Review: Truthwitch

Posted: April 22, 2016 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Susan Dennard, Fantasy, Young Adult

Safi and Iseult live in a world of witches. They are “Threadsisters,” tied by bonds of friendship and magic–and mischief. But after spending their youth under the guidance and training by other witches, they are ready to strike out on their own.

Unfortunately, everyone else seems to have plans for them, and none of those plans include the girls being able to make their own choices.

I want to start out by mentioning that TRUTHWITCH is a Young Adult novel, geared toward older high school ages and early college. Certainly adults would also enjoy this book, but I found a certain amount of problems that, were it aimed at an older audience, would have garnered a “mediocre” rating. But since the target audience is younger, this book can get away with certain issues that would usually bother more experienced readers. Just note that it flavors my review a bit.

Usually here I would spend more time explaining the story, but TRUTHWITCH is pretty straightforward. Safi and Iseult are carried along on an adventure not of their choosing. Safi’s ability as a truthwitch is rare and if anyone finds out what she can do, her freedom would be forfeit. Iseult is a threadwitch and can see the ties that bind people to each other, but is from a race that everyone distrusts. Merik is the windwitch prince of a country that continues to suffer from the destruction of a decades-old war and will do anything for a trade contract to help lift his people from poverty. Aeduan is the bloodwitch who will do whatever it takes to find his father’s favor, even kidnap a truthwitch who could guarantee his father the power he craves. Once the story gets going (after about page 80…finally) the plot is pretty easy to predict.

The characters are easy enough to like, like the plot they are what they appear. However, Safi and Iseult, both being PoV characters, and young women were hard for me to differentiate. They felt like two sides of the same coin, that despite having different backgrounds, thought the same and reacted the same way to most everything in the story. Merik was the most developed character with a complicated situation he struggled to work around. Except that the dude was always angry. And bossy. In fact, now that I look back on it, a lot of the characters had tempers. Making people angry all the time is a newb-writer misstep; in an attempt to give characters flaws, making everyone angry is easy to implement (or lazy writing, whichever you prefer). Aeduan was easy enough to understand as the ‘villain’, if a little single-minded. Secondary characters were more shallowly drawn and other that Merik’s aunt and threadbrother who have more screen time, are forgettable.

After the slow start, the rest of the novel moves along at a good clip and I was easily engaged clear to the end. There are a few awkward gaps in action, specifically how characters move between scenes. For example, how did Safi move an injured Iseult from Merik’s ship to an enemy ship? The story sometimes completely glosses over character movement or explanations of behavior, which is often simplistic. For example, everyone acts like Iseult is trash but we never really understand why people hate her particular race. Fortunately Dennard can tug effectively enough on the heart-strings that the problems these poor young people go through had me engrossed by the cliffhanger ending.

Safi and Iseult live in a world of witches. They are "Threadsisters," tied by bonds of friendship and magic--and mischief, as they strike out on their own.

The thing that redeems this story is the world building. Don’t expect it to be something really amazing, like Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson, but for a Young Adult novel, it’s pretty good. People can be born with magic that focuses on specific abilities: water, wind, earth, metal, glamour, words, etc. I still had lots of questions about the magic by the end, simple things that could have been covered by mere sentences (does everyone have an ability? why or why not? etc), but will hopefully be clearer in the sequel. Unfortunately Safe and Iseult’s abilities are passive, so they don’t actually “do” much magic; Merik and Aeduan’s magics were much more interesting. I wasn’t very clear on the different countries, races, and politics, but it wasn’t crucial to the story so I let it slide.

Overall it’s a safe book for your teen readers who like fantasy, with an interesting application of old ideas that will keep your attention long enough to read it along with your kids.

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: A handful
  • Violence: Fighting but not very bloody
  • Sex: Attraction and kissing; vague references

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