New Release Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

TruthwitchTruthwitch by Susan Dennard
Book #1 in The Witchlands
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: January 5th 2016
Book Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.


Christal’s Review

Truthwitch was one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 and one of the most hyped YA reads among the blogosphere.  While I can see why so many people loved it, Susan Dennard didn’t quite knock it out of the park for me.  Truthwitch was an enjoyable read, but it wasn’t the perfect YA fantasy (in my opinion) that so many others had made it out to be.

My biggest problem with Truthwitch was a lack of world building.  We are told a little about Safi and Iseult’s lives, but never enough to get a real feel for their world.   There’s an Emperor, a war, a 20 Year Truce, and several different… countries, I guess, mentioned, but nothing is really explained about how they intertwine.  I kept trying to form a mental picture of this world, but I got nothing.  The “threads” also weren’t well explained; we have Threadsisters and brothers as well as Heartthreads, but are never given a clear idea at how they come about.  Do all Threadsiblings only emerge when one saves another’s life?  Are Heartthreads predestined or does it take time to forge the connection?  Can they be broken and, if so, what happens then?  Another big sticking point for me was the clear disgust shown to Iseult because she is of the Nomatsi race, but it was never explained why people feared and distrusted them.  All in all, the world building was close to nonexistent so it made it hard to immerse myself in this world.

The characters in Truthwitch ranged from dynamic and engaging to bordering on Mary Sue territory.  My favorite character was Iseult, but we really don’t learn that much about her.  Tantalizing glimpses are given of a painful past, but we never truly learn what drove her from her clan or even much about her clan at all.  She’s Safi’s Threadsister and dedicated to her until the end, but there could be so much more to her.  She’s fierce and determined but also unsure of herself and a little frightened of her power at times.  I want a book just about Iseult!  Safi was an okay character but, being that she’s the “chosen” one, her characterization listed toward stereotypical at times.  She was beautiful and strong, could fight like a demon, but was educated right along with the best of them.  Oh, did I mention she also has a witchery that men would (and do) kill for?  My biggest issue with Safi, though, is that she makes terrible decisions.  Most of the messes she and Iseult found themselves in could have been avoided if Safi just shut her mouth.

Another thing that I could have done with less of in Truthwitch was the romance.  It definitely bordered on insta-love and Merik was a tepid character at best.  If it wasn’t for his devotion to his people, he really wouldn’t have had any personality outside of his interactions with Safi.  The Bloodwitch Aeduan is probably being setup as a future partner for Iseult, but at least it was done much, much more subtly.  And Aeduan was interesting!  He has a complex background and a powerful witchery that drives others to fear him.  He has a conflicted psyche and so many more layers that are just waiting to be pulled back.  He can join in the Iseult book too.  The other characters in the book weren’t very memorable except for Merik’s aunt, Evrane.  I liked her for the most part, but it always annoys me when a character knows something important about another character, Safi and Iseult in this instance, and they don’t tell the others because reasons.  It just feels like an excuse to drag that particular plot out.

I know I’ve complained a lot and these issues did honestly bother me quite a bit while reading Truthwitch, but I still found it to be a fun read.  I wouldn’t exactly call it fast-paced, but it didn’t really drag either.  The action was well-written and I did like the interactions between Safi and Iseult, though their Threadsister bond wasn’t on display as much as I would have liked.  I enjoyed this one enough that I want to know what happens next, so I will be reading Windwitch.  I can’t say that title excites me since it probably refers to Merik, but I will still be there.  I can’t highly recommend this one to readers of YA Fantasy readers, but it is a fun way to pass a few hours as long as you adjust your expectations accordingly.

Rating: 3.5 Stars = C+

Series Reading Order:
1. Truthwitch
2. Windwitch (Expected publication: 2017)

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