YA Weekend: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 3 of The Malediction Trilogy
Publisher: Angry Robot (May 3, 2016)
Length: 384 pages
To be fair, this wasn’t all bad. My disappointment probably stems less from my overall feelings for the book itself, and had more to do with how inadequate and unsatisfying I found it to be as a concluding volume—to what started off as such a strong and promising series, I might add. On the one hand, you have endings that are bittersweet, and on the other, there are the kinds of endings that leave a rotten taste in your mouth. To me, this one felt a lot more like the latter. Maybe it was an attempt to be bold and give readers something different, but I thought it was needlessly complicated and cruel, and I can’t help thinking this trilogy and its characters would have been better served with a more traditional happily-ever-after.
But more on that later. First, let me back up a bit here. Warrior Witch picks up right where the previous book Hidden Huntress left off, with Tristan and Cécile continuing their fight against their enemy, trying to save both the humans and the trolls after a deadly magic was unleashed upon their worlds. A great war is coming, and while his people are free, Tristan still has much to do to prove that he is the rightful leader of the trolls. Cécile is doing what she can to support her beloved with her newfound powers, but she too is recovering from learning several shocking revelations about her own family. Both our protagonists may have their debts to pay, but more importantly, the two of them also have a prophecy to fulfill, and it won’t do to underestimate the lengths they will go to do it.
This should have had all the makings of an epic finale. Instead, it turned out to be my least favorite installment of the trilogy. Right away, I knew something was wrong when I could barely reconcile myself to this shaky transition between the beginning of this book and the end of the last one. As I recall, the final few chapters of Hidden Huntress were amazing, setting readers up for this incredible high even when all was said and done. Instead of picking up that momentum, however, Warrior Witch began with a sluggish introduction, and continued with its lackadaisical pacing until well into the second half of the novel. I hate to say it, but there were so many parts of this book where having to read it felt like such a chore. If I hadn’t been so determined to finish the trilogy, I might have been tempted to throw in the towel long before the plot picked up again.
But even as the story got better, I had my issues with the characters. Several times I almost lost my patience with Cécile, whose actions made me feel like the only way she could contribute to the story was by running headlong into danger without a single thought to anyone but herself. While her pluckiness was semi-charming in Hidden Huntress, here it just felt like a bad habit. When it all inevitably goes wrong and she ends up blaming herself, all I could think was, “Yes, I blame you too, Cécile, you fool girl.” The relationship between her and Tristan was also problematic, for I think I actually like them more when they’re apart. So what does that say about their romance? Their love for each other seemed almost like an afterthought in this book, though granted they both had a lot more pressing things on their mind, what with the bad guys coming to kill them and all.
However, the final straw that ultimately went and destroyed the camel’s back was, as I said, the final few chapters. Truthfully, I’m not even all that angry over how it ended because I’m still trying to get over my staggering dismay and bewilderment as to why, WHY, we had to end the series this way. Look, I am not one to always demand a happy ending. In fact, most times I actually prefer it when things don’t end up with perfect outcomes for everyone so that they can all go home and have cake. Bittersweet endings can be really cool when they are done well. Unfortunately that’s not something I can say about this one. After all the build-up of the challenges, the conflicts, the struggles that the characters had to go through over the course of three books, what we ended up with here felt like a kick in the teeth. There was no pleasure tinged with sadness or pain here, just a pure sense of awkwardness that felt extemporaneous and out of place. I found it horribly off-putting, and there’s simply no other way to describe how it felt to be dealt such a blow.
But like I said, it wasn’t all bad. This book and I might have even parted on good terms if it wasn’t for the ending, which I just could not abide. But that’s just my personal take. If you loved the first two books like I did, then you probably should read Warrior Witch. If nothing else, that final epic showdown is well worth the price of admission just to witness how all the human, troll and fae conflicts resolve. Minus those final few chapters (which I’m now going to pretend never happened) it really is a lovely trilogy, as long as you’re prepared for a potentially vexing conclusion. It didn’t work out for me, but it might for you.