JULIA DEFIANT brings a new dimension of threats, but struggles with momentum.
High fantasy and supernatural mystery meet in Julia Defiant, the second book in Catherine Egan’s The Witch’s Child trilogy.
The novel continues the adventures of Julia, a girl with the inexplicable ability to vanish who lives in a world full of witches, magic, and dark supernatural beings. Julia and her ragtag group of companions– from thieves to professors to Mrs. Och, an ancient mystical being meant to protect the world from dangerous magic– have fled their home country in search of answers. The group barely survived their encounter with Casimir, Mrs. Och’s brother and enemy, hellbent on reassembling the ominous Book of Disruption and gaining full control of the world’s magic. To do so, he has to capture and destroy a toddler, Theo, who had a section of the book embedded in his soul as a newborn. Julia and her friends have deemed themselves Theo’s protectors and rush him out the country in hopes of finding Ko Dan, the one man who can take Theo out of danger without harming him.
Their search leads them to Tinashi, the capital city of Yongguo. It’s a fictional country with a basis in ancient China. Unlike Julia’s home nation of Frayne, Yongguo readily accepts magic and the power of witches. Still, there are plenty of secrets to be had, including the location of Ko Dan. Julia spends her nights sneaking into the Imperial Gardens in an attempt to find the magically-gifted monk, but instead she just finds herself more trouble. She runs into Jun, a slick spy in his own right who’s breaking into the monastery too. Invisible as she is, Julia follows in Jun’s footsteps and finds herself caught up in whole new saga. His secret mission complicates her own, but Jun’s charm and skill are distracting her in other ways too.
Meanwhile, the mysteries of Julia’s origin continues to haunt her. Trips into a hellish dimension that occur when Julia vanishes too deeply reveal her to be a monster, but is either her human form or her monstrous form her true one? Just like Theo, it seems Julia has something dormant hiding in her soul– something dark, powerful, and far beyond her imagination.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on in this book and I do not recommend it for anyone who hasn’t read the first book. Even then, a thorough look the index in the front of the book was needed to help me remember all the details. However, details paired with Catherine Egan’s lyrical writing style really bring this fantasy world to life. I love the rich descriptions as Julia stealthily sneaks around this new location.
Despite the amazing worldbuilding, I struggled a bit with this book. While there were a few new developments, like a new love interest, some progress in discovering Julia’s true identity, and even some shake-ups to the team, it didn’t actually feel like a lot happened until the third act. Mostly, it felt like a set-up for the final book, simply getting everything into place for when the real battle begins. The first book earned a lot of kudos for the action sequences as Julia was hunted, but the follow-up used action more sparsely and I rarely felt like anyone was truly in peril. Something awful does happen to a character, but it felt like an obvious outcome.
There were still interesting things to be seen, of course. Dek flourishes in a new environment where his plague scars aren’t frowned upon, we see a new side of an old enemy, the threat against Theo grows, and theories behind Julia’s identity mix something wickedly delicious into the group dynamic. I just hoped there would have been a faster-moving plot to go with it.
Emotionally, Julia Defiant dips its toes into love interests, but never quite dives in. Jun and Julia’s relationship is sweet, but it doesn’t feel particularly intense. They’re cut from the same cloth and make sense as a couple, but it felt a little rushed. I think I’m a little thrown off by it because I was still expecting Julia/Frederick to happen. It may just be me. Things were a little more heartfelt with Julia’s ex, Wynn, as the two struggle to create new rules and boundaries in a situation that forces them together. They are each other’s first love and the balance between them is raw and delicate.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m still eager to see how this story ends and where the characters wind up, especially with that bit of a cliffhanger at the end.the world Catherine Egan has built still holds a wonderful level of fascination and we can’t wait to see Julia (hopefully) triumph in her very unique way. This leg of the journey just didn’t spark my interest as much as the first.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS
Julia Defiant is out now. You can order it via Amazon.
Julia and a mismatched band of revolutionaries, scholars, and thieves have crossed the world searching for a witch. But for all the miles traveled, they are no closer to finding Ko Dan. No closer to undoing the terrible spell he cast that bound an ancient magic to the life of a small child. Casimir wants that magic will happily kill Theo to extract it and every moment they hunt for Ko Dan, Casimir’s assassins are hunting them.
Julia can deal with danger. The thing that truly scares her lies within. Her strange ability to vanish to a place just out of sight has grown: she can now disappear so completely that it s like stepping into another world. It s a fiery, hellish world, filled with creatures who seem to recognize her and count her as one of their own.
So… is Julia a girl with a monster lurking inside her? Or a monster wearing the disguise of a girl?
If she can use her monstrous power to save Theo, does it matter?