Friday, June 26, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez

Title: A Nameless Witch
Author: A. Lee Martinez
Publisher: TOR
Year: 2007

First line: "I was born dead."

Yes, I'm on an A. Lee Martinez reading binge!

A Nameless Witch is yet another of Martinez' humorous novels awash in the supernatural. The humor in this book is more quiet than his previous two and tends toward the wry.

A nameless witch is on a quest ... a quest of vengeance and, hopefully, self discovery. But mostly vengeance. She takes along her contentious familiar, a demon duck. Ok, let me say that again. A demon duck. With a bad case of blood lust. As my husband noted at dinner the other night, this duck is probably the funniest duck in all of recent literature. And his name is Newt.

Along the way, a troll and a knight join the quest. The troll is rather endearing and the knight is virtuous. He is a White Knight. A dark skinned White Knight to be specific.

Nameless is a very beautiful witch. Of course, everyone knows that witches look like hags ... right? So every attempt is made by Nameless to hide her incredible beauty underneath rags and dirt and a carefully placed wart or two. Wyst, the White Knight, is able to see beneath the hag routine and falls in love. She too is smitten, but knows she must hide her increasing attraction to the knight in order to protect his virtue and his life. You see, Nameless is a witch who can not tell the difference between "a smitten heart or accursed appetite." She is afraid she will lose control in the heat of passion and eat him, literally. Ok, so moving on ...

One of my favorite bits pokes fun at the old Norwegian tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The questing party comes to a bridge guarded by a pack of surly elves, goblins and ogres who demand a toll. "As a troll, Gwurm knew something about bridge-tolling" so, of course, he negotiates. Various demands and threats are made by the leader of the surly bunch who ends his diatribe with a laugh meant to send chills down the spine. Unfortunately, "elf voices are terrible for sinister cackling." Not in the least intimidated, Newt asks: "Can I kill him?"

On the more thoughtful side, Martinez includes some passages like this one:
"Your conscience is your misery...."
"Conscience is my burden, but all worthwhile gifts have their price...."
"But it could be so simple" the ghoul hissed. "Why hold on to that which only makes your life difficult?"
"Because life is complicated and difficult. Anyone who says otherwise hasn't truly lived."
Martinez throws in a few philosophical musings in A Nameless Witch making it a bit more thoughtful than his previous books, but it remains overall a dark comedy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


  1. Philosophical, dark comedy...I quite like the sound of that. As I keep telling you, you're going to make me read Martinez before long, I just know it :P

  2. This sounds like something I'd definitely enjoy! And I love the title. :)

  3. You had me at "A demon duck." I'm definitely going to run out and get this one, thanks for the review!