Monday, February 1, 2016
Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)
Author: Susan Dennard
Rating: 3 Stars
A breakdown of Truthwitch:
The First Half: 2 Stars
I'll be honest: I contemplated abandoning this novel many, many times. It's not that it's boring or drags in pace but rather that it simply was not the high fantasy YA epic that the hype had led me to believe. Dennard's debut series wasn't a favorite of mine--not beyond the first book, at any rate--but I still had high hopes for this series. But, let me tell you, Truthwitch is YA fantasy-lite at best, with meager world-building and a slew of rather familiar concepts.
Obviously, my main qualm with this novel is the fact that its world-building is practically nonexistent. We have a multitude of countries who have signed a peace treaty--one which is coming to an end--and as the treaty has not been renewed, war is brewing just around the corner. Why these countries were at war in the first place is unclear. As is the individual politics of each nation, the mannerisms and culture of every country, and the general political scheme at play. The plot revolves entirely around our heroine, Safiya, who is a Truthwitch--rare and coveted witches able to discern truth from lie. In this time of political turmoil, Safiya could be a dangerous weapon in the hand of any politician and, as such, she is whisked away to safety with the help of her best friend and Threadsister, Iseut. What a Threadfamily's significance is and why everyone doesn't have one is something I can't tell you because, you know, lack of world-building.
Safiya is hot-headed and irrational, the type of heroine who acts first and thinks later. It's not quite grating but...it kind of is. Iseut, her opposite in every way, is calm and cool, able to see the threads that bind individuals and display emotions. While both girls are extremely different, I was unable to really become invested in either during this first half. I found Safiya cumbersome and I found Iseut inscrutable. Combined with the poor world-building and the inclusion of secondary characters I felt absolutely nothing for, it is a surprise I continued with this novel at all.
The Second Half: 4 Stars
But, the second half of this novel picks up tremendously. We are introduced to action sequence after action sequence, which keeps us on the edge of our seats, and, what's more, I finally grew to care for these characters. Safiya undergoes a fair amount of growth in the second half of this novel, which I appreciated, and though Iseut grows more and more mysterious--turns out Safiya isn't the only "special" one here!--I also found myself able to understand and relate to her far more than I could originally.
It helped that the secondary characters really begin to shine in this last half, too, becoming individual personas in their own right. Adeuan, the Bloodwitch hunting Safiya and Iseut, is utterly fascinating and I desperately want to learn more about his backstory. As far as villains go, he's rather remarkable. Prince Merik, chartering a ship that holds Safiya and Iseut, is further thrust into the spotlight as our romantic interest. While the romantic tension between him and Safiya often plays out rather childishly--endless bickering!--I warmed up to them by the end. Now, that's not to say that their romantic arc is well-plotted, because it reads rather like insta-love in some parts, and further I find that Merik's personality is composed largely of his concern for Safiya but, I have hope that their relationship will be explored and develop much better in the sequels.
Unfortunately, the world-building doesn't improve in the second-half but it does expand and thought Truthwitch has had a lot of flaws for me, the second-half of this story was thoroughly enjoyable and I am definitely planning to pick up the sequel. For fans of high fantasy, YA or Adult, Truthwitch isn't going to impress. If, however, you're looking for a novel to get you into the first forays of fantasy or simply enjoy the fantasy-lite that YA is known for, then this is exactly up your alley. It has ball gowns and sea monsters, magical powers and dizzying kisses. At its core is a strong female friendship and a journey of growth and development. It isn't the political novel I wanted it to be but, nevertheless, give it a shot. It just may surprise you.