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