The Pellucid Witch - Book Review
by G. Owen Wears
A captivating post-apocalyptic fantasy, Pellucid Witch gives us a standard story with immersive world-building and a foreboding tone that keeps you waiting for the big reveal.
What is it about?
In the vast crystalline deserts of Earth’s last continent life is violent and short. Those who survive do so by preying on one another in a brutal cycle that yields only diminishing returns. Kryl, a wanderer and mercenary, is no exception. The only thing that separates him from a thousand others--the insatiable eukaryotic armor that has bound its life to his. When a vicious band of marauders steal a child from the caravan Kryl has been hired to protect he sets out to win the girl back. Little does he know, the life of the child was purchased by the Pellucid Witch, the most feared of the bandit lords to haunt the desert’s caravan routes.
What the heck does pellucid mean? In all truth, despite how much I read and write and edit, I had never run across this word before, and it means reflecting light or translucent - in this case, translucent makes the most sense, in both how the witch looks and her motives.
In that regard, the one way the novella didn’t work for me was that the story itself is very much one we’ve seen before (the conflict and the ending were not a surprise to me at all), and I also wasn’t sure what Kryl was doing half the time? It wasn’t love, it didn’t seem like he was trapped, and we didn’t get enough of his backstory to understand the allure of staying in the situation.
Yet, the worldbuilding and the prose and the tone are fantastic. You have this post-apocalyptic desert-like place where people roam in caravans and raiders take crazy drugs to attack you. And then there’s Kryl, a soldier mercenary who has this symbiote parasite that lives in his but also encases him in a fungal, crab-like shell that serves as armour as well as weapons. Yet, the armour also taps into his brain and urges him to get it food, namely people, as well as feeding off him if it doesn’t eat enough. It’s really cool.
The witch also has these creatures in her menagerie that help build out the world too, such as mutants, called deviants, that can take any form. There’s a lizard-woman, a rock-crystal dude, and a ghost. It’s a great blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and as I said, the tone is just pervasively dark and brooding.
I will say, the Witch was a bit meh to me. I wasn’t sure what made her a witch, other than her weird skin, and she just wasn’t interesting to me because she felt so blatantly evil. I think, though, we’re supposed to view her this way - she’s an obvious villain - but she fell flat for me.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this. It’s fun and dark and grisly, and there’s lots of fighting and action. If you want a quick novella, I highly recommend this one!