Book: Truthwitch (The Witchlands 1) by Susan Dennard
Release Date: January 5th 2016
Tags: Fantasy / High Fantasy / Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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.
Last year there was a lot of buzz surrounding this book and the promise of a great world and a great friendship between two girls is what got me excited enough to pre order it. Unfortunately I never did get around to reading it until last May as a buddy read with Kirsten from Boekwereld. Ultimately the book was a bit of a letdown. The thing with this book is that it promises a lot of things but in the end I don’t really get them. There is a clear lack of world building. We get put into this world and it feels like we are missing an entire history. What was this war that happened 20 years ago that required a peace treaty? How did they even come to the point of a treaty? I can’t quite feel the threat of the war ending when I don’t understand the history of it. What are the Cerawen monks exactly? What are threadsisters and brothers? Is there a ritual or can you just call anyone a threadsister? Sometimes I felt it meant a lot, other times like you could call anyone that. And what exactualy are threadstones? The magic is also confusing. While maybe not highly original, I don’t mind a magic system based on elements. But a lot was left in the open there. Also terms were thrown around that didn’t quite get explained. There seem to be different types of wind witches or something? It just was confusing. There is so much that was just skimmed over that we missed a good basis for a world to continue building from. As a result some of the things at the end really missed their impact on me. It didn’t help that we followed four point of views that all came with their own world that needed to be build. While I love multiple point of views, in this case it was a bit of a hindrance because it took away from us being able to dive deep into any of their worlds. Having said that, I did enjoy prince Meriks point of view. His chapters were gems of the book. I think this was because his world building was the best done and the simplest really. We know his place, his countries place and his goals. He was straight forward and there for enjoyable to follow in this world. I was rooting for him though I did think he was a bit too firm perhaps with the girls at moments. But then again Safi did do stupid things.
Having mentioned her, Safiya together with her best friend Iseult, are the main characters. At the start I felt their suggested close bond, but that just wasn’t continued throughout the book. They have a loyalty towards one another but it doesn’t seem to move past that. Most of the book they spend apart or Iseult is hurt and Safi is picking a fight with Merik. It just was not deepened out enough in their interactions. Giving them a background to bond over doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel their friendship and ease with one another vibrate through their interactions.
As characters go they were okay to follow. Safi is impulsive and a bit of a brat at moments to be honest. Her powers of being a truthwitch would be interesting, except at the start her powers don’t seem to be working so well as she can’t seem to pick out when someone lied to her. Iseult was perhaps a bit of a wet blanket really. She was just shy of being boring.
Our last point of view is from Aeduan, a bloodwitch. That makes him interesting. But that is about the only thing. I just don’t quite understand him. He references to things but since we know literally nothing about him they are just random things without context. It doesn’t make him mysterious and it doesn’t make me wonder about him for the next book. There is just too little there. You have to give me something a bit more to maybe start theorizing (and then hopefully surprise me). Now I just don’t care.
So ultimately Truthwitch had a great idea but lacked seriously in world building. The next book apparently focuses more on Merik. That is really the only reason I’ll probably end up reading that book. Because Merik is a character I want to know more about and whose journey I want to follow.