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The Witch Watch Paperback – February 20, 2012
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From the Author
Gilbert has two problems. The first is that he died. The second is that he didn't stay dead. Now he's hunted by the Church, the cult that revived him, and Her Majesty's Department of Ethereal Affairs. Gilbert must keep his head long enough to save London, the Queen, and his brassy and opinionated mother from the forces of evil and good alike.
About the Author
Shamus Young is a programmer specializing in old-school graphics techniques. He's the author of the blog Twenty Sided. He's the creator of the webcomics DM of the Rings and Stolen Pixels. He's one of the hosts of the videogame commentary series Spoiler Warning. He's tired of writing about himself in the third person.
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Top customer reviews
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A novel hasn't grabbed me this forcefully since Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series. The pacing is simply perfect and within a few pages I simply NEEDED to know what happens next. I only wish that every book I spent money on rewarded me with this level of sophistication combined with such a good story.
Take a chance, you won't be disappointed.
The book has a clear, logical style the author evidently developed during the years spent analysing and critiquing plot holes found in other works of fiction. The Victorian Era setting is meticulously researched, with pleasant details peppered throughout the book giving its presentation of an alternate history an air of veracity. The supernatural elements are very interesting (and coherently formulated), yet used with enough scarcity to give them weight within the purposes of the plot.
The main characters are likeable and rational, yet true to their setting. The antagonists are complex, not quite tragic, while avoiding moustache-twirling shenanigans. The twists in the story are well foreshadowed, mostly unpredictable, and always fun to read; which is, ultimately, what counts. The humour strikes true as well, cleverly placed in-between moments of great tension.
All in all, low fantasy gas-lamp character-driven alternate history at its finest. I heartily recommend it, and cannot wait to see what Mister Young has in store for his fans in the future.
Warning: there are spoilers in the text that follows, although I do my best to keep my comments very general and/or confined to the early parts of the book.
The Witch Watch is a comedic romp through a Victorian England where magic exists and the dead can be raised as zombie-like abominations. That's what happened to Gilbert. Except that it was all a mistake; it was supposed to be a powerful wizard, Lord Mordaunt, who got raised. Now Gilbert has to contend with Lord Mordaunt's cult-like followers, the zealously anti-magic church -- and, of course, the "Witch Watch", the royal ministry tasked with investigating and defending against malicious magic. But Gilbert is not an evil abomination, he's just a guy trying to do right by the world. When he learns that the "vigor" (a sort of life force or essence) that revived him came from the Princess Sophie, he is determined to get it back to her.
Along the way we get to know Simon, the young sorcerer who raised Gilbert, who is both more and less than he seems. And Alice, daughter of the Witch Watch's founder, who is herself a magic user and has a very clinical approach to magic. As Gilbert regains his memories (they were lost due to his time as a corpse) we are treated to flashbacks to the time before his death, and slowly discover how it was that he was reanimated in place of Lord Mordaunt.
There's nary a dull moment in the book, as Gilbert's adventures take him across England (and beyond). The alternate history with its unique magic system and the organizations that surround them are carefully drawn. Clearly they were deeply thought out, but by and large the explanations are interesting and used to drive the story forward. And for all the high drama, the book is at its heart a comedy. Reading the banter between the characters is a pleasure whether they're debating how to escape their latest predicament or ruminating on what to have for breakfast.
Still, the book falls short for me in a few ways. I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at how ready Gilbert is to give up his (un)life for a princess he's never met. At best it was a missed opportunity for more character depth, and at worst it chips away at the reader's belief in the character. And there were other ways the characters lacked complexity. For instance, without spoiling too much, once the characters sort themselves into good guys and bad guys things become very black and white. The heroes might argue about HOW to do accomplish something, but their goals are very much in a line. Again, if Gilbert had a bit more sense of self preservation I think there would have been an additional thread of tension that would have made all the heroes feel a bit more real.
But all books have their flaws, and in this one the good more than outweighed the bad. In other words, I'm glad I read it. (That's more than I can say about plenty of traditionally published books.) If you're inclined toward light historical fantasy, I think you'd like it too.
This book is the exact opposite. It is delightfully written with humor and warmth, strong characters, and an intriguing plot that kept me guessing until the end.
I'm not a witch- or undead- genre lover, so I had some reservations before picking up this book, but was pleasantly surprised that, while integral to the plot, the supernatural wasn't the true focus of the story. The character growth and interaction was what kept me reading, and it was well worth the time. I highly recommend this book.