Tough Traveling: Witches

The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information. Compulsive list-maker that I am, I’m very excited to take part!

This week’s tour topic is: Witches

Witches are special and probably at least the equal of wizards.

Wendy’s Picks

First off, there’s something important to point out about the witches of fantasy: most often they fall into two categories: hags, or seductresses (or both), and, unlike wizards and warlocks, their male counterparts, witches often don’t get the opportunity to ever be considered one of the good guys, and they have to prove themselves equal to, if not more powerful, rather than be accepted as such, unless they are evil. Hell, even this category description doesn’t give them much credit…

wizard's first ruleWizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Witch women are known for their ability to ensnare the minds of those they encounter, and for their unusual affinity to the magic of visions and prophecy.”

Shota is the witch that even wizards fear. Though she is sometimes referred to as a sorceress, her powers lie in illusion–the ability to delve into the mind and provide that which one most desires or fears.

711bd-agameofthronesA Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Reviled as a maegi by the Dothraki, Mirri Maz Duur uses blood magic to curse Daenerys Targaryen and her fledgling family. In a plot twist that increasingly makes me feel like GRRM has no clue what to do with his story anymore, he introduces another maegi, Maggy the Frog, who offers Cersei Lannister a prophecy that drives her to madness. And, followed as a priestess of the red god, R’hllor, Melisandre is considered a shadowbinder. She can summon shadows to do her bidding, and also likes to play with fire and blood.

courtship of princess leiaThe Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton

Fearing that he will lose Leia to a handsome prince in a political marriage, Han carries her off to a planet where they meet the “Force Witches,” women who have delved into the dark side of the Force, but may not necessarily be evil, in spite of their veiny purple faces.

White WitchThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Jadis was born before Narnia, and, as the White Witch, rules it with an icy fist, blanketing the realm in an endless winter–and she would have kept ruling it too, if it weren’t for those pesky Pevensie kids.

And now, an excuse to post a picture of Tilda Swinton, who played the White Witch in the movie.

Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Adarlan’s Assassin almost met her match when she crossed Baba Yellowlegs, a former queen of the Ironteeth Clans. Believed to have died out, the Ironteeth have, in fact, gone into hiding, with some, like Baba Yellowlegs, plying their services as fortunetellers in circuses. For the right price….

dragon age stolen throneDragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider

Flemeth has many names, but most often, she and her daughters are referred to as the Witches of the Wilds. Weavers of powerful magics, her daughters, of whom we have met only two, can do many dark things, but their mom? Well, she can turn into a dragon….

Mogsy’s Picks

Looks like Wendy’s got things covered! Since there’s certainly no shortage of books with Witches this week, I’m going to forgo the more obvious choices and chime in with a few titles I haven’t featured before in previous Tough Traveling lists.

Beautiful CreaturesBeautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

All you have to know is that this series has been described as “Twilight with witches”. Instead, I’m going to share a story here of why I decided to read this book. You see, I’m a big fan of Jeremy Irons. So big a fan, that I suffered through the two-hour train wreck that was the movie adaptation, just because he was in it. Out of morbid curiosity, I picked up the book afterward to see how it compared. (Verdict: the novel was perhaps just a smidgen better.)

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

There were so many things about this book that rubbed me the wrong way, but hey, its about witches (look, look, it’s even in the title!) The story boils down to romance between the main character who is a witch and her centuries-old vampire lover, brought together by a mysterious manuscript she uncovered from the depths of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. There’s also this wacky weird gene theory to try and explain witches’ powers which honestly made no sense at all.

Naamah's KissNaamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

The first book of the second “follow-up” trilogy to Carey’s original Phedre trilogy in her wonderful Kushiel Universe series, Naamah’s Kiss introduces us to Moirin of the Maghuin Dhonn. Known as a “bear witch”, her mother’s line possess certain magical druid-like powers. 

Honorable Mention:

The Mists of AvalonThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Speaking of misunderstood witches, The Mists of Avalon retells the magical legend of King Arthur through the eyes and lives of the women who helped bolster Camelot’s rise and facilitated its fall from behind the scenes. Throughout history, Morgaine, the daughter of Igraine and Gorlois and half sister to King Arthur has often been portrayed as a witch or powerful sorceress.

