Friday, December 18, 2015

ARC Review: Truthwitch

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
The Witchlands #1
Expected Publication: January 5th 2016 by Tor Teen

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.
*An ARC was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.*

It's impossible not to be aware of the buzz for Truthwitch at this point, right? I mean, this book exploded onto the scene way as early as this past Spring and it has since been met with an incredible amount of praise, and a mountain of hype the size of Everest.  All of that should have made me weary I suppose, but I dove into this without a second though, completely ready for it to blow me away. I guess right now you're wondering if it delivered. Well in this case, that's a loaded question. I'd have to say that it kind of did...and it didn't. I'll explain:

Starting Truthwitch, I found myself quickly immersed in  this promising new world - and also confused.  We're thrown into this world straight away without preamble which was overwhelming. New terminology, magical-lingo and characters were being introduced without any backstory on any of it, so while I wanted to focus on the exciting action and main characters, I found that I couldn't get my bearings.  I didn't worry too much though because sometimes authors throw us right into the fire, and then a little further on, they start explaining the who, how, when, what and where, which is fine by me.  The problem is that those explanations and back story never came, especially when it came to the world-building. And see, the thing about me, is that in fantasy books, I get high off of world-building. I gobble it up like air.  I know that that's not the case for a lot of readers, but when you develop a taste for high-fantasy, it's hard to go back from that. And so I kept waiting for Susan Dennard to stop the plot and really dish out the mechanics of this world, of the different elemental powers...but she never did. Sure after the first hundred+ pages, I'd gotten mostly comfortable with the majority of it, but I still have a lot of mechanical questions that haven't been answered.

If you're able to move past the lack of world-building, history and details here, or if you're not as obsessed with all of that as I am, then you should be fine with Truthwitch.  The characters, especially the four main ones were mostly engaging right from the start and it was great getting to know them all.  Safi and Iseult are the two primary main characters, if that makes sense? Both are witches, but their magic works in very different ways, which is another aspect I NEED to know more about! The focus on their strong friendship is one that I could praise for days though. Kudos to Dennard for really putting their bond in the spotlight here and for making us believe that these two girls would go to the ends of the world for each other!  While they felt mostly interchangeable at first, they eventually developed into their own and getting to know each of their unique backgrounds and struggles really enrichened this story.  The other two main characters, Merik and Aeduan have a little less page time, but their chapters were some of my favorites in the book.  Merik has a notorious temper, which he makes up for by being pretty swoon-worthy. And well I won't say anything about Aeduan because his story-arc is best left to be discovered...

The pacing in Truthwitch is steady and does.not.let.go.  There's always something going on here, daring escape plots, thrilling schemes, battles on land and sea, magical discoveries, monsters attacks, injuries and even death!  There's never a dull moment here.  Throw in some strong friendship bonds and a light romance and you get what saved this book for me.  With everything that it has going for it, I hate to even criticize but I can't help but wish that the magical system and the world-building had been up to par with the rest of it.  If the first hundred+ pages had been as solid as the rest of the book, this could easily have been a 4-5-star read for me, but the start was a little too rough around the edges for me. I just wanted some more world-building and explanations for this new and innovative magical system!   As it stands, the first part of this books really affected my overall enjoyment.

Despite it's rough start, Truthwitch is a new fantasy that you should check out. If you're not a world-building/detail addict like me, you shouldn't have any issues falling madly in love with the characters, the action, the romance and the MAGIC.  I'll likely be continuing the series and if all goes well, the sequels will offer up explanations to sate my curiosity!  I'd recommend this one for fans of YA-fantasy looking for an action packed, magical adventure with a strong focus on friendship.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

28 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this book! I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it described as Garth Nix meets Avatar: The last Airbender. YES PLEASE.

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    1. Considering how much I ADORE Garth Nix and Avatar: The Last Airbender those comparisons are what drew me in as well^^ I hope you'll love this one!!

