Saturday, January 9, 2016

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': truthwitch

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
By: Susan Dennard

synopsis: 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.

full review under the cut!

I honestly think this might’ve been the most talked about book in 2015. I think its because it was supposed to come out last year, so there’s been a ton of time for people to stew over how excited this book makes them, but I think it also has a lot to with how active Susan Dennard and all of the people who read and loved this book early are on twitter. They did a fabulous job of creating a big, welcoming community for Truthwitch lovers, even going to far as to create clans and families on social media. I loved following along with all of it, even while I myself was not one of the lucky ones who got to read this book early. That being said, there was a huge chance that, because this book was so hyped on social media across the board, that it could fall tremendously flat and just be a flop. But I didn’t expect that to happen, and I can honestly say that it definitely did not leave me wanting. Well, I mean, it did leave me wanting, but just in a “can I please have the second book now” kind of way!!!! WHEN IS WINDWITCH COMING OUT??

I sincerely think that this is going to be one of the foremost fantasy series in the coming years. It just has so much potential to have such a breadth, and I am so happy that Susan Dennard is the one to be handling its fate. I think that the premise and the world is so epic, and it can and will be expanded into something even more amazing than it already promises to be, based on this first book. It is truly a feminist fairy tale epic high fantasy romp through an incredibly lush world, and I think this can be a series that represents this generation, especially the young girls that can look to this book and see that, in Susan Dennard’s own words, “a friendship can be just as epic as any romance.” This book is just so *promising!!!!* it makes me so happy to think of what’s to come.

The most important thing in this novel is the threads that exist between people. Threads that build, that bind, and that break. One of my favorite things about this book is to read from Iseult’s point of view, when she’s describing how different people react to different situations based on their threads. Everything from the vibrant lavender of lust to the distinction between the reds of love and hate, it was all very interesting. I loved how the entire world hinged on emotion and relationships, even in politics and trade agreements. Obviously, there is a lovely nugget of romance in this novel, a more developed one between Safiya and Merik and just a nebulous suggestion between Iseult and Aeduan, but the real heart of the novel is friendship. Even greater than blood relations are the ties between people that pick each other, called a “thread-family.” For example, our main characters, Safi and Iseult, are threadsisters, bound by choice to protect one another, no matter what. They also have a larger Thread-family, which consists of their tutor Matthew and his heart-thread (aka like soul mate?) Habim. This concept is amazing, because on top of an incredibly intricate magic system, there is this dynamic of chosen family that depends on the magic. I don’t think I was expecting this system to go as deep as it did, and I really enjoyed this aspect.

Speaking of our main characters, let’s take a moment and talk about Safiya and Iseult. Rarely have I ever immediately connected with two characters as I did to these two. I instantaneously felt a strong pull towards them, from page one. Perhaps its because they remind me of my best friend and me, perhaps its because their friendship felt so authentic, perhaps its because it is so refreshing to have a pair of girl BFFS who will unquestioningly do anything for one another. In any case, when you read Truthwitch, you come for the badass fighting and awesome fantasy setting, you stay for the easy rapport between Safi and Iz. Safi is wild to the core: everything hinges on extremes with her. If you’re not with her, you’re against her. If you’re against her, the surroundings immediately become a battlefield, and she does not intend to lose. She’s golden tan, sunlight and laughter and hot-headed reaction. Iseult, on the other hand is cool, calm collected: stoic to the point of coldness, moonlight and stone and darkness and carefully-laid plans and actions. I think it’s very interesting that their witcheries are as they are: Safi is truth, something hard, stone-like, which I think is much more suited to Iseult, while Iz herself lives in a riot of color and whirling emotions, which would be more at home to Safi. But perhaps they are the way they are not in spite of their witcheries, but rather because of them. In any case, they complete one another. They are the Cahr Awen, the witches who will right the world, the initiation and competition of the healing, and they honestly could not be more badass. I am called back to the one scene where they’re fighting the Carawen monks at the old lighthosue outside Veneza City, and Aeduan comes wheeling up on his horse, only to see Safi standing tall, snarling, while Iz crouches low, slinging her blades to complete the perfect circle with Safi. I felt like it was a powerful scene, made even more powerful later when it is revealed that they are actually the return of the Cahr Awen. Their friendship is the one that someone would wish for their entire life, and then when they find it, they are loathe to ever let it go. Another random thought: I really thought that Safi’s witchery was going to come into play more in the novel. That’s not to say that it isn’t in there, it is, but actually a lot of the time it is Iseult’s threadwitchery that steals the scene, and is ultimately more interesting anyways. I feel like there is still a lot to find out about these girls: about their pasts, their time with Matthew and Habim and so forth, but I like that there is still some things to learn in the next novel.

