Truthwitch: A Review

Truthwitch by Susan DennardMagic is as common as breathing in the Witchlands. But not all witcheries are created equal as two Thread Sisters know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch able to use her magic to tell when someone is lying to her while Iseult is a Threadwitch able to see the threads that bind everyone together–except for her own.

Together, they have spent years keeping Safi’s witchery a secret, knowing that it could be seen as a valuable tool or a dangerous weapon. Safi and Iseult are used to getting into trouble as they prepare for the life they’d like to lead together free of societal obligations and pressures.

When a Bloodwitch catches Safi’s scent, both girls are forced into hiding as fugitives. With the help of their witcheries and unlikely allies including a Nubrevnan captain (and Windwitch) named Merik, Safi and Iseult might be able to survive the storm that is coming. But only if they can manage to stay together in Truthwitch (2016) by Susan Dennard.

Truthwitch is the start of Dennard’s new Witchlands series.

This book is written in alternating close third-person perspectives. The majority of the story follows Safiya and Iseult although Merik and Aeduan (the Bloodwitch) also carry key parts of the narrative.

In any ensemble book, there is the risk that one character will be more appealing than others. That risk is compounded when the character is decidedly not the center of the narrative. Given the strong theme of friendship and camaraderie, it’s easy to argue that Safi and Iseult are equally important to the story. On the other hand, in a book called Truthwitch, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the story revolves around the decidedly less interesting Safi instead of Iseult.

Many novels are based on the idea that the main character is unique or important. Safi, as a rare Truthwitch, is both. She is also, like many of these same unique and important characters, essentially the worst at what she does. Safi tries to keep her witchery a secret. She fools no one. Safi tries to save her friend. She almost gets that friend killed. In other words, Safi is reckless and thoughtless and shows almost no growth by the end of Truthwitch.

Breakneck pacing and a shoe-horned romance (plus fairly clear foreshadowing of future “ships”) flesh out the story without much nuance. While Dennard has created a complex world with well-researched details, Truthwitch never lingers long enough on any one piece to let readers appreciate these details.

Truthwitch is an interesting start to a new series sure to appeal to readers looking for new lighter fantasy fare. Ideal for readers seeking an action-heavy, plot-driven story.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Roar by Cora Carmack, The Reader by Traci Chee, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

* An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

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Throne of Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasAfter a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier, assassin Celaena Sardothien knows better than to expect glad tidings when she is summoned at sword-point.

Much to her surprise, the Crown Prince Dorian has come to offer a deal: her freedom in exchange for acting as Dorian’s champion in a competition to find a new assassin for his father, the king.

Celaena has no love for the king and no desire to work for him. But freedom is a tantalizing thing after a year in Endovier and one competition is a small thing to come between Celaena and her freedom.

While her rivals in the competition are as unimpressive as she expected, court life is duller than she could have imagined. The boring castle particularly chafes when she is kept under lock and key by the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, who acts as her trainer when he is not watching her like a hawk. (As if he could stop her escape if she really set her mind to it!)

Then again, Celaena could still be working in the salt mines.

Just as the assassin is beginning to appreciate how easy her new life can become, one of the other contestants turns up dead. And then another. Are the murders to do with the competition? Or is something darker at work somehow tied to the disappearance of magic from the kingdom? If Celaena wants to make it to the end of the competition with her freedom and her life she’ll have to do more than win–she’ll have to find a murderer in Throne of Glass (2012) by Sarah J. Maas.

Throne of Glass is Maas’ first book. It is accompanied by a slew of e-book prequel/companions and was work-shopped years before publication online at the FictionPress community.

I came to Throne of Glass after a few disappointing reads that had left me wondering if I’d ever see a believable strong heroine again. While this book has other flaws, lack of a strong female character is definitely not one of them. Even when she is being obnoxious and brash Celaena is a capable, entertaining heroine (albeit one with a somewhat unlikely skill set at the tender age of eighteen).

Overall Throne of Glass is a decent if unexceptional read. Maas creates an interesting world that mostly makes sense. Time will tell if holes in the landscape come from lack of world building or lack of proper explanation in favor of plot suspense.

The story is on similarly uneasy footing: the story begins presenting Celaena, the competition, and her training with some back story mysteries from Celaena’s past thrown in to taste. About a third of the way in, we get the strange addition of a murder mystery, a magical secret, and an unsatisfying love triangle.

I am never partial to books that change the story direction midway through, but it was a minor point since Celaena was so very likable. I could even overlook the painfully forced romantic scenes with Dorian and Celaena because it was so very obvious that Chaol was the superior male lead.

Then the mystery got thrown in.

Aside from being heavy handed right from the beginning, the mystery angle of the story was poorly handled. Celaena missed obvious clues. She jumped to conclusions. Worse, Celaena doubted not only the only character who had ever been unconditionally kind to her but also the singular minority* character in the story. Thus, in order to move the plot forward readers were presented with this clumsy change in Celaena’s personality.

Throne of Glass sits somewhere between high fantasy and more action driven stories. The premise is clever and Maas’ writing is lively. Readers who can look past everything to do with the sloppy mystery sub-plot will be rewarded with an enjoyable heroine in a somewhat disjointed but generally exciting narrative.

*Minority is a funny thing in a fantasy. Here what I mean is that Celaena and the kingdom where the story is set are predominantly white from what readers see. The “minority” character I mention is from a foreign kingdom and is described as having brown skin.

Possible Pairings: Roar by Cora Carmack, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*