Images from Dennard’s post (x)
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is our #bookclubbaes book this month and we’ll be doing a spoiler filled discussion about it at the beginning of June. However, I thought I’d do a spoiler free review of it for those of you who haven’t read it yet.
(Susan Dennard // Tor Teen // 412pg)
“In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.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 blurb
Susan Dennard said that this book was trying to prove that ‘friendships can be as epic as romances – maybe even more so'(let it be noted that this book has quite a bit of romance in it and less ass kicking friends then I expected). Thruthwitch follows two best friends Safi (a truthwitch) and Isulet (a threadwitch) as they try to escape from pretty much everyone else in this book .
This was definitely a slow book, but on the whole I felt that it was well paced. There were some parts where it dragged, but considering how much set up was required for this book to make sense I can forgive the pacing. I probably would have been utterly lost if it had moved any faster. I do have a feeling (based on the way this book ended) that this won’t be the case for the sequel and the rest of the series. The last third of this book was by far the best part, so it’s definitely worth pushing through the slower parts to get to the ending.
The main cause of the pacing issues in this book was clearly the POV (point of view) system in this book. Dennard introduces us to and tries to make us empathize with four main characters in this novel, which really slows down the story. Especially in the large middle section of the book in which three of the four characters are all within fifteen meters of each other for around three hundred pages. Personally I didn’t mind the changes in POV as I don’t think I could have handled this book if it was all from Safi’s point of view.
Dennard did such a great job with the characters in this book; with quite a few POVs the ensemble cast was pretty large but still everyone felt unique, realistic and fleshed out. The character development was also fantastic – especially Safi in the last third of the book. Part of me wishes that this development could have started sooner, but the timing made sense plot-wise so I will have to resign myself to only complaining a little bit for the next paragraph.
Safi fon Hassel, truthwitch and domma (which as far as I can gather means Lord/Lady but it was never made quite clear), is an annoying and selfish character who, for two thirds of it, is undoubtedly the my major problem with this book. There are parts of me that wonder, if I hadn’t picked up this book because of it’s excellent reviews would I have finished it? Merick (a windwitch), Isulet (a threadwitch) and Aeduan (a bloodwitch) were all intensely interesting characters. Especially Merick, who doesn’t love a hansom, brooding prince?
The World building…
Well first things first there’s a map! What’s a fantasy novel without a map? The whole set up of this world looks really exciting and I can’t wait to explore it as the series goes on.
Here, for me, is where Truthwitch starts to get a bit shaky. There is a very heavy political thread that is Dennard weaves through the plot of this book, but the characters we follows either know next to nothing (Safi I’m looking at you!) about the political turmoil or they aren’t really telling (Merick I can forgive you because you’re too busy trying to help everyone to worry about politics). We’ve all read books where there is just way too much expositional world building, but I think this book has the opposite problem. There’s a whole buch of characters who are introduced that all come from different countries and have different motivations – and none of it is easy to understand because it’s not explained. I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark from most of the first half of the novel (and not even in a good A Song Of Ice And Fice kind of way…)!
The explanation of the magic system was also a little mind boggling and inconsistent. There was just so much going on, so many different people with different types of witchery that was all so new and unquie! I really struggled to keep track of it all, and pretty much every other review I’ve seen of this book has said the same thing. We were all lost – there were moments when we’d be presented with a name for a type of magic we’d never experienced before, and nothing else was said, no explaination of powers, no description, nothing. Dennard was also in torching some many different cultures with different lore and different ways of doing things that as a reader it was hard to get to grips with the basics of the worlds (who has magic? Why do they have magic? How do they use their powers? What types of magic are there?). What was explained however I loved? The magic system was so unlike anything I’ve read before, which I think was part of the problem – if it had been a bit more generic then Dennard probably could have got away with the amount of explanation she actually used without an issue.
As I was reading through Truthwitch I was really conflicted about how much I was enjoying it. There were some parts that I poets ally adored but when thinking about who I would recommend this book to I found I had a rather short list. But the ending just pulled everything together so well that I couldn’t give it a bad rating.
Have you read Truthwitch? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments! And join us at the beginning of June for our spoiler stuffed book club discussion of Truthwitch…