Author: Susan Dennard
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Rating: 3.5 stars
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. (Goodreads)
I suspect this review is going to fall into the category of “unpopular opinion” as I have heard nothing but good things about this book and yet … I just could not get into it. I really wanted to, and there were a lot of great things about this book that I did like, but for some reason I just kept feeling like I was forcing myself to finish it instead of being unable to put it down.
In many ways, Truthwitch feels far more complex and detailed than what I tend to expect from Young Adult fantasy. As I was reading it I felt more like I was reading an adult novel, which is one of the positive aspects of this novel. I hate when YA authors write down to their audience or oversimplify the plot. Dennard does neither of those things. Her writing is thoughtful and intelligent and her world is well-organized and full of depth.
However, one of the problems I had with this book is that it seemed to take me forever to feel like I had a good grasp on the world itself, because it was that complex. Once I did start to feel comfortable with the world building, there was still a lot of things that I really didn’t know and left me feeling lost at times. It wasn’t until I was more than halfway through the book that I really started to feel like I understood this world. While that implies that her world is vast, I tend to get frustrated when I don’t feel comfortable within an author’s world much more quickly than that. I don’t have to know or understand everything about it, but I just need to feel like I’m comfortable and things are making sense. I didn’t get that feeling until well into this novel.
I think one of the best aspects of this novel, and one of the reasons I stuck with it, is the friendship between Safi and Iseult. I don’t think there are enough YA novels out there that give readers a strong friendship between two female characters. Too often the main female character becomes quickly enamored with the love interest and you lose the female relationships. I loved that both Safi and Iseult are the main characters (though you could argue that Safi is more the main character than Iseult – the book is, after all, titled Truthwitch) and they were willing to fight for each other in any circumstance. Young girls need more examples of strong female relationships, and I applaud Dennard for giving us this relationship in her novel.
I also really enjoyed the friendship between Kullen and Merick. Maybe it’s just because I’m a girl, but I think it’s always nice to see a male friendship where the guys aren’t afraid to let the other know how much they care. Like Safi and Iseult, I appreciated the fact that this relationship was cultivated more throughout the novel than the possible romance between Safi and Merick. I really liked the fact that the book wasn’t entirely built on (or dependent upon) a romance or love triangle.
I suspect my issues with Truthwitch had more to do with me than the novel itself. The story is full of action, adventure, and excitement. In looking at it through a lens for this review I’m seeing that it has a lot of good things going for it, but it just wasn’t grabbing my attention. By the time I got about halfway through it, I was finally enjoying it but then I would set it down to do something else and not feel the need to get back to it right away that usually comes with a book I’m enjoying. I’m also starting to get weary of “chosen one” storylines, so I probably could have done without that little thread throughout the book. However, I do think it was subtle enough that it could become more interesting to me in the second book. And the yin and yang aspect to it makes it a little more interesting than your average chosen one plot as well.
Overall I had really mixed feelings about this novel. I wanted to love it, and there were definitely parts that I really enjoyed, but it just didn’t work for me as well as it has for others. I am interested enough, however, that I will plan to check out the next book as I think the set up in this novel left some really interesting potential for the second book.