YA Fantasy

My Review: Truthwitch (Witchlands #1): by Susan Dennard

Publish Date: January 5th, 2016
Number of Pages: 415 Pages
Publisher: Tor Teens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

A YA-Fantasy title with major potential!

It seems like there are so, so, so, so, so, so, so many fantasy-genre titles that have come out over the last couple of years, and I’m happy about it, but at the same time it makes me ask myself: which ones are actually worth reading?

It’s a question that’s been seriously stressing me out lately, and I’ll be honest, there are plenty of titles that I’m sure are just recycled spin offs of others and are filled with a lot of the same themes, character-arcs, settings, etc. Even the blurbs mesh together and sound the same at this point, and characters are only memorable if I have no idea how to even pronounce their name!

Don’t even get me started on how the titles have a variation of any of these words in no particular order: Throne, Sword, Glass, Storm, Glass, War, Thorn, Rose, Crown, Queen, Flame, Shadow, etc…

This title was one that I’d really questioned, and was really hesitant to open. The blurb didn’t blow me away, and everything just sounded unoriginal and just recycled material I’d read in other titles already. It’s Goodreads score was decent enough, and Sarah J. Maas hyped it up (before her and the author had a huge, mysterious falling out), plus I started seeing awesome fanart on Pinterest and Instagram, so I slowly warmed up to the book and decided fuck it, I’d give it a chance.

It was good, but not great. It has a lot of major potential, that is for sure, but nothing really amazed me or caused me to want to stay up until 4 am on a work night because I needed answers and not sleep. I say that with a grain of salt because I also have to take into account about trying to judge a series based off just the first books. I mean…look at any first book of a series you love, then think about either the latest or the final book if it’s finished. Was the first book absolutely eye-opening? did it make you excited? were the characters as amazing then as they are when it’s over? Odds are no, you read on and grew with the story as it’d developed and thats what made you love the book/series. Truthwitch wasn’t the most amazing book I’d read, but I can say I liked it well enough to care what happens next and want to read the next title someday!

One thing I appreciated about the author’s work is how she’d made sure to make her cast of characters incredibly diverse. This was as much for me to reference back to as well as anyone who wants to (feel free to bookmark the page), but here’s a rundown of the ethnic backgrounds of the main empires of the storyline and what they’d match up to in contemporary times:

Nomatsi: Eastern Asia

Nubrevna: Mediterranean/ Greek/ Spanish

Cartorra/ Dalmotti: Austrian/ Venetian

Marstoki: Mixed Races of darker skin, eyes, and hair

The author goes into detail about all this HERE on her Tumblr page for anyone who wants to look for themselves!

And now, onto the story!

What It’s About:

Map of the world of the Witchlands, image courtesy of the Witchlands wiki page

Truthwitch takes place in a world known as the Witchlands–seriously–and is ruled by three empires: Marstok, Dalmotti, and Cartorra. There are regular people, but there are also those with special abilities that put them in a class all their own. For the past 20 years, the three empires had been involved in a truce to not go to war, but times almost up, and tensions have risen to their boiling points, and not everyone may be renewing the contract.

The story revolves around two young women, Safi and Iseult, who come from different backgrounds, but had become best friends through training under the same mentor who’d helped them master both their special abilities.

Safi: blonde, tan, hot-headed, and of course beautiful, is a Truthwitch – someone who can sense if someone is lying, and it’s a power that is an extremely rare gift, which makes her extremely sought after by many powerful forces.

Iseult: pale, narrowed eyes, smart and strategic, calm and collected, and dark hair is a Threadwitch – someone who see’s invisible ties like string that bind those closest to her, meaning she knows where they are and what they feel.

They both fight for the chance to earn a simple and free life away from all the politics, the overpowering rule, but with war threatening to erupt, plans are quickly extinguished. The two of them find themselves working with Prince Merik–A Windwitch and ship’s captain– as they travel to foreign lands and see for themselves the world they’d only begun to understand. Meanwhile, a vengeful Bloodwitch –Aeduan–hunts each of them to try and return Safi to powerful rulers who want nothing more than to use her as a weapon!

What I Liked:

  1. The Various Point-Of-Views! I’m always a big fan of these kinds of fantasy novels, it’s like you’re getting multiple mini stories in one big book! I love when they intertwine and events from one point of view can become a big plot point for another point of view later on in the series. Safi, Iseult, Merik, and Aeduan were all the different perspectives of this story, and I personally liked Safi and Aeduan the most. Safi was a little clichéd, but I like her spunk and her dynamic with Iseult was fun to read. Merik seemed too moody and annoyingly angsty most of the time despite how I did like how everything he did was for the welfare of his kingdom and his people. Iseult is a great character, but I found her storyline to be a little lacking since she was injured in a bed for a good chunk of time, hopefully she gets more time to shine in the next title!
  2. The Theme of Female Friendship! It’s a major theme of the book, and something that anyone can enjoy if they’re fans of Fantasy, or fiction in general. It’s something we see surprisingly little of, where friendship is a theme or main focus of the overall story. Sure, it’s there in plenty of titles, but it doesn’t get as much attention. It would be cool if it’d possibly be an LGBT F/F relationship, but there are other titles out there that include that too, so I’m good with platonic friendship!
  3. The Diverse Cast! The author made it a point to not white-wash her cast, and instead made sure to make sure about 80%–my own estimate–are POC.
  4. Aeduan! He’s by far my favorite character of the book! He’s a Bloodwitch and a Carewan monk, and has an air of mystery to him that I liked. He’s technically a villain, but will probably have a similar arc to Magnus Damora from Falling Kingdoms and go from villain to anti-hero. Sure, he seems like an Assassin’s Creed knockoff with his white cloak and the fact that he’s a hired assassin, he still has some major potential to be an incredibly memorable character in this whole series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Insta-Love…Well, it wasn’t outright, but it was obvious that something shifted between Merik and Safi the instant they’d met, and then danced together at a ball. The way the author wrote it was similar to a storm out at sea, making it sound like it was this epic thing with sweeping winds, harsh thunder, dark clouds, and the earth shaking, and even if the characters themselves didn’t realize their feelings for each other, it was an insta-love for us as the readers…ugh.
  2. Off To A Slow Beginning…After the initial setup at the beginning, the book felt slow to me. It was hard for me to get fully engaged in the story until after the halfway point. It was there that I’d gotten more attached to the characters and felt like the story had gotten more interesting.


Overall, I can honestly say this novel has a lot of potential. It’s nothing too spectacular or mind-blowing, but I also say that knowing that nowadays, it’s incredibly difficult to be able to sum up a series from just the first book. I remember the first book of a lot of series I consider my favorites: both the Throne of Glass and even Harry Potter first books left me feeling like there was more to be desired, and look how they turned out…two of the most popular YA fantasy series of all time.

Truthwitch leaves you just curious enough to want to read on and see what may possible happen next. It’s filled with imagery and themes that are both familiar and somewhat new as well, and while I felt I wasn’t fully engaged for a good chunk of it, the positive definitely outweighs the negative.

I recommend this title to anyone who enjoy strong heroine-centric YA fantasy titles written by authors like Sarah J. Maas (who has an interesting past with this author), Kristin Cashore, Victoria Aveyard, Richelle Mead, Tamora Pierce, and Cassandra Clare (But I can at least say the writing is better than some of these names mentioned). Truthwitch is filled with adventure, action, complex and engaging relationships between it’s main cast of characters, and like I said earlier, the promise of more; let’s hope this series continues to improve as it develops!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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