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Witchy Eye
by D.J Butler
Baen Books; 561 pp; $25
Published: March 2017

Wow. This is wonderfully...different.

This novel is a set in a very alternative historical United States. No Presidents or states, per se. A lot of warring kingdoms. There is the magic intrinsic to the land, the imported olde magic of England and France....the power of the native Americans...voodoo-- just everything...including several varieties of religion and the dark evil of the spirits of Oliver Cromwell and the English wizard Robert Hooke…and their zombie lieutenants...the lazars.

The year is vague, sometime after 1820 or so. The tale focuses on an Appalachee woman name Sarah Calhoun, a fifteen-year-old with a witchy eye...a swollen red and pus filled orb that disgusts most people. (There is a reason for this, of course). We meet Sarah on market day with members of her extended family...Calvin, her red-haired cousin is the one to sell the cart full of tobacco leaves in Nashville and leads the group.

Once off their mountain, things escalate strangely. An old wizard friend of her grandfather, named Thalanes meets up with them, just as Sarah is poking fun at a sermonizing tent preacher.

Her rather loud presence focuses the attention of people searching for her.  You see, she is one of three children of the King of Cahokia and the Empress Hannah and she’s a threat to the ruling status quo. She had been hidden away up with the Calhouns, not related to them but labeled a cousin by the head of the family to avoid questions. And now, just about everyone with any kind of power is seeking her (and her siblings Margaret and Nathaniel).

So we are taken on a long journey as Sarah keeps one step ahead (barely sometimes) from the nasty folks who represent the current King of Pennsland, Thomas Penn, so she can find the hidden regalia of her father and claim her rightful inheritance as Queen of Cahokia (Through her mother, Pennsland is also hers to rule).  Thalanes and Calvin (who becomes a Freemason just before he is sent off with Sarah and is secretly relieved he is NOT related to her) are her protectors.

They go down to New Orleans to find the man who knows a lot about her past and was present when her real father was killed: Captain Sir William Johnston Lee, a man of honor, who’s fallen on bad times.  There’s a wonderful fight with the dark forces in the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and they finally escape, getting on the mighty Mississippi, headed to where the Mississippi and the Ohio meet, the very edge of Cahokia.  Here there is a Serpent Mound where the sacred regalia, the orb, crown and sword of Sarah’s father have been hidden.  Sarah meets up with the Heron King, fights the Chevalier of New Orleans and his deputies, and confronts the dark forces of Oliver Cromwell…

It’s all just so whack-a-doodle! The story is such a tangle of folk lore, religion and history and strange powers and personalities, all focused on either keeping Sarah from realizing her potential as the true heir to her father’s kingdom or helping her reach it.  This crazy-quilt of characters travel across an America you will barely recognize.

But it’s compelling, refreshing and I couldn’t put it down.  Description barely does this justice. You have to read it for yourself.’  Just prepare yourself for a helluva a ride. ~~ Sue Martin

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