Released in North America on February 13, 2018, Sightwitch by Susan Dennard is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands a year before the tales told in Truthwitch and Windwitch. The story is told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches – a voice which will quickly capture the reader’s attention, and keep them hanging on until the very last page.
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch… Before Merik returned from the dead… Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight. Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight-and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain. On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
Please note that this review is spoiler free!
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Sightwitch by Susan Dennard for quite awhile now – I absolutely fell in love with the idea of a novella about Ryber, and with the fact that this novella would include illustrations. I was lucky enough to receive an early preview of the first couple chapters of the Sightwitch novella, and after reading them, I was even more impatient to get my hands on this book! I loved Ryber’s unique narration, the use of illustrations as artifacts to support the story, and how this novella really contributed to the world-building of the Witchlands universe.
Ryber is undoubtedly the main protagonist of this novella, and her youthful and inquisitive perspective to the story is so refreshing. Other primary characters include Tanzi (Ryber’s Threadsister), Kullen Ikray, and Eridysi Gochienka (a famous Sightwitch who lived a thousand years before Ryber). Tanzi is Ryber’s opposite – whereas Ryber adheres to the Sightwitch rules with unwavering loyalty, Tanzi is more than willing to bend the rules. Where Ryber is serious and stoic, Tanzi is jovial and adventurous. Her perspective is a good balance to Ryber’s, and gives the reader a good perspective into aspects of the Sightwitch sister life. Eridysi Gochienka is, as mentioned, a famous Sightwitch who lived a thousand years before Ryber, and like Ryber, she does not possess the Sight that her other sister have been graced with. She is, however, a motivated inventor, who quickly becomes embroiled in a desperate political plot to escape the oppression of the ruling class. Her story parallels Ryber’s own, as she too struggles to save her people from an ominous threat. Finally, Kullen Ikray, everyone second favourite Nubrevnan, makes his appearance, albeit without his memories or knowledge of who he is. He joins Ryber on her quest to save her sisters, slowly rediscovering who he is along the way – and his presence reveals far more to Ryber about the nature of the danger she is facing than do any other occurrences in the novel. All the characters in this novella were enjoyable to read about, and each contributed to the story in a unique way.
“Love is love, and it is the most powerful connections we humans have” – Susan Dennard, Sightwitch, p.173.
As mentioned, the story is primarily told through Ryber’s journal entries, detailing how she became the last Sightwitch sister, but there are also entries from Tanzi (Ryber’s Threadsister), Kullen Ikray, and Eridysi Gochienka (a famous Sightwitch who lived a thousand years before Ryber). There are also ripped pages from essays, the rules of the Sightwitches, and Nubrevnan messages (from Merik himself!) , among other artifacts. These characters, artifacts, and the story told in Sightwitch flawlessly connected the story to the rest of the Witchlands series, resulting in a novella that is not just a side-story, but instead an integral piece of the series.
Finally, I know a lot of people were hesitant about this novella, but I really want to reassure readers – it is so worth it. Really – it is an integral piece of the series, and you need to read it. Plus – while many novellas are often a little too short, and overpriced, and don’t actually add much to the overarching story, the characters, or the series in general. But Sightwitch isn’t just a standalone story – it is flawlessly connected the story to the rest of the Witchlands series. It tells an important story that gives more power and meaning to the actions of many characters, and reason behind the whats and hows of many happenings within the Witchlands. And, as it is a 200+ page novella published in hardcover, its basically a novella, and there are stunning illustrations – all contributing to a fantastic novella and addition to this series.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend Sightwitch. It can be read as an introduction to the series (if you haven’t read Truthwitch or Windwitch yet), or can serve as a fantastic addition to the series, shining light on some of the finer aspects of the Witchlands. Really, Sightwitch is an intriguing and heart-stopping addition to the Witchlands series, and it’ll leave you wanting to both reread Truthwitch or Windwitch, and pining for the Bloodwitch.