On top of Safi and Iz, who are undoubtedly the stars of the show, there are so many other characters, both major and minor, that had a huge role on the outcome of this novel. Firstly, our boys: Merik and Aeduan. Or, as he is more fondly known as: BAEDUAN. I love them both… Merik’s simmering temper, which is so like Safi’s whirlwind of emotions, and Aeduan’s cool thought processes that would compliment Iseult so much. There is still so much more to learn about them, especially Aeduan, whose motivations and decisions remain shrouded in a bit of darkness, but the consensus is that they’re both hunks and a half, and can we TALK about that dancing scene with Merik and Safi?? I was BASICALLY like fanning myself in the airport reading it… SPICY, I tell you, SPICY. (can we have more of this is the second novel, please, Sooz?) Honestly, as great as these boys are, they don’t hold a candle to our leading ladies… but they’re fine to be backup to Safi and Iz’s schemes ;)

As for Evrane, Kullen, Ryber, Polly, Matthew, Habim, Safi’s uncle Eron, Iz’s mom and her apprentice Alma, the empress of Marstok, and the emperor of Cartorra: they are the secondary characters that kept on giving. I feel like we are just scratching the surface with their developments, at least for most of them, and I also feel like we will probably meet even more in the second novel, which I am looking forward to. But a few notes here: I was constantly stunned and amazed by Evrane’s bravery, her cool head, and her dedication to her oaths as a Carawen monk. She was a total unknown to me coming in, and I’m so glad that she got to sneak up on me with her awesomeness. I didn’t trust Polly at all for most of the book: I thought he had double-crossed Safi, but in reality, he is loyal to her uncle and his schemes. There is definitely something else going on with him, especially with the unfamiliar blood that Aeduan sometimes smells around him, and with his own witchery, and I can’t wait to see where that goes. I shed a bunch of tears when Kullen died…. and when his heart-thread, Ryber, ran away. I can’t imagine how Safi or Iz would react to the other dying, and with Merik’s hot temper, I can only imagine that it will depressingly wild to watch him deal with it. I feel like Iseult is going to have to reach out to Alma and her tribe, therefore facing her mother again, and I definitely don’t think this is the last we’ve heard from the Cursewitch from Iseult’s tribe either. All of these storylines intertwining is going to be amazing twisted, just like the threads that only Iseult can see.

The magic system, in its depth, amazed me. I was super confused at first, because there really isn’t any kind of helpful section where it gets all laid out for you (lol), but you can find your way into understanding after about 50 pages. Basically, “witchery.” or magic, sprung from five origin wells in this land called The Watchlands. There is Water, Earth, Fire, Air and Aether, and with these five forms of witchery there are endless possibilities. There also exists Void, where comes Blood and Curse witches, the things of nightmares and cautionary tales. Inside these five (six) forms of magic, there can be infinite manifestations of witchery. For example, Safi and Iseult are both Aetherwitches, even though Safi is a Truthwitch and Iseult is a Threadwitch. Also, Merik is an Airwitch, but not a *full* one, like his threadbrother, Kullen. His aunt Evrane is a waterwitch, but Evrane is a healer,  not just a controller like the Tidewitches, which are also based in water, but so are others called poison witches. It can get complicated, but it allows for infinite possibilities, and that is what makes it so much fun.

The plot of this novel kept me on my toes for the entire time, from the simplicity of Safi and Iz trying to escape the city guards for holding up a guild master to the complexity of their situation when the novel closes, there is no short supply of action and swashbuckling, fist fighting badassery. Their world is one on a precipice, and Safi and Iz will have a huge part in tipping it one way or the other. The Puppeteer and the Raider king are both eventual threats, ones that are terrifying, while the emperor and empress are more immediate conflicts, and they are all out to get the girls. However, since they are truly the Cahr Awen, I foresee the girls gaining lots more friends than they currently have, as well as maybe some more enemies. I can’t wait to see what other amazing fights and incredible near-death experiences lay ahead for these girls… Its going to be a wild ride.

What are your theories about this series? what did you love? what did you not love, if applicable? Gush with me!!!


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see that you loved this one! I haven't gotten around to reading it yet but I definitely want to. :) Thanks for sharing!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian


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