Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
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Series: Yes, #1 in the Witchlands series
Release date: January 5th, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 432 pages
Source: ARC from the BEA15
Rating: puts the EPIC in epic fantasy

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.

It's an understatement to say that Truthwitch has been hyped in the blogging community, and not just recently. I was one of the lucky BEA 100 who got an ARC, who literally and figuratively booked it to get a spot in line to grab one of the coveted tickets. I've met Susan twice and she is a DELIGHT, and I adore both her and her last series. So clearly, my expectations were high, and I'm not going to lie: I was scared to read Truthwitch. So very, very scared.

Yet immediately upon finishing Truthwitch, so flushed with BOOK HIGH was I that I scurried to Goodreads and marked it as five stars. I was definitely rounding up--taking everything into account, I'd rate the excellent Truthwitch at a very respectable four or four point five--but I was SO FULL OF FEELINGS at the tail end of it that I almost feel it deserves that five. It left me breathless, eager, and excited. My blood was pumping at the epicness and the action. I missed my fictional friends already. I was dying to know what would happen to them next. Upon closing the last page, I was totally taken with Truthwitch.

This wasn't precisely the case for the opening. While by NO MEANS is it bad, I found it extremely confusing. I like to think of myself as a semi-professional high fantasy reader, used to immersing herself in complicated new worlds and figuring shit out relatively quickly, but not gonna lie, I was on unsteady ground for a good seventy or so pages in Truthwitch. I couldn't really get settled or find flat ground or my footing or...I don't know. I was charmed by some of the characters and very intrigued by things, but occasional clunkiness (I was reading an ARC, so I always take clunky writing with a grain of salt in uncorrected proofs) made it difficult for me to understand all the various threads. 

There is a LOT thrown at us.  I LOVED LOVED the imperial European inspiration for the setting--seriously, it's an absolute dream fantasy world for a history nerd--but I struggled for a while to understand how it all knitted together in relation to the plot. For once in my life, I wanted MORE info-dumps. There are witcheries, and magic wells, and something called Cleaving, and I didn't know why Safi and Iseult were robbing a stagecoach or why they were in the Dalmotti Empire and, well, so many things. But eventually, I got a handle on it, and when I did, the book soared. Once I finally got my feet under me, I was hooked. This feels like classic old school high fantasy. It's dynamic, action-packed, and hugely epic.

I loved Safi and Merik right away, but Iseult took me a bit (not helped by the fact that I hate her name). she plays it very close to the vest, so it felt like it took me a while to get her, but once I did, well, I did. But SAFI. Oh, reckless, fearless Safi, how I love thee. (And your ship is epic. In fact, ALL the brewing ships are epic.) Safiya is the titular Truthwitch, able to discern when people are lying, and Iseult is a Threadwitch, which is really cool and complicated and something I will leave for the book itself to teach you about. I LOVED all the various witcheries and how they affected society and the hierarchies and GAH, the richness of this world! Again, led to quite a bit of "wait i don't understand at all what is happening" moments, but again, eventually I got it.

The Witchlands are based on imperial Europe, on three warring Empires (loosely modeled after the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Venetian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire). I definitely recommend referencing the map while reading and not worry too much about getting a handle on all the various politics and witcheries (which are VERY Avatar: The Last Airbender and it's super cool). I LOVE the world Sooz has bit. Talk about details and layers and a place feeling like it's really real, with infinite cultures and tangled histories and lore.

There are Windwitches and Firewitches, Hell-Bards and Bloodwitches. (OH, AEDUAN! Unreliable narrator, mysterious, possibly-evil creeper Bloodwitch of my heart. BEADUAN.) 

GPO Baeduan

Sea foxes and sailing ships, dancing and kissing and sword fighting and running for your lives. ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS. The big categories of the witches or elemental, Waterwitches and Eartwitches and Windwitches and Firewitches (and then there are Aetherwitches and Voidwitches but you'll have to read to find out about that), but within each category are so many different KINDS. Like Tidewitches, and Wordwitches, AND ON AND ON. The witcheries are fascinating, particularly the more nebulous kinds exhibited by Safi, Iseult, and Aeuduan (Truthwitch, Threadwitch, and Bloodwitch respectively).

And most of all, there is LADY FRIENDSHIP serving as the base relationship of the whole series. 

When all the elements come together, Truthwitch cannot be stopped or topped. The last 200 pages for me were damn near un-put-downable. They are sensational. I actually gasped, and I actually pressed the book to my heart to process a few times, because I so loved everything that was happened. The climax is mind-blowing, setting up what is sure to be a gargantuan fantasy series. I am so fracking excited for the epicness sure to surface in Windwitch, and I haaaaate that i'm going to have to wait any time at all for it. I WANTS IT NOW.

Mostly, Safi and Iseult for joint queens of the Witchlands, please. (And more kisses.)

GPO me until I get my hands on Windwitch


  1. OMG you're so lucky to have gotten an ARC of Truthwitch! I found that Truthwitch was pretty good too! It was definitely hard to get oriented at the start, but after that, it was pretty much smooth sailing!
    Geraldine @ Corralling Books


  3. Ahhh :D SO glad that you liked this book so much Gillian. <3 YAY :D I must read my hardcover of it soon. <3 Hugs. Your review is stunning :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3

  4. I loved, loved, loved Truthwitch! Susan has created a really rich world, and some excellent characters, and I'm just dying to know what happens next :)

  5. I ordered Truthwitch yesterday and I hope it'll arrive me soon. :) Your review is fantastic and I want to read Truthwitch NOW :-)

    Nice greetings from germany


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