Nostalgia Friday: Witchlight, by L J Smith

Purchase from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – January 1, 1998

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Keller, a shapeshifter, has been chosen to protect a new Wild Power. When she’s not a panther, Keller is a tough, no-nonsense 17-year-old. But she meets her match in Iliana Harman–a clueless blonde who may really be the legendary Witch Child. Will Keller get annoyed and kill her before she can convince her to join Circle Daybreak? And what about the dashing and romantic Galen? Keller is falling in love with him–but he’s destined to be the Witch Child’s soulmate.

Thoughts: First off, I want to point out that the GoodReads descripion is a little misleading. Galen’s more of a gallant and reserved gentleman than a “dashing and romantic” guy. Also, he’s not destined to be the Witch Child’s soulmate – he’s just destined to marry her. Enter this book with that description in mind and you’re going to end up expecting more conflict than there really is.

Second, it seems that upon rereading these books, I find that my impression now is very often the opposite of my impression upon first having read these books over a decade ago. The books I used to love have more flaws than I can shake a stick at, and the ones I was more ambivalent about tend to actually be the ones that are more interesting and well put together. Such is the case with Witchlight. This was probably one of the better books of the series, and I used to not think very much of it at all.

The story centres around Keller, a panther shapeshifter from Circle Daybreak who is on a mission to find and recruit the third Wild Power of the ancient prophecy. She and her team find this girl in the form of Iliana, a lost witch who has no notion than she’s anything but a well-liked and somewhat airheaded normal teenage girl. Working against them is a revived dragon, the oldest known shapeshifter and being who is bent on the rule of humanity ending by any means necessary. Romantic conflict appears with Iliana and Galen being destined to marry and unite the withes and shapeshifters, but Galen and Keller find themselves growing more attracted to each other.

Definitely an interesting premise, and I only wish that the book had actually been longer to allow a better exploration of each of the plot elements. As with all of the previous Night World, the story moves very quickly, often comprised of only the bare essentials to make the reader aware of what’s happening, all so that it can be crammed into around 200 short pages. In some books, this is a blessing, because it means the clumsy story ends sooner. But here, the shortness becomes a real detriment.

In particular, the characters needed expansion. Keller, Galen, Iliana, and the dragon Azhdeha were the only ones who got decently fleshed out. Winnie and Nissa were practically invisible unless needed. In Iliana’s family, the most well-defined character was the baby who could barely speak properly yet. Iliana’s friends? Nothing noteworthy about them, unless you count Jaime’s hearing problems. They didn’t feel like people so much as filler characters that only sometimes actually served a purpose.

But what really grated my cheese here was Keller’s reaction to realizing that she and Galen are soulmates. She goes from being a closed-off, aloof, no-nonsense leader to someone who suddenly has gained more patience and understanding, and has an instant open-heart discussion with Galen. I can understand that the author was trying to convey the connection between soulmates, but I’m sorry, habits of a lifetime don’t change that suddenly. It was awkward and unbelievable, and it came across as an attempt to show how falling in love can soften and “improve” a person. It didn’t sit well with me.

Still, this book was one of the better ones. Though considering it still only gets a rather lackluster rating from me, that doesn’t say much. It has potential, but a lot of that potential ended up unexplored and wasted, and while I wasn’t aching to be done with it the way I was with some earlier books in the series, it still wasn’t particularly special outside the context of the series.

I’ll be doing a review of the series as a whole in a few days, putting all the pieces together and making a final determination as to whether these books really do stand the test of time.

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