Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Books on January 5, 2016
Pages: 416 pages
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On a continent ruled by three empires, everyone is born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries long war is about to end, the balance of power-and the failing health of all magic-will fall on the shoulders of a mythical pair called the Cahr Awen.The biggest thing on Safi and Iseult’s minds is saving money for their planned future in the Hundred Isles. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the emotional Threads binding the world. Safi, on the other hand, is a Truthwitch-she always knows when a person is telling a lie. A powerful magic like that is something people would kill to have on their side-or to keep off their enemy’s side-and so Safi cannot even admit what she truly is.With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and a ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must rise above their doubts and fight to learn who they are and what they are made of, if they are going to stay alive and preserve the balance of their world.
Truthwitch is my first book by Susan Dennard and it won’t be my last.
I didn’t get a copy at BEA this year – I think it’s fair to say that it was one of *the* books to get? – and I was bummed that my flight got in too late to even make grabbing Truthwitch a possibility. But lo and behold, Susan Dennard was at NCTE in November and so not only did I get a copy of Truthwitch buuuuut Susan Dennard also signed it! So things worked out for me in the end, and splendidly, because I loved Truthwitch and you should 100% read it. Even if you do not enjoy fantasy novels? You should read it. Because it is pretty great, and I loved it.
Here is the number one reason why: there is an epic female friendship at the center of the series and that is basically everything I need and love. Our two protagonists, Safi and Iseult, share what is possibly my favorite friendship in a young adult novel in a long long time. Safi and Iseult are both witches with rare talents and when the novel opens, are plotting a heist that goes awry, so they need to go on the run. They’re also thread-sisters, so in the world of this novel, they’re powerfully bound to each other, and their relationship (and desire to protect each other! I have all the feels!) drives much of the action of the book. I love books about relationships between women, first and foremost, and that is basically Truthwitch for you. Do you want to read about two ladies kicking ass and racing to each other’s sides through crazy danger and putting each other first, always? If so: read this book!
But that is not the only thing to like about Truthwitch! It took me awhile to figure out some of the elements of the world-building, but once I did, oh boy, I was into it. (To be perfectly honest, there are still some things I’m not totally clear on, but I don’t even care because the storyline is captivating enough that I am kind of okay just being along for the ride.) I … did not know that Truthwitch was set in an alternate version of the Holy Roman Empire but perhaps this will enhance your reading experience? Suffice it to say that even without this, I found the world of Truthwitch to be really interesting and engaging – there’s a lot of political intrigue, which I really got into: there’s a treaty that’s on the verge of being broken, there’s betrayal by your nearest and dearest (or is there?), Safi’s trying to keep her abilities as a Truthwitch on the down-low, there’s trade-deals to be brokered, but most importantly, much of the first book is spent beginning to develop Safi and Iseult as political players in their own right. (And I am so, so excited to see where the next books take them as a result!)
This miiiight fall under world-building, but in addition to a strong female friendship and a super engaging fantasy world, another thing I loved? That this is not a very tame fantasy world. There is a lot of sinister action in this book and it delighted me. The existence of bloodwitches and voidwitches! Sea foxes! Cleaving! (Oh my god, the cleaving was *terrifying.*) I also really loved Aeduan – the menacing bloodwitch who’s introduced early on in the book – and I’m hoping we see much more of him later in the series. He’s quickly become my favorite character after Safi and Iseult, and I’m really interested in seeing where his character will go next View Spoiler » especially now that he’s learned that Safi and Iseult are the Cahr Awen « Hide Spoiler.
Do you need more of an incentive to read it? Truthwitch has a hell of an ending. I want the next book in the series and I want it now. I’m so curious to see how Dennard expands upon what she’s built in Truthwitch and how she continues to weave all these different storylines together. There are so many plots in motion! I can’t wait to see them all come together.
Is there anything I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about? Pretty much only the romance, but that’s kind of normal for me as a reader, so I suspect everyone else will feel differently about this. (Your mileage may vary and probably will!) All of the things I typically do like were there – banter, badassery – so I’m not quite sure why it didn’t work for me, but I think it’s because Merik might still be something of a cipher to me as a character. I didn’t always understand him well enough to understand why he was responding as he did. View Spoiler » For example, the scene where he punishes Safi really confused me. « Hide Spoiler
In summary: I loved Truthwitch. Go read Truthwitch. Want an awesome fantasy novel that’s centered on female friendship? Truthwitch! It’s here for you.