Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, Book One
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: 23 February 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
(summary from Goodreads)

A story of friendship and magic, Truthwitch is a wild fantasy adventure.

I was a little worried when starting this book. I'd been seeing mixed reviews and it became obvious pretty quickly it's one of those kind of books that are really hit or miss. You're either going to love or hate Truthwitch it seems. My book club was split pretty evenly on the matter too. I'm very happy to report that I fell on the love side of the fence. Phew! I really enjoyed Truthwitch. Dennard has created an immersive world that is action-packed and intriguing. I thought Dennard's world building was spot on. From page one I was so hooked. Truthwitch is a learn as you go style of world building, and I can see how that doesn't work for everyone. Even I got impatient here and there. As readers we're thrown right in the thick of things, but ultimately, I found myself appreciating that. It kept the pace of the story from lagging, with no major info dumps; kept things mysterious, tense and heart-pounding. I was always wanting more and Dennard provided. I still want more and can't wait to continue this series. There's so much to Dennard's world. Royalty, politics, religion, warring nations, conspiracies, assassins and a hierarchy of magic. This magic appealed to me the most. So many variations. The idea that the characters have literal connections - threads - to each other was awesome. For me, it gave Truthwitch an added layer of wonder.

Truthwitch alternated between the points of view of both Safiya and Iseult, as well as Merik and Aeduan. I'm a big fan of all four. I was always eager for more of each of them. Safi is impetuous, which I admit was frustrating at times, but she was trying to follow her heart and do right by those she cares about, most especially Iseult, and she really grew on me for that. Iseult was often described as the complete opposite of Safi, and in many ways I agree. She's somewhat more objective and thoughtful than Safi, but at other times just as reckless. She was definitely just as willing to throw herself into any melee in defense of her threadsister. Iseult and Safi's friendship is the best relationship in Truthwitch. I loved the hints of romance Dennard favoured us with, but I'm 100% invested in Safi and Iseult. Their connection is sassy and heartfelt. Speaking of romance though, a big hello to Merik. Prince of a struggling nation, Merik wants nothing more than to do right by his people. He tries so hard to not be ruled by his emotions that guess what? Yep, he's ruled by them. I feel for Merik even when I kind of want to smack him. He's tough but fair, truly a good guy. Much like Safi and Iseult, Merik has an awesome relationship with his threadbrother. Truthwitch is most definitely all about the friendships. I really did like his sizzling and clashing relationship with Safi too. There's instantaneous chemistry, no doubt, but Dennard's quick to assure it's not automatically love. I'm expecting some great development here! Lastly, we have Aeduan. I am most intrigued by Aeduan's story. His morals are very grey so he's a character that could go either way. There's this depth to Aeduan though, a sort of code of loyalty and honour that he lives by that is surprising. What Dennard has done really well is offer brief looks into a much wider world and conspiracy that any of our four main characters are aware of and I'm desperate to learn more. They're on their own journeys but each as connected as ever and it's thrilling. Aside from our narrators Dennard also introduced a number of secondary characters - and I do mean a number. Safi's family, Iseult's clan, Merik's family, Aeduan's father, other heads of warring nations, Leopold and the Court, the Puppeteer, just to quickly mention a few. Each leaves a mark on the story and there's no doubt they have bigger parts to play as the series continues. Again, I can't wait.

Truthwitch is a complex fantasy, and if Dennard's series continues in this fashion it's sure to be deserving of the description "epic". 



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