Review of ~ Den Patrick – Witchsign (Ashen Torment #1)

I received a review copy of Witchsign in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Den Patrick and Harper Voyager.

Under the cloud-obscured skies of Cinderfell reside blacksmith apprentice Steiner and his sister Kjellrunn. One day a mysterious ship arrives in the dock containing the Empire’s Invigilators who are looking for the Witchsign in the residents’ youths. Should the Witchsign be detected the children showing the signs are taken away (and presumed executed). It’s not really a spoiler for me to reveal that one of the previously named youngsters is taken following the Invigilation and the story that follows is regarding what happens to the teen that leaves Cinderfell and what happens the one that remains.

Excluding one chapter later on in the novel, all the chapters are from the point of view perspective of either Steiner or Kjellrunn. They have spent their entire lives in their sleepy old town and both aid their father in the running of the family blacksmith. Steiner is feisty but good-natured and Kjellrunn is a bit kooky, believing in the old stories, the old Gods and has an undeniable kinship with nature. They both develop a decent amount throughout Witchsign yet it definitely reads like the first step in a pretty epic adventure. Steiner is frustrating to follow occasionally when he gets angry and hits people with his special hammer. I’m hoping what we see here is just the angsty time in his overall development as it would be annoying for me to follow a character like this for three books.

Kjellrunn is the more interesting of the two perspectives yet, until the last 25% of the narrative; what happens in her scenes just isn’t as entertaining. Patrick does craft some very good supporting characters though such as Silverdust and Kimi, and it is quite enticing to continue the series as I am aware these players become point of view perspectives in the later books. One character that I didn’t really have time for was Steiner’s rich “rival” Aurelian. Their paths cross throughout the book, and like a Streets of Rage villain, Aurelian gets stronger every time he is seen. I only finished Witchsign yesterday and I can’t even remember what happened to Aurelian in their final fight as I found them uninteresting.

The Ashen Torment trilogy is a Scandinavian-inspired fantasy drama that can be read by adults and savvy YA readers too. The map included in the book is absolutely beautiful and detailed but in this entry, we only really are witnesses to two places. These are skillfully depicted as the author presents a clear and picturesque view of what was happening and where. There are certainly political happenings, myths and lore, and the presence of deities in Ashen Torment but these don’t really take the forefront here, though I am interested in diving deeper into the world in the later books. The magic system seems pretty intriguing too, however; we aren’t really told how it works to any great degree. In the following books, I would like light to be shed on the magic a bit more.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Witchsign if I’m honest. If I didn’t already have all of the Ashen Torment novels then I may have DNF’d it about 40%. It was quite good, the worldbuilding, the magic, the side characters, and the fact I wanted to and know there is more to learn about this world. That being said, it was just stuttering and plodding along. The chapters take about 8-15 minutes to read, so these lengths helped me carry on, and I will admit that the last 25% or so is very good and tight with some great setpieces and is wrapped up in fine fashion. This could be read as a standalone but I am carrying on because Patrick promises such potential with this series that I am truly hoping it is realised. With that being the case, if I get halfway through Stormtide and it is just more of the same then I may not make it to Nightfall. Witchsign was definitely a hit and miss read for me.

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