Martha Wells: Witch King (EBook, 2023, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC) 5 stars

Kai-Enna is the Witch King, though he hasn’t always been, and he hasn’t even always …

Murder Demon

4 stars

The only other books by Martha Wells that I've read are the Murderbot Diaries, so it's pretty hard for me not to view it through that lens.

Which is unfair on the book, because it is entirely its own thing.

But also carries a lot of Murderbot DNA.

There's the conversational style, the same exasperated, hyper-confident protagonist with a prickly exterior but a heart of gold...

But Kai is also more openly vulnerable, more open with his friends and much more DTF.

Plot-wise it suffers from the same issues I have with the MBDs. The overarching story wasn't compelling, I don't really understand the stakes or the politics, at least not for the bulk of the book. So it was hard to get invested. But it doesn't matter because the whole thing is really just a framework to hang the individual set pieces on and, man, Wells is amazing on the small scale.

The action is so good. Well's writes in such a cinematic way that I am immediately sucked into the scene. And they feed into each other so well, with the split past/present back story meaning that you are always left in the middle of some cliffhanger or important event even during the downtime.

The setting is also really interesting, the magic system is weird, but usually clearly conveyed, and the world is... well it's a mess. Dealing with the fallout from the magical equivalent of a nuclear war.

Overall, the most basic comparison is the strongest though. This is an incredibly compelling book, that I can see myself re-reading many times.