Author: John Lawson
Witch Ember seems to be constructed from a folktale but this dark fantasy is more than it seems. The history of the people of the Seven Kingdoms derives from folklore. Apparently a stone of great power shatters when making the world, which enables humankind to carry a piece of it. Now obviously some citizens conceal larger stones than others that allow them to perform magical functions. Unfortunately, these people are labeled as sorcerers or witches and only put them into the hands of the Inquisitors. Since most of them find their fate in death, they live their lives in secret.
The main character, Esmeree is blessed and cursed with a large stone, also called an ember. Hers is lodged in her chest and is luckily unable to be detected easily. On many occasions, her ember saves her life but it also gets her into a lot of trouble.
This character driven novel is the tale of a young woman who learns, from the age of six, to live on the streets and take care of herself. It details the horrors she endures while trying to survive as a fry at the Mill and later on in life at the hands of selfish, controlling and dangerous men. If John Lawson means to alarm you and give his readers a taste of the harsh life an abandoned youth goes through, then he has done his job.
Throughout the story of Witch Ember, Esmeree grows and develops into a moral person. Living in the slums of the Mill as basically a child slave, she learns to help only herself and ways to survive, even at the expense of others. The friends she gathers were more like people she could take advantage of. Through a long ordeal, the main character learns that sometimes in order to survive, you have to care for the well-being of others.
The world in which John Lawson propels you is similar to the rough lands of Mad Max and his adventures through Thunderdome, particularly the scene when he meets up with the child tribe. The people and land are savage, the young are left to fend for themselves and the barbaric traditions make the reader breath a sigh of relief that you live in a civilized world.
Sometimes the dialect is a little difficult to read but it separates the different cultures within the Seven Kingdoms. It does not seem like everything is molded into one and the reader definitely knows when the main character is being addressed by a different culture while on her travels.
Witch Ember is well written and graphic to the point where you can see the strange creatures and cringe at their actions. The foul smelling Rraakks are one species in particular who walk around with a decaying, corpse-like figure slung around its shoulders like a fur wrap.
The author leaves nothing out when he describes Esmeree’s life of turmoil, strife and pain while hoping to find a happy ending to her seemingly miserable life. Witch Ember is written for the adult audience and is a darker fantasy fiction than the works of Tolkien or Robert Jordan but this is a story that should not be missed. John Lawson makes you feel for this lonely character. The reader can genuinely care about Esmeree, even after the story has ended.
The above review was contributed by: Jennifer Andrew -Freelance Writer and Reviewer. To read more of Jennifer's reviews CLICK HERE