The Witchlands #1: Truthwitch: A Witchlands Novel by Susan Dennard (Tor)

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 Noelle’s minds is saving money for their planned future in the Hundred Isles. Noelle, 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 privateer) 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 one of the first novels released in 2016 that’s been massively hyped up and it’s been billed as an instant new classic by Sarah J. Maas, an author of the NYT bestselling Throne of Glass. Whilst it doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations it is still an imaginative, epic and exciting new novel, that hits the ground running for The Witchlands series.

One of the most interesting things that Truthwitch has is the fantastic magic system that Dennard has created here. It’s immersive and engrossing, and the pace never feels victim to fleshing it out and explaining how it works. Dennard handles the characters that are part of this world well. The main protagonists Safi and Noelle are part of the world where everyone is born with some kind of magic or “witchery” that enhances their lives and makes them stand out from the rest. Both two characters have different perks and flaws that come with their magic, and whilst Noelle is a Threadwitch with the ability to see emotional threads that bind the world, Safi has a far more valuable  and dangerous gift, that of the Truthwitch, which grants her the ability to know when a person lies or not. This forces her to spend most of her time in secret and in hiding, and even with the help of the Windwitch Privateer Prince Merik, it isn’t going to be easy for the characters who both find themselves tested and pushed to the limits throughout the pages for the novel.

The other categories that the witches could fall into are also interesting to note. As well as Threadwitches, Truthwitches and Windwitches there are also Airwitches (which have only a small difference to Windwitches) and each subtype allows for further explanation.

Truthwitch moves along at a quick pace with some great fight scenes and action. There is the inevitable romance and there are some scenes of ballroom dancing throughout the book, but it doesn’t overshadow just how fun Dennard’s novel is. However it’s not perfect. There’s a few tropes that it uses throughout the novel, and having the characters fall in love instantly is one of them. Safi and Merik fall victim to this which is unfortunate because Merik’s character isn’t as well developed as he could have been. Safi herself also suffers some problems from being the standard character with special gifts that young adult fantasy seems to be so full of, but just because these things are there doesn’t prevent this book from being a decent read.

The book makes the use of its nonstop action to be consistently entertaining throughout and chances are, despite whatever problems the book may have, it won’t bore you. It’s rare that I read a book nowadays with a female friendship as strong as the one between Safi and Iseult, and it really pays off over the course of the novel as these characters are thrust from one situation into another, rarely slowing down.

So Truthwitch may have its flaws but most people will be able to enjoy it. It’s entertaining, fun and a quick read, and for one of the first major releases of January 2016 (I read this shortly after it came out in the UK), Susan Dennard’s novel introduces us to an exciting Witchlands world that will hopefully be great to return to as I have faith that things can only get better in the second novel.

VERDICT: 7.9/10

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