Series: Witchlands #1
Published: January 4, 2015
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.
Truthwitch is one of those books everyone seems to have already read and everyone else has reviewed. So while I initially questioned whether to write a review at all (Who’s left to read it?), I decided to go for it based on the fact that although I enjoyed Truthwitch a lot, I didn’t think it was the greatest thing to happen to fantasy. And I’m definitely in the minority for that opinion.
I actually did not read any reviews for Truthwitch at all before picking up the book, but that did not allow me to escape from the hype. Promotions and pure, unadulterated love for this book were everywhere in the weeks leading up to its release. I couldn’t go on Twitter without getting the impression that Truthwitch would be my new favorite book, a book that would change my life, a book that would be everything. So, sure, part of my critical attitude may be just an adverse reaction to major hype. People set some incredibly high expectations for this book, and I’m not sure anything could have lived up to it. Mostly my issue is that, although technically brilliant, the book never really grabbed my emotions.
Truthwitch is undoubtedly great fantasy. Susan Dennard has put an amazing amount of care into the world-building (almost too much, actually; I thought the details were overwhelming and irrelevant at times) and into the characterizations. Though I didn’t end up loving all the characters the way many other readers do, I certainly appreciate them and their complexity. My prime example is love interest Prince Merik. I’m simply not swooning over him, despite his very admirable love for his country and desire to help his people without turning to unethical means. And I’m not swooning in part because he’s flawed. He’s selfish and self-righteous. He says he’s going to do one thing while secretly planning to do another, then gets angry when people act based on what he told them and not on what he intended, as if they’re supposed to read his mind. An annoying this itself is, it’s even more annoying when the other characters agree with him that they were in the wrong. They weren’t. I don’t understand some of these characters at all.
And that perhaps is the main problem. I was interested in the characters, as I would be interested in observing people walking on the street. I didn’t fall in love with any of them. I could see the relationships Dennard was trying to build, the way she wanted to build a strong female friendship between Iseult and Safiya and the way she wanted to craft a heart-tugging one between Iseult and the mother she could never quite tell loved her. But I wasn’t really invested in any of it.
This is consistently the hardest thing for me to explain: why a book doesn’t emotionally move me despite apparently having all the correct ingredients. I recommend this book. I think it’s really good and, in fact, some of the best YA fantasy I have read in a long time. I just wish I cared a little more and that could pinpoint and articulate the reason I didn’t.