Truthwitch: Review

January 20, 2016 2016, 4 star books, fantasy, Layla 21 ★★★★

Truthwitch: ReviewTruthwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Books on January 5, 2016
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 416 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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On a continent ruled by three empires, everyone is born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries long war is about to end, the balance of power-and the failing health of all magic-will fall on the shoulders of a mythical pair called the Cahr Awen.
The biggest thing on Safi and Iseult's minds is saving money for their planned future in the Hundred Isles. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the emotional Threads binding the world. Safi, on the other hand, is a Truthwitch-she always knows when a person is telling a lie. A powerful magic like that is something people would kill to have on their side-or to keep off their enemy's side-and so Safi cannot even admit what she truly is.
With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and a ship's captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must rise above their doubts and fight to learn who they are and what they are made of, if they are going to stay alive and preserve the balance of their world.

Truthwitch is my first book by Susan Dennard and it won’t be my last.

I didn’t get a copy at BEA this year – I think it’s fair to say that it was one of *the* books to get? – and I was bummed that my flight got in too late to even make grabbing Truthwitch a possibility. But lo and behold, Susan Dennard was at NCTE in November and so not only did I get a copy of Truthwitch buuuuut Susan Dennard also signed it! So things worked out for me in the end, and splendidly, because I loved Truthwitch and you should 100% read it. Even if you do not enjoy fantasy novels? You should read it. Because it is pretty great, and I loved it.

Here is the number one reason why: there is an epic female friendship at the center of the series and that is basically everything I need and love. Our two protagonists, Safi and Iseult, share what is possibly my favorite friendship in a young adult novel in a long long time. Safi and Iseult are both witches with rare talents and when the novel opens, are plotting a heist that goes awry, so they need to go on the run. They’re also thread-sisters, so in the world of this novel, they’re powerfully bound to each other, and their relationship (and desire to protect each other! I have all the feels!) drives much of the action of the book. I love books about relationships between women, first and foremost, and that is basically Truthwitch for you. Do you want to read about two ladies kicking ass and racing to each other’s sides through crazy danger and putting each other first, always? If so: read this book!

But that is not the only thing to like about Truthwitch! It took me awhile to figure out some of the elements of the world-building, but once I did, oh boy, I was into it. (To be perfectly honest, there are still some things I’m not totally clear on, but I don’t even care because the storyline is captivating enough that I am kind of okay just being along for the ride.) I … did not know that Truthwitch was set in an alternate version of the Holy Roman Empire but perhaps this will enhance your reading experience? Suffice it to say that even without this, I found the world of Truthwitch to be really interesting and engaging – there’s a lot of political intrigue, which I really got into: there’s a treaty that’s on the verge of being broken, there’s betrayal by your nearest and dearest (or is there?), Safi’s trying to keep her abilities as a Truthwitch on the down-low, there’s trade-deals to be brokered, but most importantly, much of the first book is spent beginning to develop Safi and Iseult as political players in their own right. (And I am so, so excited to see where the next books take them as a result!)

This miiiight fall under world-building, but in addition to a strong female friendship and a super engaging fantasy world, another thing I loved? That this is not a very tame fantasy world. There is a lot of sinister action in this book and it delighted me. The existence of bloodwitches and voidwitches! Sea foxes! Cleaving! (Oh my god, the cleaving was *terrifying.*) I also really loved Aeduan – the menacing bloodwitch who’s introduced early on in the book – and I’m hoping we see much more of him later in the series. He’s quickly become my favorite character after Safi and Iseult, and I’m really interested in seeing where his character will go next View Spoiler ».

Do you need more of an incentive to read it? Truthwitch has a hell of an ending. I want the next book in the series and I want it now. I’m so curious to see how Dennard expands upon what she’s built in Truthwitch and how she continues to weave all these different storylines together. There are so many plots in motion! I can’t wait to see them all come together.

Is there anything I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about? Pretty much only the romance, but that’s kind of normal for me as a reader, so I suspect everyone else will feel differently about this. (Your mileage may vary and probably will!) All of the things I typically do like were there – banter, badassery – so I’m not quite sure why it didn’t work for me, but I think it’s because Merik might still be something of a cipher to me as a character. I didn’t always understand him well enough to understand why he was responding as he did. View Spoiler »

In summary: I loved Truthwitch. Go read Truthwitch. Want an awesome fantasy novel that’s centered on female friendship? Truthwitch! It’s here for you.

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21 Responses to “Truthwitch: Review”

  1. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    YESSS!!! YES! YES! YES to the world building! ALL THE YES TO THE MOST EPIC FRIENDSHIP AND HOW I LOVE THESE TWO BECAUSE SAFI & ISEULT MY PRECIOUS!! Seriously ALL THE YES to everything you’ve mentioned!

    Also, Aeduan is such a fantastic grey character and so just CANNOT WAIT TO READ MORE ABOUT HIM AND SEE IF MY EARLY WAY TOO EARLY SHIPPY FEELS are right!!

    Yeah, I agree with you 1000% and need the next book like YESTERDAY OR LAST YEAR!!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Mark These Books Monday: ARC Reviews Blackhearts & Beyond The Red!!

