Book Review # 75: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Sunday, 3 January 2016 1 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Tor UK. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor UK
Format: Paperback
Publication DateJanuary 16th 2016
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones

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. 
Pitched as a swashbuckling fantasy with empowering female leads and a magic system reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Dennard's Truthwitch is clearly going to becoming a 2016 classic to watch out for. At 400 pages, Safi and Isuelt's story is a riveting 'on the run' tale with magic, secrets and betrayal all rolled into one. Although going into this novel, I had never before picked up one of Susan's books, I knew from the synopsis that this was definitely one for me.

What grabbed my attention right away, was the magic system. In Dennard's world, some are born with a 'witchery', a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Having read a great deal of fantasy books that have dealt with magic in the past, I expected some the majority of the abilities to be centred around elemental control. Whilst in some retrospects, this is true for Truthwitch, Dennard also explored two other elements that I haven't seen touched on in the past, Eether and Void. The foundation of our main protagonists' witcheries are actually formed from these elements, and I think the direction Susan went with these abilities were phenomenal. They played out so well in the story, and to think how dangerous Safi's ability would be if it were real, was actually a thought process that went through my head as I read.

When it comes to the plot, there are so many elements that are gently woven throughout this epic story and they all come into play so well together. It's phenomenal. Starting off as two friends having fun, Safi and Iseult are soon thrown into a world of politics and danger much larger than they could have imagined. With an assassin on their tale, the decisions they have to make are rash and daring and yet when combined together, these two protagonists fight their way out of any situation they're presented with. From the way I see it, the story focuses on the friendship of our two main leads, the bond they have when together and just how strongly they will fight to protect one another. This was a very empowering move by Dennard and I strongly admire her for it. In my opinion, the plutonic relationship between these two characters is so much stronger and heart-warming than those that you often find within romantic relationships. Safi and Iseult's friendship as Threadsisters is second to none; I've found none stronger in any YA I have read. 

Focusing more specifically on the characters, Dennard's assembly goes above and beyond in the dynamics and traits that each of her characters have. As previously discussed, Safi is strong willed, audacious and daring, whilst Iseult is more relaxed, reclined and logical.They really balance each other out well. Another character we are introduced to is Merik, Prince of Nubrevna who at the beginning is hellbent on saving his nation, and slowly realises that perhaps his latest captives are perhaps more important than he realises. Merik was a fantastic character, with a lot of depth. He had such a dramatic history that comes nicely into play in the book, and the relationships he has and makes in this book were phenomenal. I loved the interactions between him and Safi, as well as that of his Threadbrother, Kullen. Such an intense and powerful relationship there - Dennard has really hit the nail on the head with these tenacious bonds of friendship. In this book we're also introduced to one of the antagonists, Aeduan, though his point of view. Aeduan is a blood witch and is hellbent on tracking down Safi and Iseult, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He is determined, malicious and strong willed. I really liked getting into Aeduan's head as he tracked down the girls, it was really refreshing to see his outtake on the situation. 

In regards to the world building, we get a very broad outlook at the three empires ruling over the Witchlands, especially the Dalmotti Empire. Dennard has created such a vivd and intruiging world with a twenty-year truce, which I found extremely enlightening. It was such an interesting concept that really made the story and the setting feel more realistic. Looking beyond the physical boundaries of the Witchlands itself, this world was also made up of monsters and monster-like humans, which really added to the story. These creatures were extremely well thought out and extremely rememberable. I loved the idea of the magic cleaving and the idea that a cleaved one could be more dangerous than previously imagined. To use one's own strength against themselves as an unstable weapon was fascinating. Speaking of such, there are scenes of intense action against these such figureheads that will delight readers who love a good old fashioned battle. Here's hoping that we get a broader look into the rest of the empires fighting over control as the books go on, although I'm almost certain we will. 

Overall, if you like inventive uses of a magic system, swashbuckling princes, empowering female leads, a bond of friendship that topples any currently written and action, then this is definitely a book for you. Truthwitch has been one of my most anticipated realises and I have to admit that it completely blew me out of the water. It constantly surprised me, intrigued me and left me emotionally crippled at times. But then again, which good book doesn't? I award Truthwitch by Susan Dennard a 5 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. This is not a book you are going to want to miss out on. Don your swords, and prepare for a thrilling and mind-blowing adventure to unfold. The Witchlands await.

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