The premise of Witchsign sounded cool: a muggle arrives at evil Hogwarts and leads a rebellion. That’s a hook that ought to have made the opening of the book immediately interesting. Den Patrick can’t be blamed for dragging out the action until he reached the inciting incident; he had no way of knowing I’d have been informed of the key event before I even picked up the book. If that had been my only problem with Witchsign‘s beginning, it might not have been worth mentioning.
Marek was a good father, but his was a functional mind, only affectionate when he remembered to make the effort.Witchsign, Den Patrick
What really put me off, however, were the characters. The dynamic between Steiner, Marek and Kjellrunn made me extremely uncomfortable. While they’re not intended to be a picture perfect family unit, we’re clearly supposed to find their internal conflicts sympathetic. Instead, I found Marek’s behaviour towards both his children pretty reprehensible, and the backstory which was meant to explain his actions seemed staggeringly convenient.
He passed a blanket to Maxim and before long he’d drawn an audience of fifteen imploring faces, all sensing protection was at hand and drifting towards it.Witchsign, Den Patrick
Once away from the rest of his family, Steiner was able to flourish a little as Witchsign’s protagonist. He clearly demonstrated compassion, which is always a good start, and Den Patrick introduced lots of other characters, though none of them felt very fleshed-out and the pacing was a little off. Events seemed to all be happening too fast, without any time to breathe and absorb each new change of situation.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that characters kept remarking on how unlikely all Steiner’s successes were. Had they not repeatedly called attention to it, I might have noticed the improbability far less. Even so, the more pages I put between me and the problematic opening, the more I enjoyed Witchsign. By the end, I was actually having quite a good time. While the resolution superficial pacing of the main events meant the ending couldn’t really feel satisfying, there were plenty of loose ends left to be picked up in future stories. I just don’t know if I care enough to follow them…