  2. Alexa S.

    I second every single thing you’ve said in this post, Layla! Truthwitch was phenomenal and I’m truly excited that this is the very first of the series. I NEED MORE. I want to know what happens to Safi and Iseult, Merik and Aeduan. :D

    • Layla

      I KNOW. How can I wait a year. ::falls to the ground in despair::

      I’m really curious about Aeduan! And Iseult’s backstory! I need to know more. And what will happen to Safi! And the creepy puppet thing! Ahhhh! SO MANY QUESTIONS!
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

  3. Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

    I keep telling myself I’m going to get over my unfair bias against fantasy novels, since they seem to be the hot thing lately. I know this one has been getting a lot of attention and I think it might be one I would like. Your review certainly makes it sound appealing!

    Though, I still need to read Queen of the Tearling, too…and I assume you’d tell me to go read that one first!

    • Layla

      Hahahaha. I mean, even if I didn’t tell you to go read that one first, I think that Summer would. ;) Although … when we were at NCTE, she grabbed a copy of Truthwitch and has already read and it and loved it, I think? So you may have to ask her for her feedback, too. I don’t know, they’re very different books, and choices are hard, wah!

      But this one has TEEN GIRL FRIENDSHIP!

      I know you gave me the title once upon a time of a fantasy novel you enjoyed but I’ve totally forgotten what it was. That is to say, not sure whether you’d enjoy this or not, but if you do end up giving it a try, let me know!

    • Layla

      Ooh, I hope you have the chance to pick it up soon! I’m guessing you’re going to really love it. My expectations for the book were high too but I can safely say that it didn’t disappoint – I really, really enjoyed it, and I’m betting that the next book is going to be just as excellent. I’m looking forward to seeing how Dennard continues to develop the world and continues to develop these relationships (in particular Safi and Iseult’s, since theirs is the one I care most about). But there are also so many things I want to know! Anyway, I hope you love it! :)
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

  4. Carina Olsen

    Yaaay :D I’m so glad you mostly loved this book Layla. <3 Gorgeous review sweetie. I must read my hardcover soonish :) You are the luckiest for getting a signed ARC. <3 Hugs. But aw, I'm sorry you didn't fully love the romance. Ack. I hope I will love it :) But so so happy you loved the rest of the book :D
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #223

    • Layla

      I hope you love it. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it? I don’t know whether you’ll like the romance or not – there’s definitely no love triangle, but I don’t know whether you’ll ship it or not. I think I need to wait and maybe reserve judgment until I see how their relationship develops over the course of the next book before I decide whether I’m invested in them as a couple or not. I am, however, TOTALLY invested in Safi and Iseult’s friendship though!! I hope you’ll love the book! Happy reading once you get around to it! And yay for getting a hardcover.
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

    • Layla

      I think if you can make yourself hold off on reading this, wait as close as you can to the release of book #2, because I already want Windwitch in my hot little hands. There’s not a cliffhanger, so it’s not that it’s making me stabby with rage or anything, but I just want to know where the story goes!! And it isn’t due out until 2017!

      There was a lot of hype for this one, but I actually think it’s justified for Truthwitch. It’s a legit fun read and I think the next book will be even better.
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

    • Layla

      I was, too! I mean, I already love fantasy novels to begin with, so I suspected that this would be right up my alley. But I didn’t know much about it and had been religiously avoiding reviews / spoilers of it, so I was really, really surprised and delighted by it when I read it. I didn’t know what the fantasy world was going to be like, I didn’t know how much I was going to LOVE Safi and Iseult, I didn’t know how much I was going to enjoy figuring out the various political machinations! But it was all awesome. I’d give it a go and see how you like it.
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

    • Layla


      If you read the first few chapters and liked them, you should by all means pick it back up and finish it. I also liked the first few chapters, but I think the story really takes off around 1/3 of the way through the novel. (Even though I think the first part is still really strong, I became way more invested once I understood a bit more of what was going on in the world.)
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

  5. janice

    Yay, I’m so glad to hear you loved it. Truthwitch first grabbed my attention because of the strong female friendship and it immediately went onto my Must Read List. Still waiting impatiently for my copy to arrive!!
    janice recently posted…Lunches at Work

    • Layla

      Oh yay! I’m so excited for you to read it! I really feel like the friendship is absolutely the strongest part of the novel right now (although, as I mentioned, it is a thing that I care a lot about, so I am totally biased here). I LOVE THOSE GIRLS. And I’m so excited to see how their relationship develops over the next book(s) (I hope it’s books, plural) in the series. Hope you get your copy soon!!
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review

  6. Eileen

    Agreed with all of the above! I love Safi and Iseult’s friendship, it’s such a beautiful one to root for~ I’m super curious about Aeduan. He’s just so much more complex than Merik. Overall, I can’t wait to read more about this amazing world and these awesome characters :D
    Eileen recently posted…WoW #81: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

    • Layla

      Yeah, I honestly expected Aeduan to be a straight-up villain in the book, so I was really pleasantly surprised by how interesting his character became to me? So I’m excited to see where his character goes! I think it’s like … halfway through, when he’s chasing Iseult down that I was like, “Huh, this is different than I thought it’d be.” (I also ship them now!) And I love Safi and Iseult!
      Layla recently posted…Reign of Shadows: Review