Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format Read: Paperback
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on February 23rd 2016
Book Depository | Buy from publisher
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard was one of the most hyped books of 2016. To be very honest with you, that hype went completely over my head and I didn’t even realise it was being published by Pan Mac in Australia. Also, that cover — it’s hideous. I still don’t understand why publishers in the UK/Australia find the need to change the covers of US books, when the original was perfectly fine. Why downgrade something that was already beautiful, into something that looks like this…? Nevermind, rant over.
Unfortunately, Truthwitch as a book in itself was not a lot better than its cover. Set in a fantasy world called The Witchlands (original, I know), the book follows the characters Safiya fon Hasstrel and Iseult det Midenzi, two friends and threadsisters with unique powers who are on the run following a heist gone wrong and an unwanted marriage. And you know what, that’s really as far as the plot in the first book really goes…
I’m going to do a something a little different with my review and list down the positive and negative things I liked in the first book of this series.
Let’s kick off with the positives shall we?
What I liked about Truthwitch
- Safi and Iseult’s friendship — Coming from two completely different worlds — Safi being a domna and Iseult being born into a nomadic tribe that’s shunned by the rest of society — I really loved the dynamic and relationship between the two girls, which were not defined by either class or anything status related. Their support and love for each other was refreshing to see, especially as the other halves of a whole, with Safi being the act without thinking type, and Iseult being the more level-headed one. They truly balanced each other out throughout the book.
- Aeduan the Bloodwitch — In this Witchlands world that Dennard created, magic is aligned to the usual elements of earth, water, metal etc. However, there is one element called the ‘Void’, which is seen as malignant, and anyone with a power that comes from the Void is feared by society. Aeduan is the only Bloodwitch that is known, with the ability to track someone across the continent by following the scent of their blood, and healing powers too…pretty much anything that relates to blood. Hired to track down Safi when she’s kidnapped, we see Aeduan follow the girls as they sail across the vast seas in order to escape from Safi’s arranged marriage to the king of her realm, who is out to use her Truthwitchery for his own benefit. Out of all the characters introduced in Truthwitch, Aeduan is the most complex and interesting — while he’s loyal to his ‘father’ (which we don’t ever meet but he’s alluded to and is part of a bigger plot), he was also raised as a Carawen Monk that protects the mythical Cahr Awen and general society too…at least that’s what I think they do. To be honest, still not really sure what their day-to-day roles are when the Cahr Awen is not around. Aedeuan was definitely the stand out character from the book, and I’m really keen to see where the third book in this series will take him.
- The magic system — While it’s by no means unique, I did enjoy the magic system as a whole because I love any book with a touch of magic to it. Iseult’s ability as a Threadwitch allows her to see what everyone around her is feeling, a pretty cool talent that I’d love to experience myself!
- Nomatsi tribes — I loved the idea of the Nomatsi tribes, especially the small glimpses into Iseult’s tribe that we got in the beginning of the book. I loved how savage their protections and traps are, and how unique the tribe is. Basically the tribes are headed up by a Threadwitch who not only mitigates any fights that arise, but is also a matchmaker as they can ‘heart threads’ which basically indicate connection and love between two people. I really wish we got to spend more time in Iseult’s old tribe — it was probably one of the more exciting parts of the book.
What I didn’t like about Truthwitch
- The worldbuilding — To put it truthfully, the worldbuilding is the weakest point of this series. We are pretty much told that there’s been a twenty-year truce across the Witchlands that are coming to an end, despite no-one wanting it to actually end. The whole idea was so convoluted and unnecessary that I rolled my eyes…multiple times. We are given nothing about the world before the truce, besides the very obvious wars and bloodshed…yes I get that’s usually how truces occur, but I need more backstory. Please! How did each country split? Why are they so different to each other? I need more!
- The magic system — Yes, while I enjoyed the magic in this book, I was also super confused. In a world called THE WITCHLANDS, why the hell are there Purists with so much power? How the hell are these people not afraid of pissing off those with the ability to kill them by just thinking about it? And why the hell do some people have magic but others don’t?! It’s alluded that most people don’t have magical abilities, but every character we’ve met does?! Why?! How?! Also, why are Truthwitches so valuable to the point that Safi must hide her abilities from everyone? If I were given a choice of any magical ability, being a Truthwitch would be at the very, very bottom of my list. If you can manipulate metal, you can choke the truth out of your enemies…just saying.
