Book eleven of my summer reading challenge and one that has been on my TBR for far too long.
Witches Steeped in Gold
Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.
Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.
This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.
It has been a while since I have struggled with a review and I knew as soon as I had read this book that it would be a difficult one to write about. Witches Steeped in Gold has me divided in many ways and I really wanted to feel like I could immerse myself in it but it didn’t just quite get there for me.
It has a very intricate plot, two orders are in constant battle and Jazmyne and Iraya are on either side and want to make things better but have entirely different ideas on how that should be done. It’s one of those situations where each side feels the other are the bad guys but each side has at some point been the hero and the villain, and the reader gets to see how it is an ever-evolving situation as the story progresses. There is a lot of backstabbing and manipulation and it did sometimes make it hard to keep up with what was happening and who was sided with who, but it certainly kept it interesting.
The story is told from the POV of both Jazmyne and Iraya and the chapters swap between the two, I quite enjoyed that we got to see the two perspectives because it allowed me to make my own conclusions about the type of people they both were. Iraya is definitely the stronger character from the start and there always seemed to be much more going on with her side of the story, but Jazmyne is always there trying to slowly work a situation to be advantageous for her plans.
The cultural influence was amazing, as someone who is not as aware of Anansi and his stories or that they may not always be what they seem, having them weaved into the story alongside the other legends was fascinating. The world itself was vast and I found that I could easily picture the settings, the author’s writing really brought those vividly to life, which is something that is not always so easy in an entirely new world.
Whilst the author did a great job on the setting I did struggle a little bit with how the different factions fit together at times and how the magic was used, I will say that it was creative and I liked that the different people had different types of magic, but there were a few times that I was confused by the limitations. I also had a hard time grasping some of the language, but I think that was maybe just not always having the right cultural context for the words, which isn’t a bad thing just something to get used to.
When I am sitting down to a new fantasy world I always go in knowing that it is going to take a while to set up the world and really get a feel for the sense of place, so I am prepared for it to be a little slower but I have to say there were points throughout the book where the pacing slowed drastically. Don’t get me wrong there were lots of points of action especially more in the second half of the story, but it just didn’t flow well and at times I found it dragging.
As I said I knew this would be a difficult book to review because I really wanted to absolutely love it, and in many ways it was wonderful but there were a few things that just missed the mark. What I would say though is if you enjoy fantasy with magic and manipulation then I would give it a go because it will surely tick the box.