Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Teen on January 5, 2016
Genres: High Fantasy
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.
GUYS GUYS GUYS. This book has been so hyped. So. Incredibly. Hyped. People have been freaking out about Truthwitch since they got early copies at BEA in May. So for a solid seven, eight months. And since I heard about it, I’ve been vying for a copy. Being the little baby blogger that I was, I knew I couldn’t get the ARC from Tor, so I entered a lot of giveaways. Re-tweeted a lot of tweets. All the while crossing my fingers that the Giveaway Gods would smile upon me and I would win.
Spoiler alert, I never did. So I kind of resigned myself to the sad truth that I would have to wait until January like 99% of readers.
BUT BUT BUT then something beautiful happened. I went to my Young Adult Literature class final bright and early on a Monday morning at 7am. I was dying. That is so early, people. Especially for a discussion-based final. But our teacher decided to reward our efforts that semester by giving us FREE BOOKS. He lined them up all along the wall, and as I was scoping them out, I saw it. An advanced copy of Truthwitch. I could feel my heart beating and my stress levels rising as I became determined to get that copy before anyone else. I tweeted about it and Sarah very accurately described the situation in one gif:
My professor is giving away free books after our final and #Truthwitch is in that pile. NO ONE ELSE CAN BEAT ME TO IT.
— Carlisa C (@carlisajc) December 14, 2015
— Sarah (@kerosene_lit) December 14, 2015
And I’m here to tell you today, folks, that I received that ARC. I was smiled upon on that day and I was so incredibly excited to start it.
To be honest, though, I was also incredibly nervous. WHAT IF THE HYPE IS WRONG? What if I’m a black sheep? What if, what if, what if.
So I waited until just a few days ago to start reading it. And I just finished within the last hour. And I’m still reeling.
The hype is not wrong. Truthwitch is now one of my all-time favorite books. The fantasy, the friendship, the world. Everything is just lovely.
So let’s get to the actual review, shall we?
This world was beautifully built. It’s interesting because as a reader we’re kind of just thrown into the middle of the action. We meet Safi and Iseult and aren’t given much context about them or their world outright. I was actually kind of confused in the beginning because of this; we really just have to figure it out for ourselves in the beginning. Like, it’s a pretty complex world with a lot of different names, and magical powers, and empires, and treaties, and whatnot. A lot. So I was confused at first. But as I continued reading, I was able to catch on and continually be intrigued by this unique world. It sucked me right in and I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to find my way out again.
The magical concepts present are just awesome. There are a bunch of different kinds of magic that people can have. For instance, Safi is a Truthwitch, which means she can sense when someone is lying to her or when someone’s heart is true. These are few and far between and, because of her rareness and potential political power, Safi keeps this power secret…well, as much as she can. And then Iseult is a Threadwitch, which means that she can see the “threads” of people, or basically different colors that show their emotions. So it’s awesome.
There are also the more tangible types of magic, like Merik is a Windwitch, so he can control the air around him. Or there are Firewitches and Waterwitches and essentially Everything-You-Could-Imagine-Witches. Also the evil Voidwitches (*dun dun duuuunnnn*).
It’s just an awesome and unique concept that I love, love, love, love, love.
AND THEN THE FRIENDSHIP. Oh, the friendship present here is so beautifully strong. Strong friendships are something that I think we need to see more of in the YA publishing world. Especially between two men, like we see in the characters of Merik and Kullen. But there are also Safi and Iseult, the very best of friends. They have a bond so incredibly strong, Dennard created a word for it: Threadsiblings. When an act is performed that creates a strong, deep bond between two people, they can become Threadsiblings. Safi and Iseult are Threadsisters; Merik and Kullen are Threadbrothers. And their bonds are unshakable. Their friendships are wonderful and make my heart happy.
Speaking of my happy heart, the characterization is wonderful. We get to know Safi and Iseult and Merik—and even the antagonist Aeduen—on a very personal and individual level. We can see their different characteristics shine, what makes them unique. Their sass, their leadership, their devotion to a person or a country. It’s just lovely and I love all of them…except maybe Aeduen.
Susan Dennard has created a fantasy novel that will fully engage any fantasy reader. Please, please, please read this if you like high fantasy. Please, oh please, oh please. Don’t let my long and probably incoherent review deter you from it. Just read it.
“If you wanted to, Safiya, you could bend and shape the world.”
“Yes,” Safi breathed, swaying into one of the men holding her up. She flashed a grin at him and said, “I’m Safiya fon Hasstrel, and I can do anything.”