The Witch King (Hardcover)
Though transgender narratives are appearing in popular fiction more often, there are few in the fantasy genre. H.E. Edgmon’s The Witch King centers mainly on Wyatt Croft’s self-discovery of his own masculinity. However, the narrative also draws an allegory between the witches, a minority that faces prejudice in the Faery community and those oppressed within the United States including LGBT+ individuals and POC.
Witches are born to the Fae, human-like creatures with wings, horns, fangs, and magical abilities. While witches have magical abilities as well, they lack wings and horns. Most have hints of fangs, but otherwise they appear human. Though witches are the Fae’s children and relatives, neighbors, and coworkers, they are seen as lesser and treated as such.
Wyatt, a young witch, has fled his home in the Faery settlement to live with Briar, a Native American young woman, and her family. The reader is thrown into the thick of the conflict between Wyatt and his past, the witches and the Fae, from page one. Emyr, the prince of the Fae kingdom called Asalin, appears in the front yard; in response Nadua, Briar’s mother, plunges garden shears into his wing.
The complicated past Wyatt is running from is not only the non-acceptance of his identity by his family and people – he is also engaged to be married to Emyr, the prince. Now, he is being forcibly brought back to the magical kingdom under threat of death by a magical blood oath that will kill him if he refuses to return.
Edgmon has crafted a complex fantasy world that runs directly parallel to our own, unseen and invisible. Underneath the dragonback rides and fire summoned from thin air is a story eerily similar to reality. Witches are persecuted for their existence and throughout the book suffer from the prejudices of the Fae. The struggles of real-world minorities, however, are not ignored – Briar is an activist for her community and Edgmon mentions the many pipeline protests that have taken place in the United States by the Native American community and their allies. Emyr resembles an African-American man and Wyatt questions whether or not racial prejudice from the human world has seeped into the Fae world – or if it had always been there. The Guard are the equivalent to police officers. Like the human world, the Guard have citizens under their thumb and are quick to enact punishment without trial.
The Witch King is the fantasy novel young queer folkx need. Protagonists in which they can see themselves in is important now, more than ever. Wyatt is an underdog readers will root for and delight in his character growth until the cliffhanger ending. On a grander scale, its resemblance to real world problems gives readers solace, while its more intrapersonal depth offers bits of wisdom for those navigating the unfamiliar and confusing world of transgender and gay adolescence.— Nik
May/June 2021 Kids Indie Next List
“THE WITCH KING is a smart, bold queer contemporary fantasy that balances romance and adventure with sharp commentary on social justice and the politics of power. THE WITCH KING is a must for readers of Holly Black, Seanan McGuire, and Anna-Marie McLemore.”
— Kiersten Frost, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from--but a kingdom demands its king. In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft...don't. Wyatt's betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world. Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt's newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what's more important--his people or his freedom.