Published on February 23rd 2016
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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.
I received a copy of this book from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Safiya and Isuelt are two BFFS gifted with magical powers – the ability to sense truth from lies for Safi, and the ability to see emotional auras or ‘threads’ for Isuelt. The pair want nothing more than the freedom to live their lives as they wish, but their statuses and powers mean that they will be hunted by others for personal gain and glory. This is their story.
I thought the plot of Truthwitch was well thought out and imaginative. I did feel like we spent more time with Safi than Isuelt but since the book is named after her, I didn’t mind that. I hope Isuelt gets her own book in the future. It did feel for a little bit that the inciting incident was taking too long to kick in but I was quite happy to follow Safi and Isuelt around in their daily life before that. Quite honestly I loved their friendship so much that I could read a book about them going to the grocery store and still enjoy it.
Safiya was the brash, hot-headed, jump first ask questions later beautiful blonde, blue-eyed Truthwitch and also some kind of nobility running from a terrible future she didn’t want. Isuelt was the gypsy fair-skinned, dark-haired Threadwitch with some scary abilities to bind people together or break apart their relationship who thought out the plan and often played second fiddle to Safi. That’s not to say that Isuelt wasn’t as important, because Safi needed someone to play second fiddle. You can’t have an awesome duet without two fiddles, right? Isuelt was just less forthcoming, more intellectual, less brash than Safi. They made a beautiful pair and it was so lovely to read about the strength of their platonic friendship without any hints towards romance. Not that I’m against same-sex couples, but I do feel that platonic love is totally underrated, especially in YA, so I was superbly excited to see a book promoting itself on the merit of the female friendship provided.
There was also a windwitch called Merik who wasn’t very interesting, some kind of princeling trying to trade for his war-torn land and who seemed to have this love-hate relationship with Safi. I wasn’t feeling it. Also, chasing the girls was a bloodwitch, the supposed villain of the piece, Aedeun, who was like a bloodhound and refused to believe that the girls might actually be this prophesised pair come to make the world right again even though that was what he was taught to believe. He was interesting and I’d like to see more of him because I have a thing for reformed bad guys.
Before I discovered YA, I used to be a massive high and dark fantasy reader. It was so long ago that I’ve forgotten a lot of the books I read. I’ve never read a Susan Dennard book before Truthwitch but the one thing that struck me was how similar it seemed to be to the adult audience books I used to read by authors like David Gemmell. The heroic, high fantasy kind of thing. I’ve never read another YA book that makes me feel like this, like it could be primarily marketed towards adults. That’s not to say that the writing was heavier or more complicated, it was just the feel I got.
Actually I did have some issues with the worldbuilding, mainly trying to grasp what Threadwitchery was all about. I’m still a little confused as to whether Isuelt sees actual emotion auras because they keep getting described as threads, and there seem to be threads above people’s heads aimed towards the sky or something… I read somewhere that by the time Dennard had finished editing the book she had accidentally removed too much about Threadwitchery and that’s why it’s a little confusing, and that makes sense, but for a first time reader trying to grasp this concept, I’m still not 100% sure what I’m supposed to be seeing in my head. What I’m seeing in my head is cool, threads that surround people like an aura and kind of reach out like tentacles when a relationship is established with another person, but I’m not sure it’s what I’m meant to be seeing.
Another thing is that we’re kind of left on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it’s not really. All the major plot threads are wrapped up and the goal of the novel was achieved. There were some little things left unanswered so that we can move into a second book but I never felt held hostage and forced to buy the second book. The first book’s story was satisfying enough. I mean, of course I will read the second one because duh, Truthwitch was a fine book, but it didn’t fall into the trap that unfortunately some YA books are falling into these days in chopping off the ending of a book to blackmail a reader into buying the second. Truthwitch was its own complete story with enough leftover to continue the series.
I found the pacing in this fine until we got to the boats and Safi was put in chains while Isuelt was lying unconscious. Book without Isuelt = boring. It wasn’t so breakneck a pace that I couldn’t put down the book and in fact, it did take me a little longer than usual to read it, but that might have been because it was a little heavy on the worldbuilding and I liked to stop and think about some things. I did find the lead up to and including the climax to be pretty awesome fun, and satisfying in its entirety.
Truthwitch was a strongly written novel about female friendship and the lengths one will go to for one another. I really enjoyed it although it did feel more like an adult fantasy novel at times. I think older fantasy readers will enjoy this – younger readers might get confused between all the politics and different nations and cultures despite a map provided in the front.