The Witch King – audiobook review

Author: H.E. Edgmon
Series: The Witch King (#1)
Publication date: June 1, 2021
Genre: YA fantasy
Audiobook narrator: Dani Martineck
My rating: 2/5 stars

Preliminary note: this review is a little spotty, is in part because I read this book last November, so my memory is a little iffy, and in part because the issues that bothered me have stuck in my head and I don’t much feel like talking about the rest. I didn’t like this book much, if at all, which was quite a disappointment, because the ace rep, Native American rep, and OwnVoices trans rep had definitely caught my eye. Ah, well. Not every read can be a winner.

The Plot

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

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.

Rep: gay trans male MC, Achillean love interest, indigenous fat biromantic asexual SC, multiple queer SCs

Trigger/content warnings: transphobia, misgendering, deadnaming, past sexual assault, abuse, panic attacks, infertility/miscarriage, suicidal ideation


First, I do want to note that this book wasn’t all bad. It had some important content in it, including trans representation in fantasy, and it really tries to delve into the impact of various forms of trauma. Emyr is a very caring romantic interest who always prioritizes Wyatt’s consent, something we really need to see more of (especially in books involving fae romantic interests). And the narrator for the audiobook did a wonderful job of capturing the voice of this angry, sarcastic teenager; they should not be faulted for how weak the book itself is.

Unfortunately, there were three big stumbling blocks for this book. First, the characters were not developed well at all. The worst is Wyatt–he is stagnant in his anger and utterly lacks self-awareness regarding how profoundly selfish his actions are and how much he has hurt other people. He never really grows in this regard, and instead, everyone else seems to cave and forgive him when he has done literally nothing to merit that forgiveness–his toxicity is unacknowledged. And another side character makes an abrupt 180 in the final chapters of the book, wholly inconsistent with their development to that point (I won’t say more, because spoilers). For more about the terrible characterization, this person’s Goodreads review articulates it very well (they also talk a lot about my next point).

Second, the writing style had me visibly cringing. Some of it might be consistent with how real teenagers talk, but my god, this was like listening to a walking meme. Sometimes it made sense, but others, Wyatt would use phrases like “I am going to straight up McFucking lose it” or “I am a gay little worm.” Enough said. Dialogue was stilted, descriptions were oddly wordy, and sometimes things just didn’t make sense. Compounding that weirdness was something that had bothered me but I hadn’t been able to place until someone else noted it in a review: Wyatt grew up in a fae world and only entered the human world three years ago, yet he speaks with a familiarity with the cultural subtext of memes that would be difficult (if not impossible) to acquire in such a short time and constantly uses American slang. (I can’t find the specific review I’m thinking of here, but this one touches on it too.)

And third, there’s some super problematic representation here. I’m not going to go into commentary on the book’s weak attempt to talk about police brutality/racism, or about the lesbophobic undertones; as someone who is not BIPOC or lesbian, it’s not my place to offer those comments. What I can complain about is the bad ace rep. Briar, allegedly Wyatt’s best friend, is biromantic asexual. While she does talk about differentiating between sexual and romantic orientation–a much-needed conversation–it was a pretty hamfisted shoehorning of the discussion; her asexuality never really comes up again. Instead, Wyatt is horrible to her, utterly disrespectful of her identity. He tells the court that she is his “concubine.” He constantly makes sexualized comments about her. At one point, he even mentions how he previously has “grabbed her ass” a few times. And yet, while she does eventually get her moment to complain about how Wyatt never listens to her/talks to her, nobody ever thinks to discuss how awful his treatment of her asexuality is, he never apologizes, and instead it is basically normalized. I hated it and was super uncomfortable with all of it.

So, all told would definitely not recommend this one. I hate to disparage a debut trans author’s debut, but this book was just not good–and it was pretty harmful in its representation of some other characters.


2 thoughts on “The Witch King – audiobook review

  1. Affiliate Marketing Buzz March 17, 2023 / 7:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book. It’s great to see more representation in fantasy literature, and the caring romantic interest and audiobook narration seem like strong points. However, it’s unfortunate that the characters weren’t developed well and that there were problematic representations of certain identities. Overall, your review is honest and informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathryn March 18, 2023 / 7:47 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you found it useful! I will say, I’m happy that the recent surge in diverse fantasy means there are other options readers can look into; it’s not like this is the only book people can find with a trans main character, ace representation, and so on, so there are choices out there with better writing and more respectful rep 🙂


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