This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2013 Reading Challenge
. All my 2013 AWWC reviews can be found here
Witches Incorporated is the second book in the Rogue Agent series by K. E. Mills. You can read my review of the first book in the series, The Accidental Sorcerer, here.
K. E. Mills is a pen name of writer Karen Miller. After I’d read The Accidental Sorcerer, I attended a writing workshop with Miller at the Australian National SF Con. At the end of the workshop she gave away some piles of books in a sort of lucky door prize, and I was fortunate enough to win the rest of the series. Autographed no less. So I guess you could say that I’m reviewing some books I received gratis, but given I won them fair and square I’m not losing sleep over it. Besides, you try elbowing aside some other contestants to make sure you get a particular pile of books – I worked for my loot!
I might leave that last paragraph out of the Goodreads entry. Anyway, back to the review.
Witches Incorporated is set after the events of The Accidental Sorcerer and follows the adventures of Gerald and his friends as:
- Gerald completes his secret agent training (to become a “janitor”);
- Monk continues his mad inventor schtick for the government;
- Princess Melissande, Reg and a new character (Monk’s sister Bibbie) set up a witching locus agency (Witches Inc)
As the title suggests, this book focuses mostly on the last dynamic, with the point of view character mostly switching between Melissande and Gerald. After an interesting prologue with Gerald, the focus of the first half of the book is almost entirely on Melissande and the witching agency.
Melissande’s “promotion” to a primary point of view character is an interesting choice. It certainly gives a different perspective. Melissande is the least powerful (magic-wise) of the characters, and given Gerald’s super-wizard status, this gives us a slightly more relatable character to see the world through. In that way she takes the place of Gerald in the first book, before he came into his powers.
This brings me to one of the issues I had with this book (and with the rest in the series, truth be told) – just how powerful Gerald has become. The first book had Gerald in the underdog position most of the time, which made him more endearing. From this book onwards, he is (by a long way) the most powerful wizard in the world. It changes his dynamic with his friends and old enemies, making restraint his most strongly emphasised personality trait. Restraint isn’t the most compelling trait in the world. His poorly controlled and understood powers also make for a convenient way for him to get out of sticky situations, without him being fully aware of how he does it.
The plot brings together the at-first-blush-relatively-trivial mystery that Witches Inc has been hired to solve with Gerald’s first janitorial mission. The story moved along at a fair pace, and the ins and outs of the various bits of industrial espionage and implications for international politics were interesting and kept me reading.
The focus on a broader range of characters did add to the richness of the world Mills has created. There is a lot of banter and I found the interactions interesting enough, although there was a little bit too much of the Robert Jordan style “women and men don’t understand each other” dynamic for my taste. That’s a minor gripe though.
I really enjoy the world Mills has created – a kind of steampunk powered by magic vibe. The first book focused on a colonial setting, this one was set in the motherland. I liked the extension of the world view, and gaining a better understanding of how the world works.
Overall I enjoyed dipping into this series again, enough so that I continued in my journey reading the remaining books straight afterwards.
I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.