The novella, Mind of a Witness, is an “OthEarth” story, or a tale which is set in an alternate history where magic is quite real and the existence of ogres and werewolves (or lupines) is part and parcel. This particular tale follows the Queen’s Witness, a human named Andy chosen by the Queen to be bonded to her and function as an extension of her will.
Of course, enemies are afoot, the Queen has fallen for a Lupine prince, and somebody wants someone dead. Several attacks on Andy and the wolf prince, Gnarl, suggest the target is either the Queen herself, or one of them, and an investigation ensues with Andy and Gnarl at the lead.
Mind of a Witness is an engaging story and a fun twist on history that is well researched and full of intriguing characters and concepts. The relationship between Andy and the Queen is unique and original and I enjoyed the exploration of discrimination between the humans and lupines, and between various classes and professions of humans, a great deal.
The writing waxes a bit “telling” in places, and the action is bogged down in technical jargon that is likely fascinating for a student of fencing but felt a bit like the author trying too hard to share all his research with the reader. It stalled the flow for me in places as did the times when the characters used modern turns of phrase or spoke in ways that seemed out of period for the timeline chosen. Not only did the dialog wax modern in places, there were times when the choice of verbiage made the characters seem suddenly much younger than they’d been portrayed.
Despite these few quibbles, the story really held my interest. I liked the characters and felt good rooting for them, and the detailed research will be a big draw for fans of history, fantasy, and the two working in tandem.
The ending, however, came very quickly and without much resolution. The story stops in mid-step and nothing is really resolved or answered for the reader. This gave the novella the feel more like the first installment in a serial than a complete story in its own right, and if the reader wants to know exactly what was going on and what the answers are, they’ll most definitely need to seek out a future sequel.