This week’s book recommendation is Mark Hayden’s The 13th Witch. It’s a fun urban fantasy, set in the UK, with a rugged edge. If you are looking for something that’s full of magic but with a rough and ready lead, then this is probably for you.
This is the first book in the very successful ‘The King’s Watch’ series. Our rugged protagonist is Conrad Clarke, once an RAF pilot and possibly also a bit of a criminal. He is plunged into a world of ‘Magick’ when he accepts a job offer from Odin. This leads him on a mission to find a lost witch, in doing so giving him a tour of a world of magical people, beings, and creatures.
Worldbuilding Through Plot
It’s tough beginning an urban fantasy series (trust me, I know!). You want to introduce the reader to a whole new world, with its own rules, characters, and magical beings, but you don’t want to just info-dump all of this info on the reader in the first few chapters.
Hayden handles this by essentially sending Conrad off on a number of tasks, each one keeping the reader interested and letting them explore more of this world in an exciting and enjoyable way. These tasks do, however, all tie together by the end in a satisfying way. And in the meantime, they are simply good fun.
An Action Hero in an Urban Fantasy
Conrad is one of the more intriguing protagonists in an urban fantasy story you will come across. He appears to have walked straight from the pages of an action thriller. He’s an ultra-masculine ex-RAF pilot with a criminal past. Unflustered in the face of danger and always ready with a dry quip.
We are given constant references to his criminal past, which seems to have involved a lot of exciting adventures with some serious criminals. This backstory is so well fleshed out, I actually checked to see if the author had actually written a criminal thriller in the past with Conrad as a character (he hadn’t).
What stood out was his very direct method of problem-solving. He quickly comes to terms with the magical nature of his new role and essentially treats it as another mission. And if that means he has to negotiate with an other-worldly creature or bring a machine gun to a magic fight, so be it.
If you like the sound of this type of character in a fantasy setting, you may be interested in Bob the Wizard. Who has a rather more American take on this type of character.
My only possible criticism of The 13th Witch was that the ending came a little out of nowhere, although this may have been more to do with my small brain than the writer’s craft.
If you liked the sound of this you may also like taking a look at my favorite urban fantasy series (a list this series may make it on to in time) or even my very own urban fantasy work ‘Screaming in the Shadows’.
About the Author
Graham Sim hails from North East England, where he divides his time between his wife and kids, and his love of urban fantasy, noir mysteries, and science fiction.
You can read his first book, the urban fantasy noir ‘Screaming in the Shadows’ here.
Graham promises he only refers to himself in the third person in his author bio. He’s odd, but not that odd.