Series: Book #1 in the Witchlands series
Author: Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Format: Purchased Hardcover
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. 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.
Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.
Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
This book was a fast-paced fantasy book with twists and turns, epic friendships, magic, a world on the brink of war, and so much more.
I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. I thought that the plot of it was enticing, one that was developed in a uniquely magical world. It may not be the most unique magic system ever, but the way Dennard wrote the witchery – and how vast the witchery is – was in itself amazing. The plot kicks off with Safiya and Iseult on a traveling road trying to catch a person who stinted them with their money they had just lost the night before. But when a different convoy goes on the road, they know they’re screwed.
And the witch with the convoy can follow them – especially Safi – no matter where she goes.
It’s an intense opening scene filled with action and even in that first scene it really shows just how strong of a bond the girls have with one another; and it’s another reason why they’re Threadsisters – a link or bond between that is so strong that it cannot be broken.
And that’s actually one of my absolute favorite parts of this whole book: is the friendship. Not only between Safi and Iseult, but also between Merik and his Threadbrother, Kullen. I think that the way these people go about willing to die and do anything for their Threadbrother/sister is amazing and inspiring. Each pair completes the other in both personality and witchery. Where Safi is hotheaded and quick to act, Iseult is calm and strategizing. Though they feel lost without the other when they’re not in the same vicinity, it doesn’t mean that they can’t function without the other; they just prefer not to.
So let’s delve into the main characters:
Safiya fon Hasstrel is a domna of Cartorran. Now you’re probably like, what the hell does that mean? It pretty much means that she’s the Duchess of her country, so she’s a pretty noble lady. But she isn’t about that life. She’s wants her freedom and she wants to spend her freedom alongside Iseult where there are no rules or regulations and she can do whatever she pleases. She’s also a Truthwitch – the only known one of her kind – and that means she’s able to tell when someone’s lying or telling the truth – most of the time. Sometimes people believe so highly in what they’re saying that her witchery might say that it’s truth, when in reality it’s false, and vice versa. She’s a pretty headstrong person who’s also quick to anger, and she’s unafraid to act on any threats she may make to people.
I found Safi to be a very likable character, not only because of her wild personality, but also because later in the book she does recognize her own faults and she does her best to make them right. She’s fiercely loyal and protective over Iseult and would die for her, even if others’ lives are at stake. She can be very one-minded when it comes to Iseult, which again, can be both a pro and a con for her, depending on the situation.
Iseult det Midenzi is a Nomatsi, and Nomatsi’s are the outcasts of this world and often shunned by many, many people. She’s a Threadwitch, meaning that she is able to see the bonds between people whether it be bonds like Threadbrothers, Heart-threads for loved ones, hate, anger, relief, grief, etc, she can see them. The only ones she can’t see are her own and any other Threadwitch’s. She’s a very calm, level headed person, but life Safi she is fiercely loyal and protective of her Threadsister and would do anything and everything for her. She doesn’t so much want to be free like Safi does, but she does want to live her own life away from eyes that judge her for her appearance and away from the tribe that she ran away from years prior.
I really like Iseult as well and found that she was a great compliment to Safi. She has a few flaws, such as a stutter that comes out in high stress situations, or how she can’t make Threadstones (a Threadwitch trait). Part of that she harbors like baggage and regrets a lot of it greatly, but I think that she has a lot of unhidden potential and power within her that will unfurl in later books.
Prince Merik Nihar of Nubrevna is a Windwitch, meaning he can control the wind. He’s not the strongest Windwitch by any means, but he’s still able to control it with ease. He’s got a short temper and he finds it really hard to keep it under lock and key given certain situations. I actually found that to be a charming quality of his. He’s also very loyal to his country and he always puts his countrymen first. No matter what, he wants to serve his people and I think that really shows the kind of character he has. He may have a hard exterior, but he has a heart of gold, which I appreciate.
Aeduan is a Bloodwitch, meaning he can control people’s bodies once he has the scent of their blood. It also means he heals like nobody’s business and can survive even the worst of wounds. It’s actually a pretty epic witchery, if I do say so myself. He hunts fiercely after Safi throughout this book, and through all of that he does it by scent. He’s the kind of dark, brooding male that has a dark past, but gosh, he’s awesome. He’s a fierce fighter, able to use his ability to push his own blood and gain bursts of speed if needed, and so much more. He is a Monk of Carawen, though, and so he does have some duties that he lightly upholds. I’m really interested to see his progression in the series because, let’s be honest, he’s my favorite and I don’t even know why.
I loved the fast-paced action of this story and how so many places and people were tied together. I think that the world building was gradual and it told just enough detail to really give you a feel for the land, the countries, and how they work. I’m sure this will be built upon in the upcoming books.
The romance was also slow building, and I do have a theory about why they were connected so fast: maybe the threads, the bonds in this world, have a sort of snapping effect that once people are near each other their threads react to one another. And I think this is made even stronger if both have witchery. Just a theory, nothing major, but I did enjoy the romance because it was angsty and hot and heavy. Oh my.
There weren’t really any parts that I didn’t enjoy. I noticed one typo in the whole book, which isn’t horrible. I do have lots of questions though but not because they weren’t explained well enough or anything like that, it’s just some natural progression for the story and different branches of the storyline with how it will/could continue.
All in all I thought this was a highly enjoyable first installment in the Witchland series. The characters were fun and likable, the world was beautiful and continues to be built upon, the magic is wide and vast, and the epic friendships are what really make this story come to life.
I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it.
Accompanying video: Truthwitch Book Review | Spoiler-Free