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