Martha Wells (the Murderbot Diaries, the Books of the Raksura), winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards, is at her best in Witch King, a captivating, original fantasy that expertly balances character and world-building. Wells knows how to immediately hook readers: Kai, a demon known as the Witch King, wakes up in a submerged glass coffin with no memory of how he got there or how long he's been trapped. In this action-packed opening scene, Kai fuels his magic by extracting pain from a dead body dragged in by a magic-wielder who seeks to enslave him. Kai uses that pain magic to take over and heal that soulless body, dispatch the bad guys, and rescue his Witch friend Ziede and a young mortal girl, Sanja. Soon the three set out to save Ziede's wife, Tahren, and sort through a mess of epic proportions.
Alternating chapters set in the past allow Wells to develop political and personal relationships amidst the war to defeat the Hierarchs. This context sets up Kai and Ziede's new quest several decades later as they discover Tehran's disappearance is connected to a multifaceted conspiracy and ongoing threats from those who allied with the Hierarchs. With high stakes, dark magic, and layered conflicts, this could be a brutal novel. It isn't. Even though he's a demon who derives his magic from pain, Kai's wry humor and innate goodness anchors Witch King. Wells's queer-normative world-building and masterful character development are sure to please new and established fans alike. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer