Book Reviews

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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Synopsis:

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.

Review:

It was hard to decide what to rate this book. I initially gave it four stars, but after writing the review itself, I bumped it down to three stars. While it wasn’t a bad book, it fell flat for me in more than one area.

Safiya and Iseult are friends living in Veñaza City. Safiya is secretly a Truthwitch—a witch able to tell the truth from lies, and her ability is highly prized, especially by empires for whom she would be very useful. Iseult is a Threadwitch, who can see the threads that connect people to each other.

After a reckless plan goes wrong and they end up on the wrong side of a powerful Guildmaster, they find themselves on the run from his Bloodwitch bodyguard, who has been tasked with hunting her down and has also discovered Safiya’s secret. During the beginning of their escape they meet Merik, the Prince of his struggling country, Nubrevna.

Together, the three of them must flee the Bloodwitch and others who want to get their hands on Safiya, but that’s not all they have to deal with. A strange sickness has been affecting the Witchlands, and war looms closer with every day.

I think that this felt more like a set-up book than anything. Not to say that nothing happens, for Safiya and Iseult are constantly running and often fighting, but it lacks a steady direction. I know that there are consequences if Safiya gets captured, but I don’t feel the full weight of them because they are very vague and seem far away for the majority of the book. It is trying to build up something for the next books, but I had trouble feeling the gravity of it without more information.

I know that it isn’t unusual for the first book of a series to be more confusing and open ended, so I’m trying not to be too harsh towards this, but I still wanted some more direction than just a lot of running and a few fighting encounters. Towards the end of the book, though, there were more intriguing hints of what’s to come and how the plot comes together, so I feel like the next book will be better.

Let’s talk about the characters for a bit.

“It was always this way: Safi would initiate something over her head and someone would clean up the mess.”

Safiya is impulsive, quick-tempered, and loves freedom. For the good first 100 pages of the book I found her extremely childish and selfish, because while I get she’s impulsive and reckless, I expected her to do at least some thinking and she seemed to play into the “dumb blond” stereotype in some aspects. However, she did get some character development later on, and I can’t write this review without mentioning the sisterly bond between her and Iseult!

Both of them are so closely connected, and they really would do anything for each other. I do wish they would have spent more time together.

“Initiate. Complete. It was how the girls fought. How they lived.”

Iseult is the rock for Safiya—logical, smart, and cool. As a Threadwitch, she was taught to suppress her emotions to keep from getting overwhelmed by the sight of everyone else’s threads (their emotions). Maybe it’s because I’m also introverted, but I liked Iseult better than Safiya, and I felt her struggles more from the beginning.

And then… Merick. I have mixed feelings on this boy. He is devoted to his country and wants to do what is best for his people, and I like his dedication. He is hot-headed just like Safiya, and the two of them are often going off at each other. He is also her love interest, and this is where I start to frown.

Merick and Safiya did not need to be together. They should not have been. And this is coming from someone who does like hate to love relationships. The book would have been better if the focus remained on the sisterly friendship, because their romance felt forced. I felt like scenes in the book were added just to add sexual tension tension to the story, and it didn’t work for me. I especially disliked that after Merick does something to her, it’s just used to add to more of that tension.

Can I also mention here that no one in this book can control their emotions/temper? Like, all of the main characters are really really angsty teenagers, who like to roar their anger to the sky. Safiya, Merick, the Bloodwitch, and even Iseult has trouble controlling some of her emotions. I do wish there would have been some more variety in their personalities.

There were also two little (or not so little) points in the story that bothered me and seemed like plotholes. One of these is smaller and may sound silly, which is that Safiya and Iseult are somehow able to jump and climb from roof to roof in gowns early in the story. And… I don’t get how you do that. There was no mention of them having to hold up their skirts (which would have been revealing), or any difficulty regarding this.

Then there was another point which was much more major, but I can’t go into it because of spoilers.

It’s still worth a read, especially if you do like romance and a lot of teen angst, but at this point it wasn’t really for me. I am still curious about how the plot will be playing out, so chances are I will get to the other books in the series eventually.

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