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Book Review: Ghost's Sight

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Title: Ghost's Sight (Witch's Apprentice Book One)

Publisher: NineStar Press

Author: Morwen Navarre

Price: $3.99 US

Generations ago, the cities fell and the ground shook. The old ways were lost. The Godsmen marched through the ruins and the countryside, burning the old books and declaring a new way and a new religion. Henceforth, people would worship only the Eight. Well, except for the Witches, who refuse to bow to anyone and salvage every bit of the old knowledge and technology that they can find. ... Gerry is a skilled hunter, scout, and guardsman, apprenticed to Mother. Ghost is a foundling, white-haired and green-eyed, taken in by the local Witch and taught her ways, despite the fact that there are not supposed to be any male Witches. When they meet, it is love at first sight. Unfortunately, Ghost's visions warn of danger ahead, Gerry's co-apprentice Conn is jealous of his new relationship, and a rogue ranger is haunting the woods around the village ....

I generally steer clear of apocalyptic fiction; I don't enjoy the horror of watching a civilization collapse. On the other hand, I do like what might be called post-rebuild stories. I love to see how people pick up the pieces and the new societies that they build in response to the flaws and fall of the previous societies. Ghost's Sight is one such book.

Navarre does a terrific job of building Gerry and Ghost's world. With the exception of the relics used by the Witches, the technology is roughly medieval-level: animal skin clothing, hand-built homes, bows and arrows. The magic practiced by the Witches is a combination of nature-based (herbal remedies and so forth) and ancient tech-based (wands that knit torn flesh with light, bone powder to fix fractures). While the cities to the west engage in slavery, Gerry and Ghost's people are egalitarian, with no prejudice based on gender or sexuality. Their society has also come up with a creative solution for taking care of orphans and neglected children: the alpha and dependent system. Mother is an alpha, highly trained in a particular profession, who has sworn to care for Gerry and Conn, to provide for all their needs, and to train them to be hunters, as well. In their case, there is also a sexual component to their relationship; some readers may find that objectionable, but there is nothing manipulative in the arrangement; it actually reminded me of the erastes/eronemos relationship in ancient Greece.

While the religion of the Witches is never fully explored, polytheism is the norm. The people honor seven deities, leaving the eighth usually unnamed or called, simply, the End. Their theology is laid out in a simple children's rhyme:

The Father: he protects us,

And the Lady: she guides us.

The Hunter: he culls,

And the Farmer: she nurtures us.

The Sea: he gives dreams,

And the Moon: she gives love.

The Seeker: she walks alone,

For the End hides above.

The Seeker is described as the holder of "hidden lore" and the mate of the End. While the Moon is the Goddess of love, it is said "the Lady would use the Moon's light to guide people to their true loves." (While never stated outright, since the Seeker and the End are a pair, I would hazard the guess that the Father and the Lady, the Hunter and the Farmer, and the Sea and the Moon are also pairs.)

Ghost and Gerry are terrific characters. Ghost is shy and introverted, most comfortable around the Witch or on his own exploring the woods and ruins. He is surprised by his immediate attraction to Gerry, and that he can be himself around the hunter. Gerry is compassionate and supportive of those around him, and it is obvious that he will one day be an alpha in his own right, with a large household to train and protect. Their supporting cast -- the Witch, Mother, and Conn -- are intriguing and, at least in Conn's case, much more than they initially appear to be.

Ghost's Sight is an engaging introduction to a new fantasy series. I look forward to reading future volumes, and learning more about Gerry and Ghost's world. Recommended to fans of Jolene Dawe's Caleyna Summoner series, C.S. MacCath's "Yundah," Rhys Ford's Black Dog Blues, and The Rule of Luck by Catherine Cerveny.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.

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