Series: None so far
Published: 2019 by Oni
In Hyalin, the length of one’s hair determines the strength of their power as a witch. But witches with hair too long are burned as enemies of the kingdom. Nyneve’s father was killed because of his fair. Now Nyneve fears the same. When the Witch Guard comes recruiting, Nyneve must decide if she will serve the kingdom that burned her father, or if she will risk her life for freedom.
Witchy rests upon an original premise: one’s power as a witch comes form the length of one’s hair. The irony is that long hair makes one respected, and a strong candidate for the prestigious Witch Guard. However, hair deemed too long makes one an automatic threat to the kingdom, and the victim of a witch burning. The distinction between a valued citizen and a feared one is arbitrary and subject to change upon a whim. It seems like a great premise. And yet, the worldbuilding from this premise is so vague, so undeveloped, that it is ultimately hard to suspend disbelief and fall into the story.
I naturally found myself wondering early on why Nyneve, who fears her fate because of her long hair, does not simply cut some of it off. Why not make it a length that seems decent and respectable, but not overly powerful? It’s an obvious solution, but not one the story addresses until well on its way. And, even then, the answer is vague. A character says the spirits will be displeased. But will they? Is he simply trying to scare Nyneve or control her? There really is no explanation of how this whole hair thing works. Does hair stop growing eventually? Do people have the same hair for life? What happens if your hair gets cut accidentally? Can it grow back? Do people try to spell their hair longer or drink potions to make it grow? So many questions, all unanswered.
Indeed, Nyneve’s whole world is kind of a mystery. It’s magical for sure and there seem to be important magical artifacts, two of them missing. But how magic really works, and whether one needs an artifact or not, is unclear. What magic can do is unclear. What types of magical creatures exist is unclear. The geography and the extent of the nation is unclear. Even the government structure is unclear–a major problem since Nyneve might have to rebel against it. Really, there’s nothing clear in the worldbuilding except that Nyneve attends a magical school and she’s afraid of her hair.
If readers are willing to accept that Nyneve exists in a nebulously-defined world with bad people after her, then the story is engaging enough. There is magic and fighting and action. There are things to keep readers reading. I, however, never felt fully immersed in the story because it feels like there is not much yet to immerse one’s self in. Not until the world is more defined.