Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series: The Witchlands #1

truthwitch -susan dennardIn 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.

4 Drink Me Potions

I will be honest. When this book first came out in stores, my friend and I admittedly thought it sounded a bit cheesy. Upon seeing all the great ratings and reviews, I thought I would check it out for curiosity and amusement’s sake.

I’m never as happy to admitting that I was wrong as I am in this moment.

Truthwitch feels like the high fantasy story that I’ve been waiting for this year. It has all the components that make it a wonderfully entertaining journey. Immediate action right from the very start, hot and steamy flirtations, a world of intrigue and magic that’s wonderfully developed.

And at the heart of it, the perfect friendship between an unlikely pair that speaks of true loyalty.

Here are my pointers of what I absolutely adored about Truthwitch.

1) Beautifully complex characters
I’m gonna run through the 4 main characters of the book and what was so great about each and every one of them, individually AND together.

Safiya was initially hard to relate and connect to. She’s wildly impulsive, reckless in her actions and quick to temper. Her gone-awry plans led both her and Iseult into a ton of problems. But I loved that she had a huge heart for her Threadsister. She took the blame for things she caused and aimed to fix whatever she could. She’s not just simply defined by her recklessness. She tried to plan ahead, examine her surroundings and get to know her enemies as she and Iseult dived head into the beginnings of war.

I loved that out of everyone, she had the most personal growth. Sometimes she came off as very independent and selfish. She thought of others after it was too late and the consequences of her actions had caught up to them. It wasn’t that she meant to, though. It was just her impulsiveness to dive head into action before fully thinking it through. However, by the end of it, she truly did her best to put others first, to change the world as maybe only she had the power to do, what with her special witchery powers.

Her other half, Iseult, was a wonderful complement to her reckless. Iseult was a Nomatsi girl, a tribe living outside of big populated cities that kept to themselves. I kinda pictured it akin to a gypsy-type of peoples, which made her more intriguing. It never quite said why people hated her kind so much, but it characterized her actions. She was easier to understand and relate to. As a Threadwitch, she saw the connections between people and the emotions of the world. And she could also see how much people didn’t want her around. All except for Safi and her close friends. Iseult felt too much emotion, things she was not supposed to feel with her witchery. She always had to live up to the failure of being less than what she could be with her power.

Things get crazy with her in the story. She, like Safi, was endlessly loyal to her Threadsister. They may be total opposites, but together they could face the world. A world that was coming close to the brink of major changes and war. Although she may have been the quieter main character, she was never eclipsed by Safi. Her narrative was just as enjoyable, the thoughts and worries flitting through her mind a beautiful glimpse into her unique character.

As for the men, there’s obviously a love interest you can totally root for. But Prince Merik wasn’t just simply a “love interest” to dangle like a pretty flower. He had depth too. He loved his dying country, but was thrown away as useless by his power-hungry family. He didn’t get along with Safi immediately, which made their angry banters such fun to read between the lines. He, too, was also quick-tempered, but no one could ever question his loyalties to crew and Thread family. Merik, altogether, was a wonderful male lead, but my heart wasn’t as intrigued by him as the other male protagonist.

Enter Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. I know, right? The synopsis made it sound like he was absolutely evil, the type of villain you’d easily hate and root for their horrible demise. Aeduan was nothing like that. He has secrets, yes, which slowly get hinted at and revealed bit by bit, but his choices into mercenary actions weren’t necessarily his fault. Where else would someone with Bloodwitchery be left alone and unharassed? In some ways, I think he and Iseult would really understand each other, what with being marginalized by society in the same way, just for being born different. I don’t think I’m reading too deeply into it, but I’m positive Dennard has something hot and steamy planned for the two of them. Iseult and Aeduan would make a very powerful couple, and I think they could learn and grow a lot from each other’s experiences. Here’s to hoping. *Fingers crossed*

2) Consistent action and well-paced plot
It never got boring or dragged. Right from the very first page, Safi’s got the two of them in deep crap. And from there, they individually get into more troubles as the world they know may just be falling apart at the seams.

Magic curses, mythical sea monsters arising, a new formidable foe who could raise the dead, and whole kingdoms chasing them around the world. Things couldn’t get any crazier. There were generous hints for plot arcs that would obviously continue into the next books, but oh how I wish I could read more about them now. Shows how thoroughly thought out Truthwitch was.

3) Incredible Worldbuilding
I know one reviewer mentioned the need for a glossary for all the types of witchery there are. I would agree. There are plenty.

Initially, when I first picked up this cover in early January, I thought the sound of a Truthwitch who could tell lies and truths apart sounded very cheesy and uncreative. However, there are so many more witcheries out there that I will happily eat those thoughts back. From Wordwitches being incredibly persuasive to Ironwitches who can control iron like it’s malleable putty and Bloodwitches taking hold of others’ blood and scent, the Witchlands seem to have more to offer than I had ever thought.

The downside to it was that the first 50 pages was like an information overload, with me flipping back and forth to the map and wondering what the heck some of these terms mean. If you can just roll through that part, it gets a TON easier to understand and more entertaining, I promise you.

4) Uh, romance anyone?
I said above that there were steamy romantic moments. Well, they were more like steamy flirtations with things that had to be read in between the lines. But I absolutely adored it. Things don’t have to get physical to be sweet, and for Threads of deep connection to be built and bound between people. Safi and Merik were a very fun couple to read about as they got to know each other, amidst the arguments and hot tempers. And if I have anything to say about it, Aeduan and Iseult’s small moments were already so lovely. I honestly ship those two together so hard. It better come true, Susan Dennard!

To conclude this longer than necessary review, I will give you a tidbit of such loveliness to dwell upon (and to urge you to read it for yourself if you want more of what’s here).

Then Merik reached across the map to tap at a snaking line of blue. His arm brushed hers.
It was a seemingly accidental touch, yet Safi knew – knew – from the way Merik moved, confident and determined, that it wasn’t accidental at all.
Frantic, she couldn’t seem to meet his stare. In fact, she stared at every part of his face but his eyes. He had stubble on his chin, on his jaw, around the curve of his lips…It was the hollow of Merik’s throat, though, that grabbed her attention – the pulse that she thought she saw fluttering there.
Finally, she risked flicking her gaze upward – and found Merik’s eyes roving across her face. To her lips. To her neck.
The door flew wide. Safi and Merik jerked apart.
Evrane strode in…then instantly reared back. “Am I….am I interrupting something?”
“No,” Safi and Merik intoned, stepping apart two paces. Then a third, for good measure.

Overall Recommendation:
Truthwitch was nothing that I had initially imagined. It’s anything but cheesy. From endless dangers, kingdoms chasing them around the world, dark curses, a potential enemy who could kill and raise the dead, and wonderful loads of different witcheries, this book has absolutely everything. The four main characters all are intriguingly complex, each adding something to the overall story. Their friendships and hinting buds of romance tie all the adrenaline-heavy action together into one book that you won’t easily forget after the last page’s been turned. I fully recommend it.

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