Truthwitch is the first book in the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard.
I’m a sucker for beautiful covers as you well know if you’ve followed my reviews as of late, and Truthwitch is no exception. I first saw this book a year or so ago and have had my eyes on it since.
I hadn’t picked it up sooner for one reason or another, but I’m glad I got the chance. The concept for this book is awesome and the worldbuilding is first class.
That being said, I was really torn with this one. Many times I felt only so-so about it, and other times I couldn’t put it down. As such it’s going to make it really hard to rate, but let’s continue on with the review.
Review of Truthwitch
Truthwitch is a breathtaking, whirlwind of an adventure that will sweep you off your feet and carry you into another world filled with excitement.
From what I’ve heard about this book, it was originally supposed to be an adult mainstream fantasy novel, but the publishers wanted to market it as YA and so that’s where it got put. Had I gone into this book understanding that at the beginning, I might have been a bit more forgiving.
By that, I mean that mainstream fantasy has a reputation for long, slowburn, info-dumpy worldbuilding at the beginning of the novel that you kind of have to wade through if you want to get to the real story.
Contrast that with YA Fantasy which tends to start punchy and lets the reader figure out the worldbuilding as the story grows. You see things through the character’s eyes and that’s when you learn things.
Well, Truthwitch really follows mainstream in that the first 20% of the book was really boring. I mean like it was a slog. I’ve spoken with several other readers over on the YA Fantasy Addicts Facebook page that I admin and several people told me they couldn’t finish the book because they couldn’t get past the beginning.
I’m here to tell you that if you can get past the first 20%, then I promise the story gets so much better. It’s a gripping tale filled with love, action, and adventure. I really really enjoyed it.
At one point I had to put the book down as I received an ARC of another book that was due out in a week, so that got precedent, but when I finally picked this back up a month later I was so glad that I did.
So let’s talk about the story.
It’s a pretty basic escape plot. Safi is a Truthwitch, one of the last of her kind, in fact she’s the only known living Truthwitch and even that is only known by about 5 people. All her life, Safi has lived in hiding lest someone discover her witchery and want to use her to rule the world.
I’m going to come right out and say that I find the premise a bit of a stretch. Namely that the ability to tell truth from lie is a power that can control the world.
We see the power used throughout the book frequently enough and I don’t see the big deal. The Empress of Marstok with her ability to control iron and make it do whatever she want, like making iron collars and putting them on people that she can use to kill them in an instant if they misbehave seems like a much more powerful, world-controlling magic.
So surprise, surprise, people find out about Safi’s power and now her uncle hatches a plan to spirit her away to safety. I would say about 60% of the book is Safi running away from her pursuers.
Moving on to my favorite part: the characters.
So of course we have Safi. Safi is a sassy girl, just the way I like my heroines. She’s strong, independent, and she knows what she wants. She doesn’t let people tell her no, and she has a big heart for her friends.
Her best friend is Iseult. Iseult is a bit different. She’s a Nomatsi. That means nothing to you, I know, but in the Witchlands, the Nomatsi are basically the oppressed stereotypical people that is the butt of all racism in the world.
I have no idea.
It is never explained, or at least I can’t remember it being explained due to reading the book over the course of about 6 weeks, why the Nomatsi are so hated.
Any time anybody sees Iseult’s hair or face they crinkle their faces and say “‘Matsi scum.”
It seems rather pointless to me and one of the reasons I’m conflicted about the book. It plays absolutely no role in the book whatsoever. People are aggressive and hateful toward Iseult for not better reason than it being written that way.
Regardless, Sari and Iseult are best friends and I really enjoy the dynamic between them.
Then there’s Aeduan. He’s sort of the bad guy in Truthwitch. I mean, he’s not like some big bad antagonist, but he is the main guy chasing Safi down, but he’s not the person who wants Safi, there are other people who behind him that are bigger than him and they mostly remain off page.
Aeduan is a Bloodwitch. This means he can smell a person’s blood once he gets their scent and he can track them wherever no matter how far away they get. It also means that when he’s injured, his body heals itself. Virtually, he is invincible to everything but having his head cut off.
Then there’s Merick. Merick is the man love interest in the book, and Safi and he are biting each other’s heads off most of the book, but as could be expected with any romantic subplot, they start to come around by the end of the book. I imagine we’ll see more of this relationship continue to develop in Book 2, Windwitch.
Merick is a prince, and an admiral, of the Nubrevna nation. Years earlier, Nubrevna was cursed and they are a dying nation. Merick agrees to get Safi to safety only because her uncle agrees to open trade with Nubrevna (something that is desperately needed if they are to survive).
He’s also a Windwitch, which means he can control the air. This basically lets him fly around by launching himself into the air with gusts of wind, and it allows him to cut off someone’s air supply. Even this ability is far more useful than Safi’s in my opinion.
Based on what happens at the end of the Truthwitch, I’m very interested to see what happens in Windwitch.
I imagine that we might see Safi’s power become more useful and perhaps Book 2 will reveal how she can “change the world” because I still fail to see how it will do anything but reveal whether an ambassador is lying about their intentions for a treaty or whether someone is really there to assassinate someone or not.
But it seems like the magic has very little power to rule in and of itself. So of course I’m happy for Dennard to prove me wrong and I eagerly look forward to the next book, which I already have from the library and will start this evening.
Even though I really loved Truthwitch, there were a couple of areas within the book that I felt were weak, thus I struggled with a rating.
In the end, I’m going to give Truthwitch a 3.5/5, which will round up to 4-stars on Goodreads.
If you’ve been on the fence about this book, I implore you to give it a chance. Push through those opening chapters and I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
On Pinterest? Here’s a pinnable graphic:
Interested in more reviews? Check out my review of Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller.