The Mist-Torn Witches
by Barb Hendee
2013 • 336 pages • Roc
Last year, buoyed by the runaway success of Frozen and Sleepy Hollow, I predicted that sisters were going to be the next big thing in media. Alas, it hasn’t dominated the cultural landscape as I’d hoped, but the realization that women can have meaningful relationships with other women has saturated mainstream media to a small but significant degree. (Fun fact: Maleficent fails the reverse Bechdel test. I have no idea how the live-action versions of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are meant to top that, but Cinderella features Cate Blanchett with a cat on a leash, so I’ve got hopes.) Case in point: The Mist-Torn Witches, a fantasy novel that caught my eye while I was working at the bookstore for featuring two young women. Lovely!, I thought, and faced it out, despite being a tiny mass market paperback. (I was fanatical about facing out diverse speculative fiction at the store. It helps to see a friendly face or two.)
The Mist-Torn Witches’ young ladies are the sisters Amelie and Céline Fawe. Having lost their father and then their seer mother at a young age, the two sisters scrape together a living, with the diplomatic Céline pretending to be a seer and the rough and tumble Amelie as her guardian. One day, Céline is approached by representatives of the tyrannical sub-prince Damek, who want her to assure the Lady Rhiannon that she should marry Damek. Céline agrees, but when the girl shows up, she has her first real vision—Rhiannon being murdered by her husband. Céline warns her against the match. In retaliation, Damek has their home burnt down, but they are rescued by Damek’s brother, Anton, who wants their help in solving a recent run of bizarre murders. Pretty, unmarried women are being found not only dead, but dried to a husk. Unused to their new powers and the politics of court, Céline and Amelie have to solve the murders if they want to ever find a home again.