Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen (5th Jan 2016)
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
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 was one of my most anticipated books of 2016 because it was immediately drawn to the premise of the book and the blurb did little to ease my eagerness and need to read the book. So when I finally got my grabby hands on a copy, I was excited to read it because it received high praises from Susan Dennard’s contemporaries, including my favourite YA fantasy author, Sarah J. Maas. Not to mention, the thunderous applause that the book has received from bloggers so I did feel a bit reserved before reading it because I was worried. Would Truthwitch live up to its hype or would it disappoint me? Well, it was the latter, unfortunately.
Truthwitch is a tale of friendship and it focuses on the sisterhood between Safiya, a Truthwitch that has the ability to wield magic to discern the truth from lies and deceit and Iseult, a Threadwitch who can understand a person’s emotions and feelings from the Threads that bind someone together. They are the complete opposites of each other as Safi is hot-headed and sharp-tongued whereas Iseult is more reserved and collected. With a treaty that promises peace on the brink of expiring, the former warring empires are to negotiate a new treaty but when an unexpected game changer is revealed, securing a Truthwitch on their side could provide a most advantageous edge.
See how good the story sounds? I wanted to like Truthwitch so much, it hurt. I was dreaded with disappointment when I couldn’t help but decide that maybe it’s not for me. The first 100 pages of the book was a struggle for me. I managed to slug through and thankfully, things did pick up and there was more of a semblance of fantasy in the plot. I reckon it was important for Susan Dennard to introduce the readers to the universe in the beginning, but the unfolding of the world building was rather sketchy and I had a hard time denying that what I was reading was in fact, “info-dumping”. Well, I wouldn’t have minded if the terms and empires were explained properly but I felt that it was pretty much a “touch and go” thing that made me really disappointed because there was so much potential for Susan Dennard to further expand her universe. I understand that it’s not an easy feat but I had issues with some things in the book, such as the names of the empires that were frankly, a bit confusing and difficult to follow at times.
However, the entire concept of different witcheries was just so clever and I wanted to know more about the witcheries, such as the elemental witches and what the Void is, but as I’ve mentioned, Susan Dennard didn’t divulge much into the explanation of the witcheries. For example, I still don’t know what Iseult, a Threadwitch is fully capable of. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the whole concept but the execution lacked a certain sparkle that I was expecting. And what exactly happens when a witch cleaves? Besides spurting black gunk and terrorising everyone.
Safi and Iseult make a great pair of badass, butt-kicking heroines. I liked their friendship and their undying loyalty to each other. I liked that there were some parts of the story that focused on Iseult and I was keen to read more about her witchery but the focus was on Safi, who is reckless and callous most of the time and the sole reason that the duo ends up in shit’s creek. Much eye-rolling ensued. Yes, bite me, mountain lion. Pfft. Readers are then introduced to Prince Merik, an Airwitch, who I took really long to warm up to because he was stoic most of the time and I felt that it was difficult to root for him. And don’t get me start on the hot-and-cold romance. Really, Susan Dennard? Really? A tiny spark between Safi and Merik and 200 pages later, it finally rekindled?
The pacing was like a drive on a gravelly road with the occasional bumps. I didn’t like some parts of the book because I felt that it didn’t contribute much, plot-wise. What I did like, was the fighting scenes prior to the ending, (I’ll get to the ending, don’t worry.) which were quite worthy of a fantasy novel because they were fast-paced and addictive, and I was left hoping for more. The entire build up to the ending was enticing and it had me flipping pages to race to the epic battle in the end, but once again, I got a battle between puppies in a box instead of a raging duel between dragons with sharp claws and fire-breathing madness. The ending ended before it started and it was too abrupt.
Overall, Truthwitch has its moments but ultimately, I didn’t love it because I was riding on the hype boat and no one told me to bring my safety float. It had some elements that would make a heart-stopping and complexly weaved fantasy but it fell through and it didn’t live up to its hype. Maybe, just maybe, if I had gone in without such high expectations, I would have liked it more. Maybe. Ooh, yes. I did like the sweary bits.
Truthwitch is out now.