Windwitch by Susan Dennard
Book Two of The Witchlands series
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…
After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak―which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her―yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge―especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
What I Liked:
One-line summary of my review: Windwitch is a good, non-sequel-slump novel, but not as strong as its predecessor Truthwitch, and seriously lacking in the romance department.
This sequel novel picks up some time after the insane ending of Truthwitch (how much time passes is not specified). Merik is burned and badly injured beyond recognition, and haunts Nubrevna as The Fury, fighting for the weak and trying to help the city. Safi and Vaness barely escape the explosion of the ship they were on, and are captured by legendary Hell-Bards. Aeduan seeks his silver talers, but he is also tasked with finding the Threadwitch, Iseult. And Iseult... Iseult is desperate to find Safi, so much so that when she comes across a badly injured Aeduan, she strikes a deal with him: help her track Safi, and she'll return his silver talers to him (which she found and hide). All four of the protagonists are so close yet so far away from each other. Meanwhile, a fifth protagonist emerges, and proves to be an extremely important player in the political game. All the while the Puppeteer's power is growing, and something strange is happening to dead men, and a war that will sweep across the Witchlands is about to unfold.
This book is told in third-person, limited to five protagonists. It's a lot, but so many narrators actually really works for this series. We know four of them - Merik, Safi, Aeduan, and Iseult. The fifth is Vivia, Merik's sister. Of the five, I liked Aeduan and Iseult's narratives the best, and probably Safi's the least. Her part of the story was the most boring. But I'll get to that.
This book is titled Windwitch and so you expect it to be mostly about Merik - and you'd mostly be correct. It starts with him and ends with him. He is badly burned and his facial features are utterly disfigured. He has adopted the title of The Fury, which is actually a figure in legend. Merik is somewhat aimless, though he doesn't realize it. When he learns that the ship that Safi was on exploded, he loses it (he thinks she's dead). Merik's narrative is the most heartbreaking, and the most cruel. My heart broke every time he came across someone that should know him, but didn't recognize him. However this series turns out, I hope Merik gets a satisfying ending.
Safi's part of the story is the most boring, in my opinion, though I was interested in it. She and Vaness are captured by Hell-Bards after they survive the ship's explosions. From there, the Hell-Bards take them to Saldonica, the Pirate Lands. Like I said, her part of the story is the most boring, because she and Vaness are just prisoners the entire time.
Iseult's narrative is very interesting, especially towards the end. She is running for her life initially, and then she stumbles upon Aeduan. She doesn't know that Aeduan is charged with finding her and bringing her to Corlant, alive. But she needs him to track Safi, and he agrees. Iseult and Aeduan don't necessarily get along at first, but they work well together and save each other many times.
Finally we get a really good look inside Aeduan's head! Besides Merik, he's probably my favorite. He has quite the past, and an intriguing lineage. I'm curious to see how that will come into play in future novels. Aeduan is an interesting guy.
Vivia is the final protagonist; her narrative is interesting but not the most interesting of the story. I love that we get to know her better, because I hate her a looooot less. In fact, I really understand her and started cheering for her as the book went on. She isn't heartless and cruel, nor is she malicious towards Merik.
I like that Dennard takes each of the different parts of the story to different places. Vivia and Merik are in Nubrevna (unbeknownst to each other - well, Merik knows that Vivia is there), Safi is traipsed all over the place, and ends up in Saldonica, Iseult and Aeduan are tracking Safi and travel everywhere. There is a lot of ground covered, in this book.
On that note, hats off to Dennard for the intricate and fascinating fantasy world that she has created. Things get a lot bigger and crazier in this book. Dennard is taking the story in the direction of chaos, ruin, and war, and she's weaving all of the magic, politics, and legend together extremely well.
On the romance front, this book doesn't seem to have any. Iseult and Aeduan get to know each other more and definitely trust each other more than in the previous novel. Unfortunately, on the Merik/Safi front, there is nothing. There is a tiny inkling of a Vivia romance with someone.
The ending isn't wrapped up (obviously; there are two, maybe three more novels to go), but it ends on a somewhat positive note. There were a lot of bombshells dropped in the last one hundred pages or so, and the stakes are definitely a lot higher than they were in the beginning of the book. But the end is not bad. It's not really a cliffhanger. I'll be looking out for book three, in 2018!
What I Did Not Like:
Unfortunately there were some things that I didn't quite like, in this book. The first one hundred pages or so really dragged, for me. Part of it could have been me dreading certain things I anticipated (and I was right). Part of it could have been that the first hundred pages just weren't that interesting.
I am so frustrated with the romance. There is none, in this book. That works for Iseult and Aeduan because perhaps that relationship will develop over the next two books (if at all)? But it doesn't work for Merik and Safi because Truthwitch established that they have a powerful connection.
It's frustrating because Merik and Safi do no interact a single time during this entire book. What's more, they both believe that the other is dead. They barely even think of each other (granted, they had other things to worry about, like staying alive). I was so sure that they would be endgame, in terms of romance. Now I'm not. I could see the author taking them into two diverging paths, possibly developing other romances for each of them. Which is frustrating. I'm not saying I'm sensing a love triangle for each character, but I AM saying that I could see them never interacting romantically again and possibly developing feelings for other people (people we may meet in future books, people we already have meet, I don't know). I guess I'm just annoyed because they interacted not one time during this book. Not once! It didn't even have to be romantic! Catching a glimpse of each other as one sails in the opposite direction, or something, that would have been nice.
In Truthwitch, Merik/Safi seemed obvious. But in Windwitch, not so much, especially since both Merik and Safi believe that the other is dead. Maybe I shouldn't be so worried about this? Maybe I should trust Merik and Safi's powerful Threads connection that Iseult witnessed in Truthwitch, or Kullen's note about Merik and Safi's witchery reacting to each other meant something powerful (again, in Truthwitch). I don't know, and not knowing frustrates me.
There are also no Safi/Iseult interactions, which was frustrating too because the powerful female friendship was a huge selling point, in Truthwitch. Honestly I hope the rest of the series really makes up for the scarcity of interactions there are, among certain characters.
Would I Recommend It:
Tricky tricky. I did like this book (though not as much as I LOVED Truthwitch). I'd definitely recommend this sequel if you read and liked Truthwitch. HOWEVER. I would seriously consider waiting to possibly binge-read this one and the next one, or the entire rest of the series, if I were you. I read Dennard's debut trilogy and I'm sorry to say that I don't 100% trust her to dish out a "fair" ending. With this being a four-, possibly five-book series, a lot can happen that we don't see right now (like love triangles, or ridiculous protagonist deaths).
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. But seriously, it's 3.5 stars. I liked Truthwitch a lot more, despite both books getting the same final rating. Truthwitch was a 4.5, Windwitch a 3.5. This one isn't a new favorite, but it was worth the read and I enjoyed it. I am very much looking forward to reading Bloodwitch and am excited to receive my preorder of Windwitch. Huge thanks to Tor for allowing me to read this book early!
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