Book Title: Windwitch Author: Susan Dennard Number of pages: 384
After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed…
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Windwitch reads like a second “filler” book; the action scenes remain explosive and vivid in delivery
– More: POVs, pacing problems, issues on being invested in all the stories
– Conveniently plotted at times re: too many “get out of jail free cards”
– Further world building could have supported the magic system
– Merik revenge plot; Safi survival plot; Iseult/Aeduan babymaking plot (no but seriously)
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Truthwitch but even I will admit that this [Windwitch] felt like a step back.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Windwitch from Raincoast Books.
The thing about sequels [releasing a year after its predecessor] is that little details are easily forgettable. Sure I knew where everyone was (on a map) but their individual’s hero’s journey that led them to where they are and where they’re going? Ehhhh.
And given that it takes time to re-immerse yourself in a magical world [especially when you’re consistently punched in the face with “but why?”], it’s a bit of a doozy when the story unravels by a multi-POV narrative. It’s like jumping into a race car with an engine that fails every five seconds, so you get on-board a different automobile. Rinse and repeat, until you’re at the end of the book. Sure there may be a clear direction but given the wide perspective, it’s easy to not be excited or invested for certain voices being followed. This is the crux of Windwitch as a book.
So I find difficulty in saying Windwitch is a fulfilling sequel. It isn’t. In a lot of ways, the events that unfolded felt like filler material. As a rule of thumb, I do enjoy books with extensive travelling and being chased by something/someone. But it’s the lack of revelations and answers that reaffirm the lack of fulfillment. It’s okay to tone things down for character development but I would also argue that The Witchlands in its entirety is a very plot-driven series, and it was a let down from that regard.
We have to chat about the world building post-Truthwitch because what the fuck are some of these witchery abilities? Either a) the characters leveled up immensely in the minuscule time frame since the first book, b) it’s an added convenience to have extra specialness, or c) it’s a matter of a latent ability left unexplored, but something is off about the magic system here.
As of now, things just are and so we accept it. But I’m calling shenanigans on that. Let me break it down per character:
Safiya fon Hasstrel: what is with Safi’s truth-telling ability. Prior to, I can only think of scenarios where she was capable in determining the truthful/falseness to phrases that were said but now it seems she has leveled up to evaluate the candor in action. Let me put this into context for you: Safi could literally be watching a random passerby eating a sandwich and her magic tells her “false”. Am I missing something here? Safi being an aetherwitch is not in the same vein as Iseult. So I’m going to need more than just a “gut” reaction as some tell-all reasoning.
Aeduan: you’re an interesting fella but your witchery is either overpowered…or just overpowered. This dude has the nose of a canine-times-infinity which is absurd because I am certain there exists a variant of Axe or Old Spice that would negate the willy nillyness of his ability to be a walking compass.
Merik Nihar: notwithstanding the concerns I have with his use of wind to control waterwitchery re: fog/mist, at least his is grounded in some sort of elemental plausibility that I can give a pass to.
Iseult det Midenzi: you’s alright, if a bit superficial on the explanation of evolving from threadwitch to weaverwitch.
From an environment perspective, I will say that the prose and descriptions held up its end by portraying the vivid scenes that never lost its footing in even the most explosive of battle scenes.
There are too many “just-in-the-knick-of-time” or “for the greater good [of the protagonist]” moments coupled with characters teleporting everywhere that diluted Windwitch’s propulsive run-and-gun plot. I kid you not, each narrative thread had scenes that had me “wtf-ing” that pushes convenience [that lacks context] in favour of pushing the story forward:
Safi et al.: the ordeal with the hell bards and Vaness? the sudden change of heart? the firebird chase scene? Safi’s use of her lie-detector?
Iseult/Aeduan: the entirety of their story line is one big romp to push this ship (which I’m slightly okay with) but can we talk about the scene with Owl and the bat? How about the Firewitch? What of the river scenes? Perhaps even Aeduan’s tracking prowess? Iseults dream/thread walking shenanigans?
Merik: almost-but-not-dying Merik easily found by Cam? “the fight” that just ends with all these witches banding together to stop a fucking dam?
An even bigger issue is the pacing in this story that’s akin to the under-the-page teleportation that happens similar to Game of Thrones. With the narratives following [roughly] the same timeline, the voices weave-in-and-out of each other as it progresses.
One concern is that so often there are scenes where one party is [supposed to be] a distance away but pop back into the picture immediately following because they’re needed in the scene again. If nothing is happening, I might allow this to pass. But given the perilous nature of each of the protagonist’s situation, I don’t think ithe scene should be written “under the page”, if you will. Another concern is how jarring one POV is re: action/fight sequence set against another voice’s downtime. To build hype and excitement and then take it away didn’t encourage for me to keep reading to get back to where that story line was…but rather made me put the book down because everything was boring again.
Furthermore, Merik directing his comments to [lesser-than-in-status] comrade Cam was a shit show of misgendering, and to be frank, Cam doesn’t really do anything about it either. It just happens. And even Merik is confused with what pronouns to use for Cam; but he doesn’t ask. Instead, he just continues juggling the use of boy (with a tone similar to a father scolding his son) and girl (because Merik notices things about Cam that would suggest otherwise). “History/fantasy” is not an excuse for this one.
As What is there really to say that I didn’t cover above? A lot apparently.
As it’s Merik’s book, I’ll start with him. While he was pretty cardboard in Truthwitch, at least we got to witness more depth from him in this installment. That’s good, but pursuant to his above behaviour and his magical erection for Safi (which I should say influenced so much of the Mopey Merik early on), his POV was a chore to read. I know he’s a fan favourite re: banter with Safi but I wasn’t sold on his revenge plot.
His sister, Vivia, got a POV, and commands the page much more so.
Safi: hard pass.
Iseult: She is by far the most interesting character in this story as her witchery is a truly human quality in it. Empathy, you might consider it. In spite of her flaws that were often masked by Safi’s presence, Iz, I felt, experienced the most growth thus far.
Aeduan: this “morally ambiguous” character from the first book is suddenly an angel and I am both thrilled as it relates to his slow burn of a relationship with Iseult and also displeased because that means his villainous path is over.
Because really, there’s still no clear-cut villain/ultimate boss known by everyone. There’s one figure at the top, probably, but they’re only in the eyes of one character and that character has not said shit about it. And so the story continues to drag.
Susan Dennard’s Windwitch read like a second book filler. While the story brings to attention the increasing number of players in this political heavy plot, there’s a lack of fulfillment at the end of this book that doesn’t really change much of what we already knew from Truthwitch.
Expect to be in for the [really] long haul with this one.