Book Reviews

Review: “Truthwitch,” Susan Dennard

January 17, 2016
Review: “Truthwitch,” Susan DennardTruthwitchby Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Teen on January, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

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.

Reviewing Truthwitch is so incredibly hard; one half of me really loved it, and the other half was constantly in a state of confusion about some of the world-building aspects. Warring thoughts aside, Truthwitch is fantastic in the way that it revolves around two best friends and their connection to one another.

“I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”
– Iseult

First, I must say that I absolutely love Susan Dennard and her approach to writing. Some of her articles on writing have been SO helpful, and it’s clear just how passionate she is about the world of Truthwitch and its characters (seriously, look up the Pinterest board for Truthwitch. It’s marvellous). To say I was more than excited to dive into this one is an understatement. While it is my first Susan Dennard read, it won’t be the last.

Safi and Iseult were fantastic lead characters; the narrative swapping between them and two other POV characters throughout the course of the book. Safi was headstrong and impulsive while Iseult was the thinker. They made a great duo and the friendship between them was the high point of the book, as Susan Dennard intended. While both girls had their love interests (or soon-to-be love interests) it never got in the way of their friendship.

Our other two POV characters were the ‘love interests’, Merik and Aeduan. What I really liked about these two was that they existed to be more than just Safi and Iseult’s romance partners. I particularly enjoyed Aeduan – his story is quite intriguing and his morals questionable. He’s a formidable fighter, too, with dangerous powers. I can’t wait to see how his relationship with Iseult develops. While Safi and Merik were all sexual tension, Iseult and Aeduan were a ‘slow burn’.

“He was good. The best fighter she’d ever faced. But Safi and Iseult were better.”

There was really something for everyone within Truthwitch; great characters (also yay – Evrane the monk!), interesting mythology, a sweeping world, awesome fight scenes and swoon-worthy romance. I just had trouble trying to get a good grasp on a few of the details.

I never understood the many tiers of ‘Government’ within the world. There were things like guild masters, emperors, doges, domnas, princes… I had no idea where this placed our characters in social situations, nor who the real big players of power were. There were tonnes of ‘world-words’ thrown around, too, and most of the time I had no idea what they meant.

For the first few chapters, I was totally lost in terms of what was happening and who was what. Again, ‘world-words’ were thrown around and they were terms that were obviously integral to the world, but were yet to be explained. It had me very disorientated and a little disheartened to keep reading. I felt as if I needed a reference sheet to keep up.

There’s also a phenomenon called ‘cleaving’ that happens from time to time, and I’m still scratching my head. Do people cleave just because they’ve used too much power? Does someone cause them to cleave?

The same can be said for the ‘Cahr Arwen’. By the time the book was finished, I had a pretty good idea of what they were – or were meant to be – but I wasn’t 100% sure. I couldn’t recall if Susan Dennard had explained it earlier in the book. Also, Iseult was always thinking things like ‘iniate, statis, complete’ and I couldn’t work out if this had anything to do with her magic, or if it was more of a grounding ritual to keep herself calm.

“If you wanted to, Safiya, you could bend and shape the world.”
– Eron

It wasn’t until the second half of the book that I found that the many empires were starting to colour themselves as individual entities. For the longest time I was getting confused between the Dalmottis and the Cartorrans, the Nomatsi and the Nubrevans. It was due to all these factors that I had to, unfortunately, give the book a middle of the road rating. Yes, I enjoyed it and found the characters to be fantastic, but I was severely confused more than once throughout my reading.

I will probably continue with the next instalment (which I believe is called Windwitch?) because I am really eager to see how things will play out (particularly between Iseult and Aeduan!) but I will need some brushing up on the terms before I go barrelling in!

About Susan Dennard

Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world's six out of seven continents, to be exact (she'll get to Asia one of these days!) before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor. When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.


  • Reply Cait @ Paper Fury January 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Oh wow…that sounds a lot more complicated than I anticipated (I’m dying at those names you listed at the end there..wut even. AHH SCARY. xD) I do love fantasy, but I hate being confused?! So I think I still want to read this one, just because I see it EVERYWHERE and I get curious. But I’m going in with cautious expectations. ;)
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  • Reply Kelly January 18, 2016 at 2:54 am

    I must admit Britt, I think seeing this promoted everywhere even before release has me fighting against reading it until it all dies down, it was just too much. It sounds like the imaginative aspect of the world building really didn’t translate onto the pages too well, I always struggle with the same thing when it comes to fantasy, feeling like you’ve been dropped in the middle of a storyline and playing catch up. I’m wondering that with the ridiculous amount of hype before it was even released, were we supposed to study up and learn the terms and complex system of hierarchy beforehand? :D I’m glad you still enjoyed it somewhat Britt. Brilliant review poppet <3
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    • Reply Brittany @ Nice Girls Read Books January 24, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      Ahh, it’s the opposite for me, Kelly! I see it everywhere and I’m like OKAY I NEED IT. Marketing works on me, sadly. Hahaha. I LOVE High Fantasy, and I love being plunked down in the middle of things and learning the ropes, but this was just an information overload!
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  • Reply Kyra @ Blog of a Bookaholic January 17, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I really want to read this but fantasy world-building can sometimes confuse me so I’ll be aware of that when I read this. Great review! :)
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