Witch King by Martha Wells *****


I’m a big fan of Martha Wells’ Murderbot series (a bunch of novellas with a novel or two thrown into the mix). They tell relatively straightforward narratives with a very unconventional (and lots of fun) narrator – the titular Murderbot. 

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Witch King’s main character is, in fact, the Witch King. He’s a demon using someone else’s body stranded in the mortal world. We meet Kai as he is released from a prison by a foolish wizard (they aren’t called wizards in this world but they’re wizards) who almost immediately regrets his hubris. Kai has no memory of why he’s been imprisoned or who is responsible. But he aims to find out. 

Wells interweaves Kai’s current search for the truth (and his friends) with events some 60-70 years past that fill in the story of the world. During his search Kai must revisit critical sites from his past, which we learn about as the story dips into the past. 

The climax of the story joins the two halves of the story in a very satisfying, and bittersweet way. Plus it leaves room for sequels. 

Wells has a gift for taking tropes and giving them new life. We’ve all read stories about powerful demons making pacts with folks, but Kai feels like a real person. There are moments in the book when something happens and he’s startled, or he needs to use the bathroom. This things aren’t necessary to the story but help to make the character stand out. 

I love the Murderbot series, but the Witch King is a much richer and satisfying read. You’d be well advised to pick up a copy and start reading right now! 

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