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  2. Your feelings about the worldbuilding are really interesting to me, because I... did not feel that way. O_O It didn't strike me as a lack of worldbuilding at all, but rather "need-to-know" worldbuilding -- no infodumps, you learn details when you need them and no sooner. Which might lead to some confusion at first, if one is trying to understand the whole world right away, but I was too focused on the characters to do that. I don't like my worldbuilding to be dumped on me in the beginning even if it does lead to understanding things sooner.

    But I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of it!! I loved Safi and Iseult so much. And Merik... *heart eyes* And I cannot wait to learn more about Aeduan in the next book, omg.

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    1. Which just goes to show how truly individual reading the same book can be for every single person that reads it. I don't know, I just felt confused about the different witcheries, what they could and couldn't do. I don't like info-dumpy world-building right at the start either but I do need some, sprinkled in along the way. I just still have too many questions for the first book in the series, considering that the first one is usually where most of the basics get covered O_O

      I did still very much enjoy the characters, once Safi and Iseult finally felt like two separate characters...and I enjoyed Merik and YES I NEED more Aeduan!

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    2. I think I had the same idea as Nikki. I felt like I was told what I needed to know when I needed it, and the other bits I was able to extrapolate. I'm also pretty okay with feeling a lot of uncertainty as long as I have something to hang onto, and I felt like I understood enough about Threadwitchery and Truthwitchery and the world to feel grounded.

      Merik. <3

      Lovely review! I agree: the friendships are so solid!

      C.J.
      Sarcasm & Lemons

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    3. I wish that that would have been the case for me as well C.J. but I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing there. Yes. Merik! Thank you :) And yes, the friendships were my favorite part!

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  3. Oh my! So I am very interested in this one and your review makes me even more so. For the good points that you mentioned, I'm very much a character driven reader so it sounds like this one is great on that end. I also love to hear that it is very action packed and fast paced. I could really use a fast paced book. I am saddened to hear about the world building. Hopefully, like you said, that will straighten itself out in future books.

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    1. I hope it delivers for you Jaclyn. The two MCs seemed interchangeable at first, but as soon as they became more distinct, I was sold! The first 100-pages were where most of the issues lay though, so really it's not bad at all. The pacing and action were both addictive so if the world-building picks up a bit in the sequel, I'll be very happy :)

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  4. Honestly, TONS of worldbuilding sometimes bogs me down, so I'll probably enjoy this one. Of course, the buzz has been huge. Looking forward to reading it!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I don't like TONS either - especially if it's all thrown in right at the start. But I do need *SOME* when you're dealing with a complex magical system like this one^^ I hope you'll love it Nicole :D

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  5. Really jealous that you got to read this already! Though in truth I'd hoped for higher ratings since yours is the second review I've seen this month giving it 3 stars. Maybe it's another one of those hyped YA fantasy titles? Oh well, still interested in checking it out :)

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. I think I've seen about 3-4 reviews on GR that felt much the same as I did about this one...the rest has been overwhelmingly positive! Hype can be a blessing and a curse though, that's for sure. Hopefully it'll deliver for you Mogsy^^

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  6. Interesting thoughts! I'm even more intrigued bc of your world building thoughts. And of course this is SO HYPED that i'm a little nervous bc I recently read her other trilogy and had meh thoughts after I finished it. At the same time, I'm still insanely CURIOUS about truthwitch so i'll def have to check it out when it comes out :)

    -Wendy @ Book Scents

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    1. CRAZY HYPE makes me nervous too Wendy^^ And lately, it seems like I've been getting a lot of 3-star reads in so I was hoping for more with this one. I still enjoyed it though - just not as much as EVERYONE else! I'm curious to see how you'll make out with it :)

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  7. Hm, I totally get what you mean with the lack of worldbuilding. I don't like over-developed worlds in the sense that the author puts more focus on the world than on the story/characters but I like to know what's going on, too. I especially like well-thought-out magic systems, so your complaint that you found this one lacking definitely counts as a warning for me...

