Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Received ARC from publisher for review consideration
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
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.
Tell Me More: If you were part of the online YA book community in any way over the last year, you know it’s been nigh impossible to not hear about Truthwitch. Susan Dennard’s new series bewitched (ha ha) attendees at BEA, and even the Raincoast Books October preview proved how excited fellow bloggers were for this book.
Here’s where I admit that I’ve probably read the cover copy about a dozen times, but the story didn’t stick with me until I actually started reading it. Good thing Dennard doesn’t waste time–the reader is sent straight into Safi and Iseult’s rollicking story within the first chapter, and the world she creates unfolds from the two of them. It’s easy to like Safi and Iseult, and easier still to become invested in their adventures, even when there’s a whole new universe to learn about. Dennard deftly switches between their points-of-view without losing the tight strings of her narrative.
Truthwitch‘s strength lies in its two main characters. Safi is our connection to the history of the Witchlands: her family and past help fill in the background of the story. Iseult might be considered an “outsider” by the people around her, but she’s a force to be reckoned with. Safi and Iseult trust each other unconditionally, and their connection as Threadsisters keeps them together and saves their lives more than once. They’re both compelling and human characters, who make selfish decisions, and who come to terms with their flaws over the course of the book.
Truthwitch doesn’t succeed quite as well with its exposition. There were chapters that I had to completely reread, because there was so much information being thrown at me as I tried to read about another skirmish Safi and Iseult were fighting. Bloodwitches, Threadsisters–they’re all new terms and Dennard doesn’t give readers a whole lot of time to absorb one before another is set out in the dialogue. The world is fascinating, but it isn’t the easiest to settle into.
Is it imperative that the reader be able to settle into the Witchlands? For some, it might be enough to get an introductory course in Dennard’s worldbuilding in Truthwitch; it is, after all, the first book of four. We only really get a taste of the various conflicts that will drive the succeeding installments, and can see the sparks of romance between two characters that I expect will burn a little brighter later on. Personally, I’m convinced that Safi and Iseult are characters worth returning for, and their stories worth seeing through to the end. That said, what Truthwitch lacks places more pressure on Windwitch and the next books to both continue being compelling character studies and engaging fantasy stories. Something tells me Dennard’s going to be up for that challenge, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.
She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series (from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Witchlands Series (Tor, 2015). When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.