Review: “Witches with the Enemy,” Barb Hendee

Pros: Fantastic mystery, politics, murder, mayhem, crazy people, and red herrings
Cons: Sometimes characters are a little slow on the uptake
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review ebook provided free by publisher via NetGalley.
Expected publication date: May 5, 2015

 

Sisters Amelie and Celine lived in abject poverty until they came into their power as seers: Amelie can see a person’s past, and Celine can see a person’s future. Because of this they ended up serving Prince Anton in trying to solve a mystery. He gave them an apothecary’s shop in the village near the castle, and now they live a fairly comfortable life. Amelie and Celine are very different: Celine thinks the best of people, is kind, and uses her skills as an apothecary to help people. Since she spent her childhood pretending to be a seer before she developed her powers, however, she’s very good at reading people and at lying to them. Amelie on the other hand is very straightforward, prefers men’s clothes to women’s, can fight well and lies poorly.

Now Prince Anton has agreed to help his psychotic brother, Damek, solve a murder that threatens to derail a betrothal. Anton brings Amelie and Celine with him, even though they grew up under Damek’s rule and know how terrible life beneath him can be. It’s even worse when Damek figures out that Anton cares for Celine, because more than anything he enjoys ripping apart things that Anton cares about. There are quite a few people present as Rochelle’s family negotiates her marriage to Damek, but Rochelle’s family seems to be dying around her.

 

Witches with the Enemy: A Novel of the Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee is a highly enjoyable read. Anton is becoming an interesting character. And while his brother Damek is the kind of evil I usually see as cartoonish, it works here. Damek has his own quirks and habits that make him into more than just a standard psychopath.

I love Amelie and Celine. They’re so different and yet so close to each other. Their differences also make it easier for them to seek out information in different ways and from different sources. I love the idea that the kind and optimistic sister is also the better deceiver. It’s interesting to see how they interact with people at various levels of society, and how they gradually learn new ways of dealing with people. I enjoy seeing how they and their relationships with others shift and change in both small and large ways.

The murder mystery is fun. Particularly given Celine’s supposed ability to read people I got a little frustrated when both sisters completely fail to notice some aberrant behavior on others’ parts beyond just “huh, that’s weird.” However, there were still some delightful red herrings that kept things interesting.

On the whole I very much enjoyed the milieu and the murder mystery, and I look forward to more books in the series.

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