I wrote in another book review earlier this year that I’ve been craving more gender and sexual diversity in YA fantasy novels. I could not possibly be more pleased to report that for the second time in a row I got exactly what I wanted, in H.E Edgmon’s The Witch King, which Netgalley was kind enough to offer me an ARC of in exchange for an honest review. 2021 is certainly delivering on queer YA fantasy.
The Witch King takes place in a world where the fae have fled their homeland and settled in a kingdom called Asalin, which is located in the human world, but away from any human beings. Our main character, Wyatt, is a witch: someone born to fae parents, but not fae, and possessing magical powers. Before the story begins, he has fled his life in Asalin – and his engagement to his childhood friend, Prince Emyr – to live in the human world instead. But when Emyr finally tracks him down and brings him back to Asalin, Wyatt realizes that his old kingdom needs him, badly. Forced to confront his traumatic past, as well as his lingering feelings for Emyr, Wyatt must choose between his own personal freedom, and the freedom of all witches in Asalin.
This book is fun and interesting and charming and so, so witty. I wish I could quote all the lines that made me laugh out loud, but there were too many of them, and it’s probably best if you experience them yourself. Wyatt is an incredibly complicated but likable main character, and his narration is one of the highlights of the novel. The supporting cast is diverse and fun. Wyatt is not the only transgender character in the book, Indigenous knowledge is incorporated into the story in a way that I thought was really interesting, and generally, each character’s identity is treated with care and attention. By the end I was just as invested in the storylines of the supporting characters as I was in Wyatt’s.
It can be hard to kick off a fantasy series and have it be interesting and easy to follow right from the start. The Witch King doesn’t feel too bogged-down by worldbuilding, though, and the writing style makes it engaging and easy to read right from the start. It’s very much a character-based story, but by the end of it you’re sure to find yourself interested in the overarching plot.
The relationships are a standout, too. When I was about halfway through, I wrote down that I really enjoyed how the author focused on friendships instead of romance, especially when it came to Wyatt, because at the time I couldn’t care less about the relationship between Wyatt and Emyr. And yet, by the end of the book, I shipped these two so hard that I was happy to read about their romance. All the relationships in The Witch King were so well done.
The Witch King is both heartfelt and fun. It will make you love all the characters to pieces, question your own understanding of the world, and laugh out loud at the witty narration. I could not possibly rate this book more highly. Pick it up on June 1st.
The Witch King comes out June 1st, 2021.
Image Source: Netgalley