[Review] Truthwitch — Susan Dennard

Book Title                  Truthwitch (The Witchlands #01)
Author:                        Susan Dennard
Number of pages:  416

Synopsis:

truthwitch-susan-dennard-book-coverSafiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

(re: Goodreads @ Truthwitch by Susan Dennard)


Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:

– Multi-POV with 4 perspectives
– The world is reminiscent to Avatar: The Last Airbender with magic systems of both the elemental (wind, water, fire, etc.) and immaterial variety (concerning values/emotions)
– Slow burn romance with lots of sexual tension
– Strong female chars., admirable leading lads, morally ambiguous antagonists, diverse characters; solid sismance/meh bromance
– Consequences don’t feel dire; supporting chars. lacked substance
– Be warned: if you read Truthwitch, you’re in it for the long haul

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Initial Thoughts

Ahoy to unpopular opinions. Sorry bout it.

Disclaimer: The copy I read was an ARC given to me by Amanda @ Brains, Books and Brawn that she received from an Indigo Teen giveaway.


Afterthoughts:

Premise

Safiya is a Truthwitch. Her threadsister Iseult is a Threadwitch. Together they live along the fringes keeping their abilities hidden from even the greatest of empires. The end of the Twenty-Year Truce peaks the horizon and whispers of war trickle into the shifting political landscape. For the players that enter the arena, the prize is coveted. But the greatest treasure is in a legend yet to be found. Until now.


Setting

The world of Susan Dennard’s Witchlands is highly reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender. While it isn’t confirmed that magical affinities are exclusive to certain regional landscapes, that’s what has been the case so far. The major distinction Truthwitch introduces compared to other worlds is through aetherwitchery (immaterial magic; i.e. truthwitch being a walking polygraph, threadwitch engaging emotions) and voidwitchery (‘darker’ morally ambiguous magic; i.e. bloodwitch…which is really bloodbending to me in ATLA).

The inspiration for aetherwitches read as if it’s rooted in something very human. I really enjoyed that because the abilities straddle the line between fantasy and magical realism; provoking a sense of tangible empathy. In a way, readers can be like “hey, I’m a truth/thread witch too” – and that’s something to be appreciated.

The learning curve is naturally steep and there were scenes that left something to be desired. Without spoiling too much, there are moments that show witches cleaving (magical users imploding into antagonistic tendencies) but the process, history, and magical intent was lost in translation. This concept ties into the legendary Cahr Awen witches but I didn’t come to understand it until after the fact through Susan Dennard’s review thread on Goodreads.


Narration

The juxtaposition in narration sets a wonderful pace between the four voices making the experience fluid and engaging. There is always action in one of the storylines balanced by building context and history in another. Dennard’s writing is pleasing to read as she sets the chess board with grounded politics chock full of unknowns that encourage pages to be flipped. The dialogue is sharp, succinct, and full of snark even as it ventured into [what I thought to be] speech stuttering.

Though I will say that in the copy I read, the shift in perspectives occurred after a page break with often multiple voices in the same chapter. That was a bit of a doozy as things did/could feel muddled together. Additionally, there’s one scene with a timeline that felt as if there were holes in plotting and it took me out of the story (I blame skepticism, really).

In terms of twists and cliffhangers, there really isn’t much of either (none that screamed “redacted expletive!!” at least). I don’t know…it just didn’t wow me given how the magic system and lore is set up. I do have theories that alter the perspective of the twists but that’s for another forum of discussion.


Characters

The protagonists in Truthwitch were compelling to follow as their motivations to survive clashed with the political undertones running deep in the story. I just wished it translated to the supporting ensemble, because really, it’s unfair for protagonists to receive the get out of jail free card while everyone else runs into spears [for their heroes].

The relationships were half baked for me. While the sismance deserves accolades, I can’t say the same for the bromance. It felt rather forced. The romance, however, brew with sexual tension and it really is a shippers paradise. There are scenes with romantic inclinations that can feel as though it eclipses the underlying dangers but those were few and far between. More than that, I enjoyed the subtleties in one of the characters to potentnially play for both teams (or maybe this is just a pipe dream).

If there’s one thing I was missing, it’s that the consequences didn’t feel threatening for the characters that mattered. To everyone else that shit happened to–whom I lacked care for–it just wasn’t enough for me to feel pained to their problems.