22 Comments on “Tough Traveling: Witches”

  1. Despite my fascination with magic, I just found out that my list is still mediocre should I decide to participate in this week’s TT. 😦

    Wendy- Although I hated Mirri Maz Duur for killing the unborn Rhaego, I can’t help but admire her for what she did to Khal Drogo.

    Haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia yet. But definitely watched the movie adaptation. I can no longer remember what the White Witch looked like. *hides*

    Mogsy- I am sorry but I am not familiar with the books that you have listed except for Beautiful Creatures. Lucky me, I never had the urge to read the book or to watch the film adaptation.

    Lovely list, ladies! ❤ Will definitely check out Dragon Age and the Mists of Avalon.


    • I dislike Mirri for not being honest, but after being raped a few times and then asked to save the man who did it, I can’t blame her for wanting to hurt both Khal Drogo, and the naive woman who thought Mirri and her people should be thankful for her saving them *after* the raping and pillaging was done. :-/ That was the start of a long lesson that Dany still hasn’t quite learned.

      P.S. The Dragon Age books are based on the game, Dragon Age: Origins.


  2. I’ve read like 80% of the books on this list!! If only we could write about witches every week. Wendy, I also loved Tilda Swinton as the White Witch – she did the whole frosty evil thing perfectly. I haven’t read Crown of Midnight yet but knowing that there are witches makes me want to that much more.

    And Mogsy, you are braver than I, sitting through the Beautiful Creatures movie. I saw the trailer and noped right on out of there. The whole “Twilight with witches” thing is pretty accurate, which is probably why I didn’t like the book. As maligned as A Discovery of Witches might be, I still want to read it because LIBRARIES!


  3. Wendy, I didn’t like the category description in the book so I just cut it short figuring we all knew what witches were =) And while I have culled most of my Star Wars books over time, Courtship made the keeper cut.

    And Mogsy, we usually have such similar tastes. I have not read anything on that list (though I DNFed A Discovery of Witches, so at least I tried).


    • If I’d read Discovery of Witches today, I probably would have DNF’ed it too. I didn’t pick up the other books when they came out, because my experience with the first book was quite disappointing. That book had a multiple personality disorder, it didn’t know whether it wanted to be a suspense-thriller or a romance.


    • Oh you’ll have to share the original description then! I am curious to see if my suspicion is correct…

      I have the Thrawn trilogy on my shelf, the originals, and a beautiful hardcover of Courtship of Princess Leia. I love that cover. Even though I have no idea why Leia would be wearing a wedding dress circa Earth 1990s.


  4. LOL with witches I was so sure I would know almost all the books and I failed. I only have read C.S. Lewis, and Carey but it’s a good start yes? I have some others to read.


  5. I thought of some notable witches you left out…

    Terry Pratchett’s Witches of Lancre: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Tiffany Aching, etc. These have several of the Discworld novels devoted to them. They can fly and cast spells, but they prefer to rely on common sense and their knowledge of human nature.

    Harry Potter’s witches. This is just the female equivalent of “wizard” in the HP world. But they’ve got to be some of the best-known witches out there, even if they don’t really follow the stereotypes (apart from the occasional pointy hat).

    In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, the magic-wielding (actually he never uses the term “magic”, it’s always “channeling”) Aes Sedai are referred to as “witches” by those who distrust and fear them. I think I’ve run across this in other places where the term is used disparagingly for any magic-wielding women.


    • Thanks for chiming in! For Tough Traveling the rule is to only list books you’ve read, and sadly I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Pratchett yet…I know, for shame! 🙂

      And I decided to forgo Harry Potter this week as it’s made a lot of appearances on our past TT lists, and give some of the books I haven’t featured before a chance to be in the spotlight. I’m sure HP is going to appear on many other bloggers’ lists to make up for it 😀


    • Discworld is high on my to-read list. I will definitely look out for those witches.

      I had thought of Harry Potter, but since I had already taken over so much of the list, I figured I’d leave something for Mogsy 😉

      Good call on the Wheel of Time. I have only read the first book and did not enjoy it, but the character of Morgan(?) stood out.


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