Favorite Quote: “Eat, witch. You are no use to me dead.”
“And little use to you alive, to hear you tell it.
Reviewed by Tori
In a land of perpetual war and wandering, warrior Thalgor not only leads his people in battle, but keeps the hope alive that someday his displaced tribe can rebuild the kingdom that was lost to the treachery between witches and men. When he captures a beautiful witch, he knows he cannot trust her. But to succeed in his quest to find a new home and prevail over his enemies, he also knows he needs her.
Erwyn might be a slave and feared for her powers and precognition, but she doesn’t cower when confronted by the feared warrior. Nor does she act as expected. Thalgor’s kindness confuses her. His flashes of humor confound her. And the reaction he ignites in her body creates a longing that she cannot deny.
Neither anticipated falling in love. The stakes are high, but when Thalgor is mortally wounded, Erwyn realizes she must accept help from an unlikely source to save him. (Goodreads)
Thalgor’s Witch is a historical fantasy romance with little to no world building but interestingly enough characters and an antagonistic romance that grows on you. There is much room to grow on this barren field and the somewhat ambiguous ending looks like Holland may write this into a series. A steady pace easy to digest narrative keeps you easily moving along though some scenes needed more build up to appreciate the results.
Set in an unknown time (I’m guessing around the 12th-14th century), Holland creates a man trying to rebuild after an epic war takes everything from him. Nomadic tribes roam the world, warring amongst one another as they seek to rebuild what they once had by absorbing the weaker tribes and banding together against mercenaries. It is the survival of the fittest.
Thalgor is the leader of one such tribe who discovers he has a witch among his captives after defeating an enemy tribe. Seeking to use her in battle but wary of her power and anger, he deems her an enemy right off the bat and threatens her child if she tries to harm any of his people.
Erwyn is a generational witch who was on her way to see the oracle of witches when captured. She wants help breaking her younger sister’s curse and to learn whether her mother was faithful to her father. Unable to do harm without it backlashing onto her, she heals Thalger and his men right off the bat but continuously plots her escape while struggling to not fall for her captor.
Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It was engaging but in a rather simple fashion. It reminded me a little of Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. Like Auel’s story, the main focus in here is on the day to day living conditions while slowly building a romance between two people whose don’t really understand each other. The appeal of the narrative is that Holland keeps it simple. No convoluted storylines, no made up words of magic, no overly complicated names. Sometimes fantasy goes overboard as it gives birth to words that require a syllabus of correct pronunciations and definitions.
Thalger is your classic tortured alpha with a chauvinist bent. He is very protective of his people and he struggles to keep them safe and fed while attempting to resuscitate their former glory days. A stern but fair man whose childhood has left deep scars. His own days as a slave affects his choices now as he is firm that captives are never treated as slaves or concubines.
Meeting Erwyn confuses him and he comes off at first as a jerk. He makes some internal comments about his attraction to her submission but then remembers his mother was a captive and raped repeatedly. Honestly, I almost stopped reading there because what an arse, right? But after reading a little further, I realized he’s really just a dominant with a rope fetish. He understands consent though and advocates for it. He knows as his captive, Erwyn has no ability to truly consent to his attention.
I like Erwyn from the beginning. She is a strong-willed, intelligent, compassionate woman who believes in herself. She stands up to Thalgor every chance she gets and is vocal about her wants and needs. She demands equality and follows her own path regardless of the consequences. She repeatedly proves her worth but in such a manner that shows she doesn’t care if she impresses anyone or not.
The antagonism between this couple ebbs and flows throughout the story as the conflicts reveal themselves one by one and eventually narrow down to merge into one. Thalgor continues to have his jerk moments. They come out when his feelings have been hurt and he strikes out at the one he loves best-Ewryn. They do gradually learn to trust one another and themselves as the sexual attraction grabs hold and the romance soon follows. A varied cast of secondary characters steps up to help this couple through their emotional trial and tribulations though it’s an act of selflessness that knocks down the final wall between them. The villain of the final conflict was a bit of a stretch and I was disappointed by how easily he was defeated after the huge build up.
I do wish there would have been more world building and history. The story is told in the present with little background given. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to know all this.