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.
Truthwitch was an action-packed and entertaining series starter that leaves you wanting more at the end. This high fantasy series is set in the Witchlands where some are born with some form of elemental magic. The Twenty Year Truce in the Witchlands is about to come to an end and everybody is preparing for the descent into war. Our two protagonists, Safiya and Iseult, are thrown into the middle of all the plotting because of their highly coveted abilities and the story begins from there.
Basically, this book was a long survival and escape story. We see Safi and Iseult escape from their home in Dalmotti, where they are being hunted by a Bloodwitch and the Emperor, to the country of Nubrevna, aboard Prince Merik’s ship. Along the way, they encounter trouble and must use their training and rely on others to get out of sticky situations. This book was so action-packed and exciting. There are lots of things going on at the same time and there’s a sense of urgency and frenzy. But despite all the fast-paced action, the plot moves at a pretty slow pace. There isn’t actually very much going on in the book besides Safi and Iseult escaping from those who hunt them. There were quite a few plot twists in the book that kept me engaged but I didn’t find them to be particularly shocking. There were lots of things that I had predicted from the very beginning of the book. But having said that, the last third of the book was fantastic and I enjoyed every aspect of the plot during that last section.
The magic system in this book is very complex and I found it to be quite confusing at the beginning. You’re just thrown into the world with no clue as to what’s going on and there’s very little help from the author. I had to work pretty hard to figure everything out because it wasn’t very well-described or explained. I felt quite overwhelmed for the first 100 pages because a lot of terms were dropped and we were introduced to about 15 different kinds of witches. It was just overwhelming and confusing. However, it all slowly starts to make sense as you progress through the book. In terms of the actual world building, I had some of the same problems. There’s not very much information given about each of the empires or any of the conflict that they might have had. Despite the very elaborate map included in the book, I found the world building to be quite lacking. There was nothing that distinguished one empire from another and I didn’t have a clear sense of what each empire stood for. There was nothing about the history or culture of each empire.
“Because ‘just me’ isn’t who we are,” Iseult hollered back. “I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”
The characters were probably the standout aspect of the book for me. Safi and Iseult were both very fierce and independent characters and I enjoyed the close friendship they had. They were very loyal to each other and I loved how well they worked as a team and the dynamic between them. I liked Iseult a little bit better than Safi, because I found Safi to be a bit too impulsive and reckless. She didn’t seem to really care about the position that other people were in and how she could screw things up for them. But I did really appreciate her growth and the way she gradually started to recognise that her actions had consequences. Like I said, the whole friendship between the Threadsisters was really enjoyable, but I found that I didn’t completely understand what being Threadsisters meant. I mean, is it supposed to be an official bond like the parabatai in the Shadowhunter world? There wasn’t very much information given about Safi and Iseult’s pasts and I wished that we had gotten a little bit more. I also wanted to know more about their abilities. I couldn’t really see what was so special about Safi’s Truthwitch powers. I can understand why people want her abilities, but just because she can discern truth from lies, doesn’t mean she has to actually help them…
I really enjoyed a lot of the side characters too. Merik was a wonderful character who just came across as very noble and responsible. He knows what’s most important to him and he doesn’t stop working towards getting what he wants. I liked the slow burning romance that he had with Safi and that it didn’t overpower Safi’s friendship with Iseult or the plot of the book. Another character that I really liked was Aeduan. He’s a bit of an ambiguous character and is morally grey, but he has a lot of great moments in the book and I enjoyed the dynamics between him and Iseult a lot. Like I hardcore ship this. I’m not sure where his character is going in the next book, but I can’t wait to find out.
For me, this book does suffer a little from the Chosen One Syndrome, where Safi and Iseult are the special Chosen Pair, and everybody else has to sacrifice their lives to save them. Considering how great the secondary characters were, I didn’t think they needed to be pushed into the role having to risk their lives at every turn. It also doesn’t help that some of the characters are monks who have sworn an oath to protect the lives of the cahr awen, and have kind of made it their life’s mission to do so… But that’s a minor criticism.
Overall, this was a great book. I’m not sure that it lives up to all of the hype but I enjoyed it anyway. Hopefully the sequel will be a little bit stronger.