Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #1
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 5th 2016
Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch is action-packed fantasy with a strong friendship at its center. Dennard’s world is full of magic and mayhem, but is in need of a lot of exposition by its characters which often feels like readers are forced to play catch up. The novel is full of a lot of unfamiliar terms and a complicated system of witchery that made me wish I had a glossary to reference back to while reading. There are political games between leaders who we learn little about, prejudices against people that we are asked to accept without proper historical context, and different Empires all with different needs that we aren’t privy to as the characters spend most of the novel on a ship. While I will say some of the elements in the story were not fully explained, by the time I finished the novel, I felt that I had a much better grasp on the Witchlands world and cannot wait to explore it more.
Truthwitch‘s strength is its two leads, Safi and Iseult, and the powerful relationship between these two independent young women. Safi is ruled by her emotions, which often makes her impetuous and temperamental. At the beginning of the novel, Safi is a girl running away from a life she doesn’t want with a powerful witchery that can enslave her to anyone who gets their hands on her. She finds a companion in Iseult, a Threadwitch, running away from her own life. Iseult grew up in a strict upbringing that taught her to value control over emotion. Her people, the Nomatsi, are reviled throughout the Witchlands, but Iseult’s inability to perform all the magic a Threadwitch is called to has ostracized her from her own people. Her friendship with Safi is a saving grace for both of them; they compliment one another and are at their best when fighting for each other.
Truthwitch has some great secondary characters. While I consider Safi and Iseult to be the two main leads, Prince Merik of Nubrevna and the Bloodwitch Aeduan play important roles. Merik’s actions are motivated by his desire to save his people. He is uncompromising in his ethics despite having people in his life like his sister, who would rather take the easy route. He becomes an example of what Safi could be if she chooses to accept the role she was born to. Aeduan is ruthless, powerful, and truly ambiguous. I’m still unsure if he can be considered a villain or an antihero as his actions are those of both, but I’m very interested in finding out more regardless.
While hype initially scared me off from reading Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch right away, it’s a highly enjoyable fantasy novel with great characters and an inspiring female friendship.