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Wit'ch Fire    by James Clemens order for
Wit'ch Fire
by James Clemens
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 1999 (1998)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Wit'ch Fire is book one of a series, The Banned and the Banished. It starts with an apocalyptic scene in which dreadlords mass, Black Legions march and overrun a final resistance by the forces of good. In a last effort to raise some hope for the future they sacrifice an innocent at midnight in the Valley of the Moon. 'The world spins, like a child's top, marking time' and five centuries later we see Elena and her brother Joach picking apples in the family orchard.

They both dream of life beyond their isolated farm, little knowing that it will soon be upon them. When Elena's menstruation starts, her hand turns red 'like a ruby glove', and she begins to come into her magic. Unfortunately the powers of evil show up soon afterwards; Elena's parents are killed in the encounter and her brother captured later. Elena is helped by people out of legend - a juggler who fought in an ancient battle, a bardswoman who is also a nymph, a mountain giant, a half-breed ogre, shapeshifters who can't shift, and many others, including her own uncle.

It's a good start to the series with appealing characters, nasty monsters, action and adventure - even if it does overdo the apostrophes. There are some surprising twists and turns of plot along the way. Elena comes into her full powers fighting evil and a seasoned group of companions plans the dark journey to A'loa Glen, each with their own purpose in mind ... an appropriate place for this tale to end and the next episode to start.

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