The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee
Hendee is, with her husband J. C., the writer of the good, but interminably ongoing “Noble Dead” series which started with Dhampir. Mist-Torn Witches occurs in a world similar to the Noble Dead world; that is, a somewhat medieval world with a slight Eastern-European tinge to it. If there are elves and vampires they have not shown themselves, yet. Droevinka is a kingdom divided between two princes, one evil and one good (basically). The Fawe sisters, Amelie and Celine, live in a village in the bad prince’s half. They were orphaned 5 years ago when their mother, who was a seer and apothecary, died (their father died years before that). Celine was not a seer, but she took over the business, scamming people in as ethical a fashion as she can find. But the evil prince’s people ask her to tell a young woman who is coming to her advice that she should marry the evil prince. In exchange, Celine will receive money and not be killed by the prince’s men.
However, when she sits down with the girl Celine has a real vision, showing her the girl being killed by her then-husband (the evil prince), and advises her not to marry. Before they can make excuses and give the evil prince his money back, his guards try to kill them and burn down their home. Fortunately, agents of the good prince are watching them and save them, taking them to the good prince who needs a seer: young women in his town are being mysteriously killed by some sort of magic, draining them of life. If the girls help him stop the killer, he’ll give them a new home, an apothecary’s shop in his town abandoned some time ago. They agree to try to help, though at the start Amelie doesn’t know that her older sister is a real seer, never mind that she herself might have powers . . .
The story makes clear that there are two kinds of witches in this world, the Mist-Torn, who are born with innate powers, and Book witches, who learn from reading. Why the Mist-Torn witches are called “Mist-Torn” is never explained, ever. No mists appear in the book at any time. One other thing that bothers me is that though the sisters are likable characters the plot makes clear that they cannot take care of themselves; they can’t outfight any men who attack them and if other men aren’t available to take care of them they are in constant danger. That may be realistic, but it doesn’t make for fun reading and isn’t what I want from my heroes. Helplessness is not attractive.
Overall, it’s an interesting read and I’m not sorry I read it, but I think I’ll wait for a sequel before I decide whether to recommend it.