Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Publication date: 14 January 2016
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 496 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I’ve been hearing amazing things about the Witchlands books for ages, but had never picked them up. With the release of Bloodwitch, the third book in the series, in February, I decided to finally pick up Truthwitch. I’m kicking myself for not reading this sooner — Truthwitch was an absolute delight and one of my favourite YA fantasies this year.
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.
The world building in Truthwitch is unbelievably lush and gorgeous. Dennard has a real talent for creating a vast world and telling the reader everything they need to know about that world without piling on boring and distracting descriptions. She artfully weaves the different history, cultures, and settings into the narrative and you really get a full picture of the world of the Witchlands. In addition, the magic system was so clearly constructed and interesting — I love a good magic system and this is one of my new favourites. I loved how diverse the witcheries were all while falling within a structured system. This is so clever because it allows for different kinds of power and ability within that structure, making the magic so much more interesting and diverse. I would love an encyclopedia of all the kinds of witches and powers seen in this book.
Although I love the world and story, the characters are what really shine in this book. Although there are a number of different points of view, I didn’t find one more interesting than the others — I loved reading every single chapter. Iseult and Safi make a fantastic, completely believable team and I love that they had a strong, established friendship before the novel begins. They’re both completely individual, distinct characters but also have an absolutely delightful relationship — I can’t get enough of these two. Iseult is my favourite character from the novel, however Aeduan is a close second. How could I not love the vicious, persistent Bloodwitch bounty hunter? It’s like he was written specifically to appeal to me. The only character I struggled with, although he eventually started to win me over, was Merik. I really didn’t enjoy his temper and struggle for complete control, particularly when it came to Safi. However, he began to redeem himself in my eyes as the story continued and I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops as a character.
Truthwitch is an incredibly fun, deceptively complex, and promising start to this series. I was completely enthralled by the story from the first pages, and I continue to think about this book long after I finished it up. I’d highly recommend Truthwitch if you love female friendships, a diverse cast of characters, a strong magic system, or a fun, fantasy adventure.
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