“If you wanted to, Safiya, you could bend and shape the world.” – Dom Eron (Truthwitch by Susan Dennard)
I picked this book up on a whim while I was at the book store a couple months ago (mostly because I couldn’t find anything else of interest in the tiny bookstore near my university), and it was one of the best impulse-book buys I have made in years. Honestly, this book is absolutely fantastic. Dennard weaves a wonderfully fantastical, yet believable, world, with an equally intricate plot and well-developed characters.
In the Witchlands, some individuals are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others. While the types of witchery vary greatly, some are more common than others. Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. Safiya’s witchery is also the rarest of all. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires. Her Thread-Sister, Iseu
lt, is a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her. Iseult is the cool, wary balance to Safiya’s hotheaded impulsiveness; which is always getting them in trouble. After a failed heist, the girls must run for their lives; however, while Safi has her noble blood to protect her, Iseult’s Nomatsi blood damns her. Yet in a shocking turn of events, Safi’s noble blood turns out to be just as dangerous as Iseult’s foreign blood. Once again on the run, the girls must trust the help of the cunning Prince Merik of Nubrevna to get them safely beyond the grasp of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, Emperors, Princes, Queens and mercenaries, all of who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
(NOTE: Potential spoilers ahead! Continue reading at your own risk)
As I mentioned above, Truthwitch was beautifully written. The plot was intricate without being confusing. Too often, I find that authors mistake a complex, intricately weaved plot for a confusing, tangled up plot that ends up falling short because the reader has no idea how they got from Point A to Point B (for example, The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater). Dennard manages to avoid this pitfall- the story flows logically, with information being revealed to the reader as needed in order to understand the direction of the story. Moreover, Dennard overlays the main plot with that of the mystical Cahr Awen, setting up a story far bigger than the focused plot of Truthwitch, leaving readers wanting more.
Another thing I absolutely loved about this book was the characters. The characters were well-developed, complex and interesting- literally every single character in this book drew my interest, as Dennard ensured they all had roles to play, however minimal. Obviously, I had my favourites (who doesn’t) among Iseult, Safi and Merik.
- Safiya, while she initially seems simply hot-headed and entitled, undergoes a lot of personal development throughout this book. Her relationship with Iseult prompts some of this, as I suspect it always has, but it’s really her relationship with Merik that leads her to better understand herself and helps her understand her uncle’s words. When Dom Eron told Safi that she could “bend and shape the world”, he was not simply making idle comments, but prompting his wayward niece to recognize the true power of her Truthwitchery.
- Iseult underwent some character development, especially as she explored her curious relationship with the Puppeteer, but I personally feel that we’ve only just scraped the surface of Iseult’s story, and her budding powers, which are clearly more than that of a simple Threadwitch. Within Truthwitch, Idealt’s true impact came through her relationship with Safiya, and the sway she held over her friend’s development.
- Merik was a truly interesting, complex character. While he clearly has his morals and means to uphold them, he also seems willing to bend the rules in order to support Nubrevna. It’s clear that he loves his country and his people, and that, more than anything, he wishes to see Nubrevna whole and prosperous again. Through his relationship with his crew, Kullen, Safiya and Iseult, you really get a window into his motivations. Merik will do anything for his love- his love for his Threadbrother, for his country, and for his crew.
But really, I loved these characters not only because of the complexity of the individual characters, but also because of their relationships with one another and the other characters.
- The whole Threadsister/brother/Heartthread thing was really interesting to me. It added a physical dimension to the relationships (of which Iseult was also observant), and made the commitments between characters seem more binding.
- The relationship between Iseult and Safiya was very much a balancing act. Hot to cold. Light to dark. As the Cahr Awen should be, from what I gleamed. They are each other’s opposites- the Threadsisters complete one another. And their devotion to one another, above all else, really drives the reader to love them.
- Similarly, the relationship between Merik and Kullen was just as intense, and just as loving. The Threadbrothers are clearly devoted to one another, and would support each other in everything. Their fate, Merik’s final “No”, literally broke my heart. And just made me love both of them even more.
- Safiya and Merik’s relationship was also one of particular interest to me, and not only because of the budding romance between them. Through her relationship with Merik, Safiya was able to grow, to mature, and to understand what her role could be in shaping the world. Her feelings for Merik, and his for her, pushed her to take action and take the world in her own hands. I really love when authors write empowering relationsips, instead of ones which morph into dependency as soon as the female character admits to loving the male. Safiya is so much more than that, and her relationship with Merik cannot define her power.
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved this book. Really, the worst thing I can say about it is that the sequel won’t be released until January 3, 2017. Which is really horrible, because I am not a patient person and I need more of Iseult, Safi, Merik and the Witchlands in my life, ASAP. So until then, you’ll find me (outside) reading May and the rest of the summer away.