- Why the Nomatsi are hated — I don’t understand the hate towards the Nomatsi. Iseult is described as having pale skin and dark hair, the features of a Nomatsi. These features bring hate upon the bearers of these very particular features…and I still have no idea why. Is it because they’re nomads? That’s the only reason I can’t really think of because nothing else makes sense. WHYYYYY?!
- The plot — Let me tell you straight off the bat that Truthwitch is a set up book, and not a really great one at that. While I don’t mind set up books that lend itself to a bigger plot, I need these books to really lay out the world so I can’t understand how everything that happens along the way leads the the bigger story. I get Iseult’s story, but what the hell is the point of Safi’s? She’s running away because she possesses Truthwitchery, an ability that everyone seems to seek. Why? I still don’t understand what’s so special about being a Truthwitch.
Honestly, I don’t understand the hype of this book. Truthwitch was just not my type of fantasy tea, but as you can see below, I did read the second book in the series, which was a lot better than the first.
Windwitch (The Witchlands, #2) by Susan Dennard Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies… 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. When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first? After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format Read: Paperback
Published by Tor on January 12th 2017
Book Depository | Buy from publisher
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…
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.
When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
Windwitch was a mile better than Truthwitch because we’re really getting into the nitty gritty part of the series, where all the plot lines are converging together into one ultimate fight/war. You know it’s coming 😛
The second book in The Witchlands series starts off quite strong and intriguing, with Merik’s ship blown to smithereens. Everyone thinks Merik’s dead, giving him an advantage over his enemies since no one goes searching for dead men. On the other hand, Iseult has been separated from Safi, who’s on her way to Marstok after striking up a deal with the empress. Unluckily for Safi, the empress’s ship faces the same fate as Merik’s, with only two survivors…you guessed it, little snowflake Safi and the empress. While making their way back to civilisation, they are captured by a coupld of Hell Bards, sent by Safi’s fiancee to retrieve her.
Safi’s entire plot is mind-numbingly boring, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Iseult on the other hand, as run into Aeduan the Bloodwitch once more, who was sent by one of his father’s friend (tbh no idea what the relationship there is) to find the Threadwitch Iseult. How convenient that we have no idea why…and that Aeduan is lame enough to follow this wacko’s orders. Iseult, the smart cookie she is, devises a plan to make Aeduan help her find Safi, in exchange for a chest of gold that he lost at the end of Truthwitch. He’s still following some elusive scent of the thief that stole his money and two books later, WE STILL DON’T HAVE A CLUE AS TO WHO IT IS. Ugh.
Iseult’s storyline is the most intriguing because it’s frankly the most developed of any character’s. Her dream travelling begins to happen more often and more vividly as she slowly begins to learn who and what she really is, and what her magic is capable of. I looked forward to every chapter that she was in, and yes, I do ship her and Aeduan together <3
Merik gets a bigger stake in the second book — it is called Windwitch after all — and he’s out and about looking for answers to who tried to kill him. He’s adamant that it’s his sister, Vivia, who he believes felt threatened by Merik for the throne of Nubrevna. While I enjoyed Merik’s parts — and Vivia’s new perspectives — I thought their story dragged on in a way that was not at all exciting until the climax of the story.
What irks me is that while the world of The Witchlands has definitely expanded, it STILL feels like a filler book. None of the questions I wanted to know from the first review was answered, which was quite annoying because the world and the story feels like it’s missing a huge component. While the idea is there, there’s a lot left to be desired from the execution of this story.
I do really want to know what happens in the third book because the set up to this massive war is quite exciting, but I’m just not sure whether I should hold my breath for something brilliant. Windwitch is definitely a lot more exciting than its predecessor, but it still seems to be missing the spark that every reader looks for in a fantasy novel.
(So I just checked and there’s meant to be four books in this series…argh, is that why there’s so much filler scenes. Grrrr)
If you’re new to the YA fantasy genre, Dennard’s Witchlands series is probably a nice way to ease yourself into fantasy fiction. There’s lots of elements to like about this series, but the execution is just lacking.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for a copy of Windwitch in exchange for an honest review.