Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #3
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 12th 2019
The long-awaited third novel in Susan Dennard’s The Witchlands series is finally here. Bloodwitch picks off where Windwitch left off as Aeduan and Iseult set off toward the Carawen Monastery in hopes of finding a safe place for the young Owl. Iseult’s Threadsister, Safi, finally finds herself in Marstok, helping the Empress Vaness weed out traitors in her court. Merik has set off with Cam and Ryber, hoping to find answers to how and why his Threadbrother Kullen has taken on the form of the Fury. Nubrevna is now in the capable hands of Merik’s older sister Vivia, who struggles to find her footing as Queen-in-Waiting. Meanwhile the Raider King to the North finally makes his move against the Witchlands and with the Twenty-Year Treaty negated, the Empires distrust of one another may lead to their downfall.
Susan Dennard has excelled at giving each of her characters their own arc. Sometimes this is a difficult thing to do with an ensemble of characters, but Dennard is never afraid to separate characters to test them out individually, to push them to their limits and help them discover things about themselves they might not have learned otherwise. Though the focus of this series has always been Safi and Iseult and the strength of their friendship, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these two on their own. Safi finds herself in a precarious situation, unable to escape Vaness as the Empress wields Safi’s Truthwitchery as a weapon, showing no mercy to those guilty of duplicity. Safi has always had someone to rely on when she makes mistakes, but in Marstok she must learn to rely on herself. Iseult has only ever had Safi to rely one, but through the course of her journey, she discovers an unlikely ally in the Bloodwitch Aeduan. I love how every scene with the two of them feels significant both to their relationship and to them as individuals. Iseult has never felt empowered, she’s always been on the outskirts, but in this novel, she begins to embrace how powerful she is and instead of listening to the voices that tell her she is not enough, she shouts back that she is.
I love how Merik’s perspective continues to be challenged in this third novel. He’s had to take a step back from being his people’s savior. He wants to do what is right, but learns that sometimes that’s not enough if you are blinded by your need to play the hero. We first get to know his sister Vivia in the second novel and in this one it’s hard not to root for her. She’s proven herself to be competent leader, but her father, the King Regent, along with members of the High Council, keep undermining her every chance they get. Still, Vivia manages to stay poised and manages to get things done even when she is doubted by so many. I’d really like to explore how Vivia and Merik’s father has shaped their relationship as siblings. It’s implied that he might be the reason they never found value in the other, why they’ve been resentful of one another. It’s probably the one aspect of these books that I wish Dennard had spent more time on.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the title character Aeduan. When we first met him in Truthwitch, he is the villain of the story, hunting down Safi and Iseult. His arc might be my favorite in the series as he goes from cold-hearted killer to tentative ally. In Bloodwitch we get a little more backstory on why Aeduan has made such an effective killer. His witchery has defined him since he was a young boy. He lost his mother at a young age and only recently was reunited with his father. He grew up seeing himself through other people’s eyes and never had someone see him as anything other than a monster. This changes through his relationship with both Iseult and Owl, but ultimately it is Aeduan who has to learn to see himself differently.
If you’re looking for a fantasy series that keeps you on the edge of your seat with invigorating action scenes, world-building that feels deliberate and intricate, and characters with rewarding character arcs, Susan Dennard’s The Witchlands series is one you should start now. For fans of the series, Bloodwitch feels worth the wait and cements this fantasy series as one of the best out there.