Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review: Herb-Witch by Elizabeth McCoy

Elizabeth McCoy of GURPS IOU and In Nomine fame is not only a fantastic game designer she is a fantastic author (though both professions do lend well to the other). Herb-Witch’s premise is simple enough: the protagonist, Kessa Herbsman is framed for a crime she didn’t commit (or did she?) and the Lord Alchemist of the city, Iathor Kymus decides to investigate. The obstacles include Kessa’s heritage (she’s a half “barbarian”), the Lord Alchemist’s brother, her own studies in alchemy, and famously enough the herb-witch’s own stubbornness. As the story progresses the reader learns of Kessa’s alchemical “immunity” and though its not revealed till more than half-way in this becomes a very important theme. I don’t want to give away to much here but the way McCoy weaves multiple tales in the same story is (in my personal opinion) quite expert. Moreover, the blending of the everyday and the not-so-everyday appeals to my own internal storyteller. After all what do the protagonists of stories do when you’re not looking at them? This theme is seen quite often through the whole book, and while it can run flat if done wrong, this is not the case with Herb-Witch. The best parts are where in my opinion when the main plot was not talked about. Oh and did I mention that there’s a marriage proposal in a jail cell? Yeah, figured that’d get your attention. McCoy’s dialogue is witty, clever, and to the point with such wonderful gems as: “Then I’ll be in my office, knocking for minor issues, screaming for explosions.”

Now that’s not to say I found all of the book enjoyable, McCoy packs a ton of information in her book about Kessa’s world and it does take a bit to parse (I ended up having to read a paragraph here and there a few times). Furthermore a bit of a peeve of mine is the vagueness of geography (the overall area, not the city itself which is splendidly colorful), maybe I’m just spoiled for maps in my fantasy novels.

Herb-Witch is a fantastic book that deserves more attention that what it has so far received. I give Herb-Witch four and a half pennies out of five (the dialogue alone gives the half-penny!)

3 comments:

  1. [...] I recently discussed earlier, Elizabeth McCoy is a damn good author. Herb-Witch (the first book of the series) ends with you [...]

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  2. […] more reviews from books from the Cymelia/Alchemist Lord universe see here, here, here, and here. Additionally, for all you gamers out there, I did a few posts on Cymelia […]

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  3. […] more reviews from books from the Cymelia/Alchemist Lord universe see here, here, and here. Additionally, for all you gamers out there, I did a few posts on Cymelia […]

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