It’s been a while since I read the first book of The Witchlands, TRUTHWITCH, so I was a little bit lost when starting WINDWITCH; fortunately I already have book three, BLOODWITCH, ready to read soon, so I won’t suffer quite so much. This might be the kind of series that would be easier to read in quick succession so you aren’t lost. So much happens over the series that if you do go a while between books, a refresher would be in order, since Dennard starts the story back up where she left off, without much reminders.
WINDWITCH easily improves on TRUTHWITCH, despite our heroines being separated at the end of TRUTHWITCH. Dennard builds on everything that went before, on the characterization, on the story, on the magic, on the world–all toward creating a world with more depth, which I rather like seeing in a YA series.
WINDWITCH starts where we left off: Safi is with Empress Vaness, avoiding her fate as the spouse of a powerful king. Merik is dealing with the fallout from the end of book one and enemies who want him dead. Iseult’s separation from Safi leaves her desperate to find her friend. And Aeduan must finish the tasks he’s been assigned, but has so far been thwarted. We also get some time with Merik’s sister, Vivia, who struggles to hold the city together despite war and famine. I had complaints about the flat characterization in book one, but here Dennard takes the groundwork she laid in TRUTHWITCH and expands on it in a way that helps us to understand her purposes from the previous storytelling, and uses that groundwork to show us how these characters can influence the world around them in unexpected ways. Their character arcs are satisfying and revealing as they suffer through trials in the midst of wars, political intrigue, and personal demons. Our friends discover betrayals, enemies rushing to war, and allies in unexpected places. It was all quite gratifying to watch events unfold.
While the early book pacing is not unlike TRUTHWITCH, this time since we already know the characters, and we have the continuation of the story, the greater tension will propel readers forward and keeps it from feeling slow. This consistent pacing and forward movement of the story continues until the last quarter of the novel, which is when the dominoes begin to fall in earnest, and it feels like revelations begin to pound at us, characters come to important realizations, and events expose consequences that lead to new roads. Merik’s storyline in particular felt forced, however, and I had trouble suspending belief for some events and actions he and his sister perform–they felt too convenient, even if they did work for the story.
It’s here that the worldbuilding and magic really begins to shine. We see more of the city as well as the world at large as Safi and Iseult travel to dangerous locations in the midst of conflict. There’s more to the countries and their politics that remain unclear, but they weren’t too crucial to the story so far, other than to show conflict and the reason for an upcoming war. We watch Aeduan’s magic in action (always fascinating, I’m interested to learn more) and as Iseult learns the true extent of her abilities. Safi’s witch ability to sense the truth has consequences, and Merik’s temper continues to get the better of him…yet also lends him strength. We don’t learn more about the prophecy that involves Safi and Iseult, so I’m hoping we get clarity in BLOODWITCH. There’s so much more to explore in this world, and it feels like Dennard is getting a better handle on it and writing it into the story much more effectively.
With a desire to avoid spoilers, I’m going to leave my comments unspecific, because it’s the unfolding of events and how characters change that will suck readers into the story and thus find the end satisfying…yet also frustrating as we are left until the next installment to find any real closure in the story (although I’m wondering if it won’t be the last book?). Here’s to hoping that the promise of more good things in BLOODWITCH comes to pass.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: A handful
- Violence: A fair amount of death, blood, and maltreatment
- Sex: None