Witch and Warrior, by Marie Brennan.
This is the second installment from Marie, which follows the book Doppelganger. Witch and Warrior follows Mirei (Miryo and Mirage in one form) on her journey to teach herself how to use gifts The Goddess gave her when she is the first of her kind. Being the first complete witch, she is both loved and hated in equal measure. She is fighting to keep herself alive, to teach others about who she has become, to secure a future for those who’ll become like her, but she is also struggling to deal with the politics of huge divide between witches planning to oppose the changes – they are preparing for war.
Initially, the book was a fairly slow start with all the politics, training, guerilla warfare, espionage… and so forth. By part two though, things really began to get interesting. Despite certain twists and turns in the plot being somewhat predictable, they were so rapidly fired out and new problems arose to replace them that you were never left bored, or waiting for something to happen.
There are parts in the book where I just couldn’t physically stop reading, and parts where I couldn’t believe something had happened. The whole combination of varying pace, layered action, and ‘real’ risks to Mirei and her followers, made the read feel incredibly gripping. “Who’s going to die? Who’s going to be captured? Will they survive? Will they lose their powers? Will they be found out?” – were all questions I was asking myself as I was continuing to follow the plot.
It never feels like Marie is drawing the story out either, and she mustn’t feel obligated to extend it into a third book (to which I’m grateful, as I hate feeling like things are dragged out for the sake of another book). Although the book appears to reach its end rather quickly, in my opinion, it’s a very satisfying ending – not too much is explained, but enough that you can draw conclusions yourself as to how things would continue to resolve themselves. It was a more realistic approach, rather than a fairytale ending.