A girl with red hair holds up her hand which has gone red. She wears a light blue dress. Behind her is very large and frightening monster that has large bat-like wings.

Wit’ch Fire, by James Clemens, is Book One of “The Banned and the Banished” series. This book is clearly in the horror genre. It starts off with an unknown person talking directly to the reader, who strongly advises that you do not talk about this “tome” with anyone else.

The book starts in the past, as a mage named Greshym, and a friend of his named Er’ril, await the brother of Er’ril to bring them a child. When Shorkam (Er’ril’s brother) arrives, he is accompanied by a boy who has a red palm. This boy wasn’t slain because most people have that mark on their right hand, but this child was left handed.

A ritual was cast, but it failed.

In present day, Elena and her brother Joach are picking apples in their parent’s orchard. The two of them get along really well. The siblings got called in for dinner, but Elena stayed behind, hoping to gather a few more apples. She gets a cramp, falls off the ladder, and discovers that she has started menstruating for the first time. Elena also notices that one of her hands has turned bright red.

This leads to her mother drawing a bath for Elena. It appears that there is a tradition for girls who begin menstruation – which requires a party. The party never happens. Instead, there’s a knock at the door. An old mage and a man that might be a soldier demand that Elena be given to them. Her parents refuse to do so… and (without spoilers) the siblings are now on the run.

The book then switches around to introduce new characters, from different places, who end up working together. At first, I found this to be a bit confusing. But as I kept reading, I discovered that these characters end up connecting with each other. Each one has their own skills to contribute. A large part of this horror story takes place in an underground location that the characters struggle through.

I’m finding it difficult to say more about this book without giving away spoilers. What I can tell you is that other characters include a nymph, a man made of rock, an og’re, two men who had their form changed as a punishment, Elena’s uncle, and the “soldier” that has been through some horrible things he cannot remember.

Wit’ch Fire is Book One in a series. I’m hoping to find the rest someday.

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