Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. – Goodreads
TL;DR: An envious female friendship, awesome elemental magic, intriguing court intrigue, and hints of a (literally) breathless romance – Truthwitch has it all. Maybe too much of everything all at once…
The most rare feeling a reader can get, in my opinion, is enjoying a book that you hadn’t enjoyed the first time around. This is the case with Truthwitch. I first read it in 2018 and back then, I remember feeling so meh about it that I quickly forgot about it. However, over the years, this book started to call out to me again, and since I love Susan Dennard (her writing advice is bomb), I decided to give this one another try…and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book the second time around.
The magic system is one of the biggest assets to this book and series. Though there is elemental magic, it’s not purely that, thank Noden (if you got that reference, here’s a cookie🍪). Our main character, Safi, is a Truthwitch, meaning that she can tell truth from lies; her Threadsister, Iseult, is a Threadwitch, meaning that she can see people’s bonds; and Aeduan, a character I freaking loved but will get to him later, is a Bloodwitch, meaning that he can control his own and others’ blood. Isn’t that super cool or what?! We also get a ton more witcheries that expand and enrich the world of The Witchlands.
Now, I’m not sure how many witcheries there are as I feel like anything can be a witchery, but for now, they are fascinating to learn about and witness how they interact with other people’s witcheries. Fortunately, too, Susan makes sure to these powers do not make one invincible because they, for sure, don’t. To put it plainly, the witcheries are hella cool, and I’m looking forward to learning about more of them as well as their depths and limitations.
Along with the witcheries is the complex web of relationships within Truthwitch. Each relationship has meaning, and each person related to the relationship has meaning, and I appreciated the level of detail that Susan put in to cultivate these “threads.” Safi and Iseult’s relationship, though, have my whole heart. Wow, I don’t think I’ve read any book with that strong of a female friendship, much less a female friendship in general, so their relationship was such a welcome surprise. The fierce and protective love that Safi and Iseult have for each other – the fact that they would die for each other – is breathtaking, and, ugh, I know their journeys are just starting, but I just need them to get their freedom and live happily ever after already!
However, with relationships are characters, and by golly, there are a lot of characters in just 400-some pages of this book. While I could tell that Susan took a painstaking time in adding layers to each character’s motivations and how they link with each other’s, I also found myself, more often than not, rereading passages and flipping back and forth to make sure I didn’t miss anything or to clarify any confusions I had. All of that lent to a bit of a tiring reading experience, but thankfully, the world is so interesting that I am not scared off from the rest of the series – in fact, they made me buy the rest of the series immediately.
Speaking of characters, my favorites are, hands down, Iseult and Aeduan. Both Iseult and Aeduan are fascinating as hell, and I just know that there is a whole world about them that we’ll get to learn in the later books. Also, well, I ship them. I also really liked Merik – he could have been super stereotypical, and, sure, I guess he was a bit, but I felt for him and his love and desperation for his country. As for Safi – I’m honestly not sure what I think of her. I don’t hate her or even dislike her, but do I love her? Hm. Dare I say that she doesn’t have much going for her? I mean, yes, she’s a Truthwitch, and yes, she’s royalty of a colonizer country, but I don’t know – she just read like any other fantasy heroine with a heart of gold to me, but I’m hoping that’ll change as the story continues.
Overall, Truthwitch is a strong, albeit complicated, installment that, yes, requires a bit of your patience, but in doing so, will lead to a grand odyssey with greater action, higher stakes, and more angst. If anything else, read it for the empowering female friendship. Am I bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this book the first time around? Yes, but not too sad because the final book is set to come out next year, and the fact that I started it now – with most of the series already out – means I won’t have to wait too long!
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard contains themes and topics of colonization and domination. This novel also features blood, violence, and death. Please read at your own risk.
Read: 03/02/23 – 03/10/23