Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

214144391In 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.

Rating: ★★★½

I was expecting a lot from this book, and in the end that might be what made it fall flat for me. It is by no means a bad book, but in my opinion it isn’t a great one either.

  • Characters

I only liked one characer in Truthwitch: Iseult.

Iseult is great. She is well developed and easy to relate to. She’s so strong but at the same time so vulnerable, and I liked how her witchery – the capacity of seeing other people’s threads/emotions – impacted her life and personality. She was the highlight of the book for me.

The other characters, though… They felt half-finished and underdeveloped, with the exception of Safi, who was an okay character, but didn’t do much for me. Merik and Aeduan, the other POV characters, had the potential to be interesting, but I felt like we didn’t see enough of them for that to happen. Yeah, I know, Merik cares for his people, but I don’t care about Merik, so I don’t care that he cares about his people, you know? And Aeduan… The most interesting thing about him is his power. We literally don’t get enough of his personality to get interested in him instead of in his Bloodwitchery.

Honestly, the only character that piqued my interest besides Iseult was Leopold, and that was because he was a beautiful prince everyone saw as vain and futile, so I was kind of expecting he would prove them wrong. I’m always here for beautiful characters who everyone thinks of as useless being the most cunning/smart, but Leopold rarely shows up, so…

But yeah… Characters aren’t the best part of this book.

  • Worldbuilding

In the surface, the worldbuilding of Truthwitch is amazing. To begin with, we have the powers of the witches, and there are a lot of them, and they are really interesting. Bloodwitchery was my favorite (Aeduan describing how everyone’s blood smelled like was seriously really cool), but there are others that are just as fascinating; Iseult’s Threadwitchery, Poisonwitchery, Wordwitchery (another favorite!), and so on. The witchery was something I really enjoyed in this book.

But when it came to other elements of worldbuilding, the book falls flat. I mean, culture. What culture? We have three empires, some kingdoms, the Nomatsi and very, very little about each one of them when it comes to culture. What set them apart besides language and place of birth (and in the case of Nubrevna, the god they believe in)? I have no idea. And that’s a problem.

  •  Plot

The plot and the pace were really good… for the first 150 pages.

I couldn’t even put the book down while I was reading them because things were that interesting and then, somehow, it started to get boring. Mind you, the pace never slowed down – it kept going and going until the end of the book, which is awesome for a YA novel, but I was bored. Really bored. Things were still happening, but I didn’t care.

I’m still trying to understand why, but I suspect it was because it was then that I started to realise the plot wasn’t going to be any more exciting. Because the plot is simple, which isn’t bad, really, but like I said in the beginning of this review, I was expecting a lot. And the “big revelation” of the book isn’t a big revelation at all (the author herself kind of talks about it in interviews and the like), so the plot was super predictable and, well, boring.

I wanted more mystery, basically. We get tons of action, and more action, and more and more action, but it’s everything too on the reader’s face. I wanted something to keep me glued to my tablet, wondering what was the real answer, you know?

But I have to say: it’s great to see a book focused on two girls and their friendship. Safi and Iseult are the friends I’ve always wanted to see in fantasy, and it felt awesome to see ladies fighting for each other and fighting side by side. I wish more authors thought about doing the same more often; we desperately need more female friendships not only in fantasy, but everywhere.

  •  Romance

One word: boring.

And kind of awkward, but I think that’s my aroaceness speaking.

I wouldn’t say that Safi and Merik’s romance was instalove, but it lacked chemistry and it felt kind of forced and out of nowhere. They didn’t have any time of bonding, or, you know, of knowing each other. The time they spent together they were either a) fighting each other b) fighting other people and c) running for their lives. And yet while they don’t finish the novel madly in love with each other they already feel something beyond simple attraction and that doesn’t make any sense.

Actually, now that I think about it, there are some elements of instalove to their romance. I mean, this is at beginning of the book, at the second time they meet each other:

Something had happened between Safi and Merik during their dance. Something as powerful as the wind and the music that had gusted around them. A shift in the air that preceded a storm.

And maybe that’s a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, but I hate when the narrative makes it obvious the two characters will end up together, especially when their romance is the kind that starts off with them hating each other. If it is slow burn (and I think it is meant to be slow burn here in Truthwitch) why make it obvious in the beginning? It doesn’t make sense and it kills any kind of tension and suspense. The reader already knows they will end up together know. Whatever happens after this is meaningless.

I think Aeduan and Iseult will end up together too, which could work, I guess, though I would be happy with Aeduan and Leopold too (let me dream).

In conclusion, I liked Truthwitch. Not as much as I hoped to, but it is a good book. There are some diverse characters too, secondary ones, mind you, but they are there – a black woman, Ribey, and Safi’s tutors, Habim and Mathew, who are in relationship.

I’ll probably read the sequel, but it won’t be high on my TBR list.

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