    And yeah, the hype this book has received is ridiculous. I sometimes feel like this amount of attention actually makes things worse for the book/author because you expect something truly earth-shattering when you see this much attention. I'll probably wait for other reviews to come in before I make a decision on this one - or even wait for book 2 to see if the story gets better. :) I have to finish Dennard's first series anyway, I still have 1 book to go. Great review, Micheline! :)

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    1. Exactly^^ I don't like when there's just too much worldbuilding but there was really something missing here (for me anyway) when it came to making the world rich and more comprehensive. Especially with the magical system at play here!

      I really do think that mad-hype can do a book disservice at times, the expectations become sky-high and really how many books could live up to that?! So far though, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive - save for a few exceptions - so hopefully it'll deliver for you too Kaja :) Thank you ♥

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  8. Reading A Song of Ice and Fire really changed how I look at fantasy world-building, and since then, sometimes books with lighter fantasy elements work for me, but I often find myself needing a lot more details because I've been spoiled by ASoIaF. I've totally given in to all the Truthwitch hype and have it on pre-order. I am very, very curious to see if it lives up to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comparisons, and I'm looking forward to comparing notes on this with you!

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    1. See that's the thing! For me it's Sanderson. Ever since I read his Stormlight Archive series I've been spoiled. It's JUST like you said: sometimes light YA fantasy works for me, but sometimes it doesn't. This was one of the times where it didn't. I wanted MORE explanations, more descriptions, and at least SOME magical rules! I really, really hope that you'll love this like I was hoping to love it. And you know we'll be chatting all about it once you do!

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  9. Hmmm, you thought there was a lack of world-building? Interesting. On the contrary, I thought the world-building was very well-written. I cannot wait to read the next book!

    Lovely review, Micheline. :)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. I know I'm in the minority here, but yeah, I did! I thought that the action and the characters were spot-on but I wanted more details and rules for the different types of Witchery. Hopefully the next book will deliver for both of us ;) Thank you!!

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  10. I'm glad I've finally read a review pointing out some things that may be iffy for me! While I am still SUPER excited to read Truthwitch, I'm happy to hear your take on things :) Awesome review!!

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    1. I know what you mean Lillie! Sometimes you just need to read a few reviews like these with a super-hyped book, to keep the expectations from getting *too* out of control XD I hope this one delivers for you!!

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  11. I am so looking forward to this one and hopefully the world building issues won't be a problem for me *crosses fingers* I'm most excited for a strong female friendship being in the spotlight. Great review!

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    1. They probably won't be Teresa - I'm in the minority here LOL! The strong female friendship WAS in fact one of the best ones I've seen! Thank you :)

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  12. Interesting. I'm someone who would be bothered by a lack of world building too. However, the emphasis on magic and friendship might be enough for me. I think it's a good sign that you want to continue with the series. I can't wait to read it and see if I feel the same way. There is so much hype for this book right now. And I love the author this author hangs out with...

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    1. Hopefully it will be Nori^^ other than a few GR reviews the reception for this has been overwhelmingly positive. I guess when you get spoiled with high/epic fantasy, you get addicted LOL I can't wait to see how you'll make out with this and if you'll line up with the hype or be an outsider like me haha! Yeah, the fact that SJM and Dennard are BFFs AND that Maas gushed about this made it a MUST-HAVE for me too...

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  13. Oof. When I first read this in my reader I was disappointed that this one was a bit of a letdown for you (because I'm the same as you when it comes to world building, I know this). But I've had a few weeks to contemplate this now and I've decided I'm still relatively optimistic about this one. I think if I go into this one knowing that it takes a while to get truly into it, then I may have more patience for it compared to how I would've been had I read it when it was super hyped up. Really love and appreciate this review, Micheline!!

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    1. Aww I'm sorry Aylee, I certainly never meant to disappoint you! I'm happy that you've regained your optimism about it now!! I'm most certainly in the minority here so odds are you'd have loved it all the same. I know what you mean though, when you go in knowing what to expect it can be really helpful. If you don't notice the same things I did, it'll be good and if you do...well at least you're prepared :) I hope you LOVE this one my friend ♥ Thank you!!

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