Baseline: strong female characters, admirable leading lads, decent morally ambiguous antagonists, tangible motivations, friendship feels, and a shit ton of sexual tension. Also diverse characters (even if 97% of characters raised their pitchforks at their “otherness”).


Overall

So does Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch live up to the hype?

Yes and no. It’s an exciting entry into the Witchlands series with an imaginative world but it exudes familiarity to those I’ve seen in other media and video games. But that’s on me. 

The introduction to certain magic systems is what has me intrigued along with the political undertones that are only beginning to reveal itself. Add to that the writing chops to craft four strong voices each with their own agenda, and boom, it’s generally solid.

My recommendation? Wait for all 4 books to be released. You’re in it for the long haul anyways.

(Or just ignore me since everyone else gave this book 4+ stars LOL)

Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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42 thoughts on “[Review] Truthwitch — Susan Dennard”

  1. Hmmm … okay, now that I’ve read your review, I am really considering waiting until all books are out. The book was bound to have a difficult time living up to all this hype though. Great post!

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  2. Here’s my question: Is it something that someone who normally doesn’t read this genre will love? You know, like Six of Crows was. I’ve seen Truthwitch all over and was curious. Or maybe I should just ask if it has a character named Garrett I can swoon over? 😉

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    1. I’ll say yes to your fantasy newbie question.

      But there’s something I need to point out with the Six of Crows comparison. While I unfathomably enjoyed the multi-POV narration, I have seen the opinion that some perspectives sounded like the same person. You can tell when it’s Kaz or Jesper or Mathias, yeah? The voices may be a bit of a dubious thing in Truthwitch though. Just thought I should point that out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good to know. I liked the multi-POV in Six of Crows. I could definitely tell the characters apart.
        I do like when POVs are clearly marked, whether it’s in separate chapters or marked well within. I hate having to guess who’s head I’m in now. I may give Truthwitch a try when I get my hands on a copy! Thanks for the opinion! 🙂

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  3. Bahaha, nice review. I definitely agree with what you pointed out in regards to the sexual tension because thinking about it makes me *fans self.* I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t feel like the characters were in any danger; I myself was too engrossed in their adventure to really care about that. 😛

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    1. Maybe it’s because Aeduan is arguably my favourite character that I didn’t feel any immediate danger. That’s a good point though, maybe I should add that into my review LOL.

      But the important thing for me to ask is this: which ship do you favour? (AEDUAN AND ISEULT YAAAAAA? I’m okay with Safi/Merik though.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Truth be told?

        AEDUAN AND ISEULT ALL THE WAY. *raises ship flags* Like, Merik and Safi are cool. I like them, they’re both awesome in their own ways. But you mention Aeduan’s name and so many feelings are pouring out of my heart. He’s probably my fave character too.

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  4. Multi POVs can be really confusing… :/
    I heard so much about how great the bromance was in Truthwitch… Guess it depends on the person, in how they perceive the bromance 🙂
    Thanks for the review – always great to get more info on a hyped up book 🙂

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      1. I JUST READ TRUTHWITCH and I get your comment about the bromance now omggg.
        Yep, the multi-POV threw me off a bit in the end because yeah they all did sound the same after a bit xD Labels would definitely have made it easier for me!

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  5. While the hype and publicity for Truthwitch has just become overwhelming and over the top, I did really enjoy this book despite my fear of disappointment. And yes, if you read this one, you are definitely in it for a long time to come. Series get me every time.

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  6. Bummer, I sort of had high expectations for this one. I may just have to stop by the library and a few chapters to see if it is something to my liking :/ Still though, Avatar: The Last Airbender? How could you pass up those tropes? I loved that anime series so so much!

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    1. I’m unsure if sismance is a thing (but Google said it was the opposite of bromance so I went with that). And yeah, maybe I was just expecting a lot more than what was given. It’s not a bad book by any means (it’s 3/5 — that’s solid!), I just wasn’t captivated by it’s “originality” as I’ve seen so many other reviews claim.

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  7. Honestly, a mixed critical/positive review makes me want to read something a lot more. In a sea of gushy excitement, I can’t tell whether it would work for me until I find someone a little more level to tell me what it’s all about. Thanks for telling both sides. 🙂

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  8. I love your review and I agree with a lot of the things you said. I was really unsure of what cleaving was or how it happened haha. I gave it 3.5 stars for the confusion, and I’ll be waiting for the rest of the series to come out instead next time. 🙂

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