by Susan Dennard
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.
Sigh. I really wanted to like this book. The thing is I didn’t hate it by any means, and I’d definitely consider continuing with the series at some point in the future if I can find the books in my library because I get the feeling this is a series that will improve with each book.
Set in a land known as The Witchlands, friends Safi and Iseult get caught up in the world’s political machinations because Safi is a rare Truthwitch and people would pay a great deal for her powers. That’s pretty much all I can tell you about the plot, because for the most part I wasn’t entirely sure why everything that happened in this book was happening.
Despite being almost 500 pages long, Truthwitch is the kind of novel you should pick up if you want a quick read because the action is non-stop. Unfortunately that didn’t quite work for me. I want an author to spend time establishing characters and their relationships with one another and the world around them, especially in the first book of a series, but for me the world-building was non-existent in this book. I literally couldn’t tell you a single thing about The Witchlands.
In fact this is the kind of novel that needed a glossary. There were two side characters whose names began with the same letter, and it took me until the end of the book for me to realise they were two different people – that’s how much the world and the various side characters didn’t stick with me. I must admit that the writing didn’t always grab me, and I sometimes found myself zoning out and having to re-read entire pages.
To be honest I didn’t care about any of the main characters all that much either. I appreciate that Safi is a bit of a mess and rather selfish, which she does acknowledge and grows from, but for the most part I just didn’t get her or her decision-making. She’s incredibly valuable, yet it doesn’t feel like anyone other than Iseult has made any real effort to keep her out of harm’s way.
In fact I was disappointed by how many of the main characters in this book ended up being related to royalty or the upper classes in some way. I know it seems hypocritical when my favourite novel is about a literal emperor, but for the most part I like my fantasy novels to follow people who haven’t been born to privilege.
Also, considering I thought the main relationship in this book was going to be Safi and Iseult’s friendship, I thought it was a shame that Safi and Merik’s instalovey romance took over so much of the book. Safi essentially realises she’s strong because Merik tells her she is and I was hoping the romances in this book would be much more of a slow-burn – especially when the events of this book take place over what felt like just a few days.
This isn’t a bad book, though, it’s just a book that didn’t work for me. I like the various types of witches we’re introduced to and I appreciate Dennard’s exploration of what truth really means depending on the histories we’re taught from birth. I have a feeling this is the kind of series that will keep on improving, and I’d like to see more of Iseult, but I’m in no rush to pick up Windwitch.