ARC Review: Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Bloodwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #3
Pages: 464
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 12th 2019

      “Fans of Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling Witchlands series have fallen in love with the Bloodwitch Aeduan. And now, finally, comes his story.
      High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.
      The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.

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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.



Windwitch by Susan Dennard

windwitch-by-susan-dennardTitle: Windwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #2
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 10th 2017

      “After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
      When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
      After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.”

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      “Speed was a mistake. Nomatsi roads weren’t meant to be crossed quickly. They demanded time. The demanded respect.
      So it should have come as no surprise when Iseult reached a clearing and the solid ground abruptly gave way. It should have come as no surprise when a net snapped up to yank her high in the trees.”

Susan Dennard continues to build on her universe and characters in her sequel Windwitch, the second book in her fantasy Witchlands series. Truthwitch introduced a world of magic where a truce between Empires was on the brink of collapse. At the story’s center is the unlikely friendship between Safi and Iseult, young women born into different circumstances, whose bond has get them both afloat. At the end of the first book, these threadsisters are torn apart and several Empires make their move to gain an advantage over the others. Both Safi and Iseult are desperate to get back to the other, but between them are several people with their own motives, who may just succeed in keeping them apart. One of the issues I had with the first book is how quickly readers are thrust into this new world with it’s complex network of witchery and how it took me a long while to get a firm grasp on Dennard’s universe. In this second book, I eased right into the story and instead of being bombarded by new elements, Dennard expands on the ones she has already introduced in the first book. There is still a bit of mystery when it comes to Void witches, but I have a feeling that the author is planning to explore this more in the third novel.

Though Safi and Iseult are the main players in this series, Dennard introduced Prince Merik in Truthwitch and much of this second story focuses on him and his people. Merik has worked hard to provide for Nubrevna, but at every turn he has had to contest with his sister Vivia, who is more than willing to use questionable methods in order to achieve the same goal. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Merik is presumed dead after a failed assassination attempt and so he stalks the streets with no name, hoping to discover the identity of his would-be murderer. I really liked the evolution of Merik’s arc as it not only helped in developing his character, but also aided in bringing Vivia to the forefront as well. Both characters have been defined by how their father perceives them and while much of Vivia’s hatred for her brother stems from the slights shown to her, Merik’s animosity for his sister lies in his mistaken perception not just of her but of himself. Vivia became a standout character for me in this one. Her aggressive attitude is a direct result of the misogyny she faces in her own court; her hard hand, a necessary attribute as she hopes to prove to everyone that she has more of her father in her than her mother. I was really glad to see that Vivia was much more than what she appeared to be in the first novel and really look forward to seeing where her arc goes from here.

Safi is a character who continues to grow. While she hoped for a brand new life with Iseult, she’s come to realize that her motives have been entirely selfish. She voluntarily goes with Vaness, the Empress of Marstok in order to help her friends, but as a Truthwitch, she is valuable to a number of players and their journey hits a roadblock. Safi has the privilege of influence if she would just take hold of all that she is capable of, something she continues to grapple with in this second novel. My favorite scenes by far were the ones between Iseult and Aeduan. As Iseult fights to find Safi, she enters into an unlikely and tenuous alliance with the Bloodwitch. A bit of an enigma in the first novel, Aeduan’s motives are hard to pin down, as is his character. On one hand, he’s ruthless and unstoppable, but on the other, he shows signs of being motivate by more than just a desire for revenge. As a Threadwitch, Iseult was taught to control her emotions in order to better interpret the threads of others. When her own emotions were hard to understand, she always had Safi to help her, but without her, Iseult feels like half of herself is missing. We also learn more about the mysterious voice that has been haunting Iseult’s dreams and the while Iseult is always desperate to shake off her past and the constant reminders of her shortcomings, these are the things that will continue to play a big role in who she becomes.

Windwitch is a fantastic sequel with great character development and breathtaking action and Bloodwitch, the third novel in the Witchlands series, cannot come fast enough.

Rating: 5/5