“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 13: Company Time” by Max Gladstone and Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2015)


CIA agent Dominic Alvarez just so happens to be an acolyte for the Flame, a detail that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the last episode, and he just happens to have kidnapped Maksin Sokolov, a Russian informant and powerful magical host, after the CIA managed to smuggle him away from the Russians and get him to a safe house. He’s scheduled to be on a specific plane and headed to the States, except that the pilot is still waiting around for his cargo who is late and doesn’t appear to be showing. Meanwhile, Alvarez and Sokolov are on a very different cargo plane flying to another destination, playing a game of chess.

KGB agent Tanya Morozova and CIA operative Gabe Pritchard meet to discuss their options for getting Sokolov back somehow. Once before they put their powers together, and with Gabe’s magical construct flaring inside him, and Tanya being a sorceress of the Ice, together they pack one heck of a magical wallop. It will require a big ritual, with lots of magical setup, and then their putting their powers together. But it’s their only hope.

While the season finale does have a hefty dose of magical action going on, the ending feels a little anticlimactic, and definitely leaves the reader and listener wanting more, but it certainly sets up hopes and interests for a possible future season in the continuing adventures of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Company Time from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 12: She’ll Lie Down in the Snow” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serialbox, 2016)


Things are coming to a climax in this penultimate episode to season one of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. Tanya Morozova knows she’s walking straight into a trap: she’s been ordered by her boss at the KGB to get the Russian informant back no matter what, but she also knows the safe house she’s headed to is guarded by a small army of CIA who know full well that she’s coming. Fortunately, Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet Ambassador and acolyte of the Flame has given her a protective charm to help keep her alive; she also reveals that Tanya’s boss, Sasha, happens to be an acolyte of the Flame, which is why he’s fine with sacrificing Tanya.

Tanya and her people enter the safe house and there’s a big shootout. Sokolov has already been moved and is in no danger, meanwhile the bullets are flying and lives will be lost on both the Russian and American sides. And at the end of the episode a big twist is revealed that changes everything and sets things up for a big season finale.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 11: King’s Gambit Accepted” by Ian Tregillis (Serialbox, 2016)


After the heavy action of the previous episodes, Anchises, episode 11 is kind of calm that comes after an intense fight scene; readers and listeners get to explore the fallout of the aforementioned events and how the characters deal with the big developments that are now going down.

Maksin Sokolov is gone and purported to be dead, except Tanya Morozova is meeting with her boss, Sasha, and telling him how it went down and how the CIA “smuggled” the informant out via the river and used a recently placed corpse to distract the KGB, but Tanya isn’t falling for it. Sasha gives her an ultimatum, telling her she needs to get Sokolov back no matter what, and she can use whatever resources are necessary. With help from her coworker and fellow Ice acolyte, Nadia Ostrokhina, they use some good old fashioned magic to locate where Sokolov is, using a magically-spruced-up theodolite to track the contruct and see where Sokolov ended up.

Meanwhile, CIA agents Dominic and Josh are watching their informant and keeping him as safe and secure as possible, while Gabe is out getting some R&R. Killing time they talk about Gabe, Dominic wondering whether he can trust him, and more importantly whether he can trust Sokolov in Gabe’s hands. Josh admits he doesn’t know the man that well, but they do address his dark episode in Cairo.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Dream of Ice from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 9: Head Case” by Max Gladstone (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the ninth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Things are moving into place for a huge and secret operation for the CIA known by the codename ANCHISES. Agent Gabe Pritchard would really like to not screw this one up and totally ruin his career. Things would be a lot easier if he didn’t have a golem on his back.

Rookie CIA operative Joshua Toms gets picked to meet with an operative who happens to be the big contact for ANCHISES. It’s his first big operation and he’s nervous as hell, but he also knows it’s an important stepping stone in his career. And since he kind of got caught recently revealing his affections for a certain man, he needs to show this isn’t going to affect him at all and he’s a great agent.

Meanwhile Gabe now has a golem following him and what’s even creepier is the thing’s starting to look like him. He tries every magical trick up his sleeve but nothing seems to work to stop or even slow the thing. With the help of Jordan Rhemes and a parchment of skin, Gabe has something that might affect the golem now, he just has to get the parchment into its head somehow.

And then things go from bad to worse when Gabe is at the specific location for Joshua’s operation and the golem happens to be looking for him in the basement. Gabe enlists some help . . . Actually, he basically begs Ice operative Tatiana Morozova to help him out.

Tensions are building in The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, and “Head Case” ends on one of the biggest cliffhangers of the series so far.

Originally written on March 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 9: A Head Case from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 8: Cover the Silence” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the eighth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

The episode features an unexpected meeting between two unlikely characters: Sasha Komyetski, a high level operative in the KGB, and Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet ambassador, as they discuss the special radio that Sasha confiscated from Tatiana Morozova. As the reader and listener wonders what these two might be up, the next scene opens up with Jordan Rhemes once again having to deal with a couple of Flame operatives who would really like to take over everything at the Bar Vodnar. And then we get our first outright magical dueling scene, as the operatives work together casting spells, while Jordan uses charms and has her own tricks to combat them.

Meanwhile, Zerena is holding a mighty gala where every who’s who is there, including plenty of members of the KGB and CIA, as well as various other clandestine groups, all watching each other’s every move. The reader and listener gets to see all this through the ambassador’s wife’s eyes, as she pays a visit to the important members on each side, as well as a new arrival from the States, one Dominic Alvarez. We see all the facial expressions and nervous ticks that tell Zerena all she needs to know. The episode ends with the ambassador’s wife paying her own visit to Jordan for a specific item and an important fact is revealed about her.

What makes this episode so interesting is that it is a digression from the series so far, as readers and listeners get to see everything through secondary characters. The main characters who have been showing up in every episode so far may be seen in this episode but we don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s all about what the background people see and think. We also learn that this is important, for they have just as important a stake in the whole operation as do our lead protagonists and antagonists.

Originally written on March 5, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 8: Cover the Silence from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 6: A Week Without Magic” by Michael Swanwick (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the sixth episode in the series; you can read reviews of the other episodes here.

After the magic fireworks bonanza of Episode 5 of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 6 is well titled as there is no magic really going on in this episode of the story, and it is more a return to the Cold War clandestine espionage that the story is truly about at its heart. And its written by bestselling science fiction author Michael Swanwick. Having a variety of different authors writing the episodes is what makes this series so interesting, for while the characters remain the same, each episode has its own unique feel to it that is a product of that particular author’s thoughts and writing style.

It is a cold January in Prague and apparently in the spy world – much like the regular one – that means audit season. In this episode we get to see what that means from both sides of the Cold War. In the American side there are lots of accountants checking everything out and having agents filling out lots of seemingly needless paperwork. CIA agent Gabe Pritchard gets assigned an entire binder to complete that defend and quantify his every action over the last six months. So Gabe does what he does best and talks his way out of it with the accountant, proclaiming he would be committing treason is he were to complete the binder.

Meanwhile, on the Soviet side audit season has a slightly different feel to it, as everyone is on their best behavior and walking on eggshells around all these new people in the KGB who are checking into every file and detail. Tanya Morozova has a meeting with her boss Sasha Komyetski and one of the auditors from Moscow Center to spy on one of her coworkers. And then there is a washed out spy named Magnus know as the Norwegian who Gabe sends Tanya’s way and she decides to put him in touch with a recruiting member of the consortium of Ice.

Originally written on March 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 6: A Week Without Magic from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.