Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Book One of The Witchlands series
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I'm going to tell you right now, I am not going to do this book justice, with this review. I don't even know how to begin this review. This book was so epic and so amazing and so totally worth the hype (which I find rare, to be honest) - and it will be worth the wait, for those still waiting. I feel your pain - I am honored that Tor would send me a review copy! Here goes my attempt at reviewing this...
Safiya and Iseult are Threadsisters, who are constantly up to no good. Both are highly trained in defense, combat, and academics. Safiya is a Donma of Cartorra, and Iseult is of the Nomatsi, so they stick out a bit. Safiya also happens to be a Truthwitch, which is a super rare type of witch. Iseult is a Threadwitch, which means she can see the emotions and ties that bind of others via colors (I'm doing a terrible job of explaining this).
Both girls want to be free of their lives - Safiya, of her court life, and Iseult, of the prejudice that she's lived through. War and chaos descends upon Cartorra as a Twenty Year Truce ends, and the girls are forced to flee Cartorra via the Jana, captained by Prince Merik, Admiral of Nobrevna, who is not happy at all with having to ferry them away. The trio, along with a powerful Monk witch and the crew, must outrun a Bloodwitch, the Emperor of Cartorra, and the whole host armies of the empires in order to keep Safiya safe.
When I said I don't know where to begin, I really don't. The easiest place would be with the characters. I loved Safiya - she is impulsive and reckless and hot-tempered, and so very unique in YA literature. Her personality shines through everything. I love seeing her grow and mature as the book goes on. She is probably my second favorite character.
Iseult is not a noblewoman like Safiya, but she's Safiya's best friend and Threadsister. She is Nomatsi, a tribe that no one in the empires like apparently. Iseult is calm and level-headed, the serenity to Safiya's storm. Iseult plays a huge role in this book, though her role is slightly limited (you'll see what I mean when you read the book). I enjoyed Iseult's character, and I look forward to seeing her grow more in the next books.
Merik is probably my favorite character. His temper is LEGENDARY - gosh I love grumpy, authoritative, temperamental boys, I think. I was telling a friend on Twitter - I like him the most because his temper is exactly like mine. The Nihar family has bad tempers, and he is no exception. He is a Windwitch, and he's a Captain of a ship, and he's the Admiral of Nobrevna, and he's the Prince of Nobrevna. Merik is very stern and hardened, and at times it seems like he is cruel, but all he cares about is feeding the Nobrevna people. He's honorable even when it doesn't seem like he is.
Finally, we reach Aeduan. Aeduan is the one of the four main characters (Safiya, Iseult, Merik) who gets the least amount of attention in this book - but don't get me wrong, he is VERY important in this book. Maybe it's just that I didn't find his parts of the book AS interesting until the very end of the book (now I want to go back and reread them all!). It's difficult to read Aeduan, and theoretically he's not an easy person to like, but I am very excited to see where Dennard takes him in the next books.
This book is written in third person limited - switching around between those four characters' POV (Safiya, Iseult, Merik, Aeduan). I think Merik's was my favorite to read, though Iseult's was the more intuitive and informative (she IS the Threadwitch). I am a huge fan of third person, so I really liked that this book was written as such!
I refuse to give up specific details about why Safiya and Iseult are running, what the war is about, what Aeduan is doing, etc., but I will tell you that this book is one exciting ride, and I read it in one sitting. There were so many moments when I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, and as my friend Pili will tell you, I was terrified to reach the ending. I didn't want it to end - and I especially did not want it to end badly!
World-building - what a fun world that Dennard has created! I was reminded of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo a lot while reading this one (heists, kickbutt heroines, captain of a ship - though that's more Nikolai from the Grisha series), as well as Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (super hawt captain is frustrated by having to ferry a passenger who seems to court trouble), but the world is wholly Dennard's. There are so many different kinds of Witches - Windwitch, Voicewitch, Poisonwitch, Wordwitch, so on and so forth. The main categories are: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Aether, and Void. Safiya and Iseult are Aetherwitches, Merik an Airwitch. The Bloodwitch mentioned in the synopsis is a mythical (but totally real) Voidwitch. Neat, huh? I liked how Dennard set up the three empires, and all the history and bad blood going on. Well presented, not boring at all.
THE ROMANCE! Ahhh, quite possibly my favorite aspect of this book. There are so many ships! But not in a love triangle way. Most of you can already tell about Merik and Safiya. I love seeing them interact and combat each other. The banter isn't even banter - it's flat-out quarreling, fighting. From the moment they meet (one of my favorite scenes!), they are yelling at each other. It's one of those hate-to-love romances that I absolutely adore.
Other ships - well, they're not as public, so I won't say too much. But there are two other pairs, one very obvious, one that isn't really even a thing yet. The latter will probably manifest in later books (gee, I hope it does), and I can't wait to see that happen (please please please). Right now, I am VERY content with what I saw from Merik and Safiya (though more intimate scenes NEVER hurt anyone, right?).
The ending is not the dreaded YA cliffhanger (not really, anyway). I was bracing myself for something awful (thinking about The Winner's Curse, The Crown of Embers, etc.), but the ending of this one wasn't that bad. It wasn't rainbows and sunshine either but... it isn't so cruel that I'm sitting here in a puddle of my own tears (haven't quite reached that point). I know that there are books to follow so... I'm holding on to certain hopes. HINT, Susan Dennard.
What I Did Not Like:
I think the only thing I'm going to mention is something I've already mentioned - the ending. Typical of YA books to have not-so-pretty, not-so-wrapped-up endings. Not to say that every book should end perfectly and neatly, but this ending is very typical of YA novels (slightly less cruel though). I wish YA authors (and editors, and whoever is driving this trope) would break out of it!
Would I Recommend It:
Consider this book recommended, pushed in front of you, forced upon you, etc. This is one of those books that seems epic, that seems like everyone likes or will like it, and really lives up to those expectations. You don't have to be a fantasy fan to really enjoy this novel!
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars (that ending though). Trust me when I saw that I could gush about this book for a lot longer, but I already know that I can't do this book justice with this review. Just read it, I promise it's worth your money and time (or that hold in the library, or the postage to borrow a friend's via mail. NOT worth pirating though, never ever).
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