Witchy Eye, by D.J. Butler, is set in an alternate history version of early America where magic works. Sarah Calhoun finds out there is more to her life than she thought when she evades a kidnapping attempt at the Nashville Tobacco Fair. As she works with new friends and old to stay ahead of those who would do her harm, she learns about her heritage and how it could upset everything she’s ever known.
Butler is a master at creating deep stories filled with rich details. He did this in The Kidnap Plot, and he amped it up to 11 in this book. The pacing is spot-on all through the story, but nothing ever feels rushed. As the story slowly reveals itself, Butler’s extensive research into the time period really shows. I lived in the Appalachians for a while, and he really did his homework, making the culture of the hill folk stand out.
Sarah is a very engaging protagonist. She has her doubts in her abilities, but she is no stereotypical damsel in distress. Her flaws only serve to make her more real to the reader, and they give some great ways for the story in Witchy Eye to progress. Her upbringing gave her a lot of personal strengths that helped her overcome the odds and succeed in almost all situations.
I loved the supporting characters, too. Cal is very capable in many ways, but also has his flaws. Thalanes was an awesome mentor for Sarah, but he also has a few flaws that ultimately have a big impact. Butler does an amazing job creating flawed characters, but he doesn’t dwell on their flaws. Instead, he shows the characters working to overcome those flaws, which makes them better characters. There is no introspective navel-gazing here.
There are a number of antagonists, and not all of them are bad guys. Having so many of them kept me constantly guessing just what they were up to and how they would affect the hero’s journey. A clear bad guy is presented by the end of Witchy Eye, but Butler did a good job throwing out red herrings left and right to keep the reader guessing at motivations for everyone.
The only part of the book that may be difficult for some readers was the regular use of colloquial language from various areas. A lot of Apalachee, a bit of French and Dutch, some Spanish, and even a little German. I enjoyed it. Outside of the Apalachee, the usage is fairly minimal, and all of it serves to add a unique flavor to the story.
I highly recommend Witchy Eye. I had a great time reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. The creative alteration of the early history of the Americas reminded me of Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son series (which I really enjoyed). If you like unique fantasy alternate history, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to the next one.
Release Date: March 7, 2017 (USA)
ISBNs: 1476782113 (9781476782119)
Publisher: Baen Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking, tobacco use)
Language: 1 (occasional mild)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief)
Violence: 3 (some brutal violence, battles, kidnapping, murder, death)