape room? I feel like we’re in one when reading D.J. Butler’s third book in his Witchy War series, Witchy Kingdom.
In the last book, Witchy Winter (reviewed here), Sarah Calhoun and her party had traveled north to Cahokia, the area we know as the Ohio River Valley. She met her father’s spirit and sent her loyal servant Jacob and her brother Nathaniel to find their sister, Margaret. Sarah remains in her kingdom to protect it from two evils: first, Simon Sword, who embodies the warring half of the Heron King, and his beastfolk who are savagely rampaging through the land of Adam and Eve. Second, there’s Thomas Penn and his Imperial Ohio Company from Philadelphia, who has the help from by the necromancer Oliver Cromwell and his minions.
As with the other two books, I’ll sing praises of Butler for his world building. But I feel with this book we’ve left the kiddy pool and have moved into the adult playground. Before, he was developing the New World where the story takes place. Readers were taken to locations that they “knew” since this is an alternate America. Now we’ve moved past the physical world and are playing in different realms. This was introduced in last book when Nathaniel learned how to summon the spirits of the Anishinaabe tribe. We also witnessed Sarah meeting the goddess and becoming the beloved in Eden. This book takes it farther. I think this is a good way to say magic is more in the forefront than it’s been before. There were spells and hexes and magical objects before, but now these incantations don’t just turn something magical or make something invisible. They transport you between realms or physical locations.
The character relationships continue to grow and are becoming more woven together. The “loose thread characters”, ones who are introduced but make you wonder why and how are they’re part of the story, are starting show their usefulness. Not just that, but they’re being put into small groups and using their unique skills together to drive the story forward. Sarah needs to protect her kingdom and is trying to find the way to ascend to her throne by pleasing the goddess. She’s reaching back to these other characters for their help, which in turn is drawing them more into Sarah’s web of believers that’s she’s slowly woven with her authority as the Queen of Cahokia and of her genuine character.
I have to say there are two story lines in this book that have really caught my attention. The first is more an introduction to a situation that’ll be much larger in the next book. The political games are beginning as a battle is drawn against Thomas Penn. We know this will pit several other politicians against him; however, we also know that politicians tend to have cards up their sleeves and will play them at any cost, even for themselves. And we’ve already learned that Penn has some questionable connections as I’ve slowly predicted through my last two reviews.
The second story has been taken to its completion in this book. As I mentioned above, this book gives off that feeling of being in one of those escape rooms. The fascinating part is we’re able to watch two different sides of the puzzle solving. Two groups, two realms, one person playing telephone between them to reach their common goal of helping Sarah ascend to the Serpent throne. Butler does an amazing job of keeping the pace and the suspense up on both sides, while being able to fully describe the visuals for the reader to picture in their mind. He keeps the pace moving quickly because of the short amount of time they have to solve this but he doesn’t lose the reader in that race.
Overall, I’m still very satisfied with the series and with Butler’s ability to not lose his reader as he keeps pushing his story through. He has taken his simple world and made it so complex that it’s becoming unrecognizable from where we started. It shows how well thought out his planning has been to embrace the reader and make them part of his world rather than simply building it to show off on a stage that the reader can never climb up onto.
In other words, Butler has not only expanded the witchy universe, but he’s also keeping a tight grip on it to maintain control of the story, the reader, and himself as the writer so that the creation he’s made doesn’t turn into a dumpster fire.
I sit next to the next book, Serpent Daughter, and am anxiously waiting to finish my review of Witchy Kingdom, so that I can keep reading. So until then, I will leave you with this thought that D.J. Butler wrote in the book for me: Death is not the end.