Truthwitch (Watchbands #1)
By: Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
This book has been a thorn in my book-reviewer side since June. Why, you might ask? Well, I’d answer, it was because I read it, and loved it, but couldn’t remember it well enough to write a review. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the book at all. (Long story short: I was reading this the same day I got a concussion, which apparently did strange things to my memory). Anyways, I finally managed to reread this book, and was pleased to find out exactly why I loved it in the first place.
This book honestly has everything a fantasy-lover like me could ever want. Unbreakable bond of female friendship? Check. A sparks-fly kind of love interest? Check. Piracy? War? Prophecy? Weird magic? Highway Robbery? Yes, yes, yes, and overall just yes. I felt like this book was written just for me, even though I know it’s not.
Let’s start with what grabbed me from the get-go, the characters. Safiya and Iseult are total opposites, but it’s clear that they share a truly unshakeable bond. From the first page, you get to see how well they work together, how know each other so well that they can basically predict what the other one is going to do. What I truly adored is also how that bond is based on trust and loyalty. They know that they would die for the other, and that’s really the core of things.
Their friendship grants some stability to a really fast-paced plot. From the first page/highway robbery, the pace is intense. You can’t help but get caught up in the antics of the girls, the situations they end up in, and the very high stakes. The fact that everything is playing out against a backdrop of complex international politics just made it all the more delightful. There were a lot of twists and turns in the plot, enough to throw you without making you question the plot. And there were just enough moments where I was able to catch my breath, that I didn’t feel rushed. And the focus on Safi and Iseult kept everything just on the brink of total chaos, but not quite falling over it.
Part of this may have been that the world-building was skillfully done. The map/general political framework was close enough to Europe that I didn’t have to work too hard to figure out what Venaza City was supposed to look like. But there were just enough differences that things didn’t feel rote or predictable. The magic also had a solid structure to it, which I appreciated. The way that the world-building managed to fit into the plot was that it was largely inferential, but easy to infer. Susan Dennard leaned more towards the ‘show’ in ‘show vs. tell’, which I enjoyed. There were no long-winded monologues on magic, but there were enough details that you could figure out the role of magic in the situation where it was being used. Masterful.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t include a mention of the love story here. Merik was a character whose behavior and duality was fascinating to me. He was both rebellious and loyal, both thoughtful and active, both a dreamer and a doer. Oh, and he’s a ship captain *swoon*. What I loved, though, was how the sparks flew between him and Safi. For a large part of the book they genuinely couldn’t decide whether they loved or hated each other, and the tension was magnificent. Then when they finally decided to call a truce, I was reminded of the Southern phrase ‘to get on like a house on fire’, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And, although Safi and Merik are the obvious love interest here, there’s *something* going on between Iseult and the mysterious Bloodwitch Aeduan. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I know I want to find out.
Long story short, if you happen to be a fan of YA fantasy, you really, really need to read this. And then the two of us can exist in a state of glorious torture until Windwitch comes out.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.