Book Review: Truthwitch

Posted February 11, 2016 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 4 Comments

Book Review: TruthwitchTruthwitch by Susan Dennard
Published by Tor Teen on January 5th 2016
Genres: young adult, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

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.

This book got more buzz than a beehive in the summer – everyone was talking about this book at the end of 2015, when the ARCs first started to hit. Yeah, I know I always shy away from the popular, bandwagon books, but it seems that the popular group  of novels have suddenly been some of my favorites, AKA Simon and Uprooted. Also, when book bloggers use words like FEMALE and FRIENDSHIP over and over in their reviews, yeah, I’m gonna put the book on the top of the list, no questions asked. Uprooted has set the bar for me when it comes to expecting strong female relationships, so now I go out of my way to seek them in my YA novels. I was starving for some more of that girl power bonding.

And you know what? Truthwitch delivered the strong female fellowship. Hell, Dennard even went past the teenage BFF trope and even introduced another outside woman into the mix, loosely creating a woman-centered main character core, which stole my heart right away.

There was even a strong female role with a woman that I can’t decide if I love her or if I hate her, but I can tell you that I respect her. There were so many different types of gals in here, different female roles that you can identify with, going outside the usual pretty/frumpy/smart/sassy roles that I still am just amazed. Look, I love those roles that girls get to play. I love the makeup-wielding women who can also pass a math test and then we have the book worm who is also the reality-TV geek. I love them. But I also like something outside of the off-the-shelf female protagonist. And I have it. I have a girl who is tough and yet lets her mouth get away from her, while holding a high title that doesn’t amount to squat to her. I have another girl who fights herself to remain calm, while coming up with the brilliant plans and at the same time, fighting off her own demons of a stutter, racism, self confidence, and mother issues. Then we have killer warrior monk over here that never fails to shock me. Finally, there is the woman who shocks me the most, the one that I thought would just become a throw away character actually stepped right into the plot and promptly started to amaze me with her bad-assery, displaying her confidence and her loyalty as two of her best traits.  She was, when you boil it all down, the “bad guy”, but if you stand back and look at her decisions, I understand why she made her decisions. She could have approached things differently, but when war is on your heels, then things get ugly.

The magic system in the book is a bit difficult to understand at first. I was a bit frustrated for the first forth of the novel.  I have a difficult time trying to decide if I love the sink-or-swim method with fantasy and throwing the reader into the middle of the magic system. Sometimes, it is easy to pick it up, and you can deduct the magic system with context clues and descriptions. I like a little critical thinking in my novels. It makes me feel smart.

However, with Truthwitch, I felt lost at times, and it did require a bit of puzzling before I was able to get my feet under me, and some rereading before I felt comfortable with the world building. The trade off was that by the time I was finished with the book, I had a huge hang over, and I wanted to go back to it.  For example, I wish I had understood earlier in the book that heart threads were two people who were romantically bonded. This took me a while to understand. And by the time it had dawned on me, I completely missed the beautiful m/m relationship at the start of the book. However, the author did set up a system where there were heart threads, where two people were romantically linked, and thread ‘siblings’ and family, where people became bonded non-romantically, but it was still equally important to people. I can’t even described how happy this made me that there was something akin to “friendship marriage” in the book, because for all of the attention we give to romance and romantic relationship, it seems that friendships never seem to have the same emphasis placed onto them. Take, for example, in the book I read, Underwater, where a girl suddenly breaks off her friendship with her female friends prior to the setting of the novel, but when the girl loses contact with a MALE love interest, it is all heartbreak.  Bottom line: It is about time we have a YA book that gives just as much weight to a friendship that it does to a potential romance.

Once the audience becomes familiar with the rules and system of sorcery, then the world building is quite amazing. Fair warning –  you are going to get some use out of that map located at the front of the book. That was another part that took me a bit to get use to as well. There are multiple nationalities weaving in and out of the story, and each has their own stakes. There is quite a bit of studying at the front, and I am going to welcome any fanart that comes along for this novel.

Alright, to the romance now. I’m sure that there are a lot of people who are going to love the romance. It wasn’t horrible. It was well written. There is no instalove. There is some underlying instant attraction, which I am all for, but no swoony-googly eyes fill pages and pages while there are other, more pressing matters at hand. The author was fiercely devoted into balancing action, with morality, with romance. It was a great combination. I just have a hard time getting behind a romance where one person physically harmed another, and then everyone just puts it behind them.

Yes, I understand the circumstances and the dilemma that the characters faced, but my own personal choices would have not let that fly. (But then watch me become the huge hypocrite here, because if I don’t see some Iseult/Aeduan action in the books soon…..OMG. Death will become someone.  Yeah, the same two that threatened death/assaulted one of them with a knife – because THAT is hot).

However, I don’t flat out hate it, and I like the two characters, so to each their own.

Plot-wise – wow – how to do craft something like this and not get a headache? I’m still piecing together some of the threads, and I’m excited to see what happens, and what becomes of the two girls that might end up saving the world. Then one of the best reveals hits right at the end, and I am doing all that I can to keep calm until book two. Because bubbly cute and half insane is something not only do I appreciate, but something that I just crave in my characters.

Overall

A fantasy that delivers everything I have been missing. The struggle is real waiting for book two. Pro-female relationships crop up in this novel without choking the audience with a heavy-handed message. There is more than one focal main character, allowing the book to appeal to a bigger reading audience, and it works for this one. There is a romantic story line, but it doesn’t steal way from the main theme of the novel. The magic is thoughtful and ties beautifully into nature. Dennard is a pro at using fiction and realism to craft a story that will touch your heart and leave you begging for more on the last page. We have a true Storywitch in our midst, and I welcome her with open arms.

LynSig_Purple

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