I have to admit, I have been riding the urban fantasy train a lot more recently. My favorites include Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, and Jim Butcher, to name a few. But I grew up on old time Sword and Sorcerer-esque fantasies, and when I find a good series that stays relevant and fresh, I grasp onto it like a dog with a bone. In comes Barb Hendee, with a huge history of high fantasy series in her catalogue. Her extensive Noble Dead series is about as chock full of world building and epic questing as you can get. However, it wasn’t until she came out with Mist-Torn Witches that I was truly hooked. While it is set in the same world as the Noble Dead, here is a series that has the same world build without the heavy reading.
The first book in the series that was its namesake follows Celine and Amelia Fawe, sisters who live in a poorer village that struggle to get by after being orphaned. They bring in money running an apothecary, with Celine making extra on the side pretending to be a fortune teller and Amelie hunting for the food on their table. When Celine accidentally “sees” the real future of a noblewoman, her and Amelie’s lives are put in danger by the warlord of their town and they must flee. In comes Prince Anton, who offers them a new home and position in exchange for help with a case of murdered young women in his homeland. Will Celine be able to control her budding new powers enough to save these girls and secure her and Amelie’s future? Will Amelie’s own powers kick in in time to help her older sister?
I love these girls, opposites to the same coin that they are. Celine reads the future as it will happen at that very moment, which is fun in its variables. She is a quieter girl, softer than Amelie but built with a will of steel when put to the test. Amelie reads a person’s past, which helps them a lot in finding out the “whodunnit,” but she is less receptive to her powers than Celine, being more of a woman of action.
As Mist Torn Witches progresses, we see Celine and Amelie comfortably living in Prince Anton’s domain in similar roles as at their old village, but with more real “seer” type of work for the prince. This job lands them often in roles they are unaccustomed, so the reader gets to see all aspects of their world. There is a simmer of romance for both girls in the form of Prince Anton for Celine and his right hand mane Lieutenant Jaromir for Amelie, but it isn’t the main plot and is tastefully done. And of course, like any good epic high fantasy, Celine and Amelie learn more about their past and their heritage, growing as characters and building the world even further.
The series also address political concerns as well, since in this world a high king is selected from amongst the princes and Prince Anton wants his name in the lot. It is interesting seeing a good man trying to learn how to compete for favors in a world dominated by bad people. I think this reflects a lot on how the real world works, and it is very compelling to read.
All in all, I would actually recommend these books for more than just fantasy readers. For those of you who are willing to dip your toe in the big ocean that is high fantasy, this is a perfect place to start, with shorter reads (averaging at about 330 pages) and a world that is already pretty developed, so you won’t get any of the long-winded explanations that so many readers dread. Four waves; now go soak up some rays with these witchy women!