So on reflection this is probably one of those books that is a four star Ashley book, but maybe not a four star Everybody Else book. I’m just super susceptible to this kind of shit–shit the author described on her Reddit AMA as “Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Sabriel.” I mean, could you dangle that bone in front of a more willing target? I don’t think so.
While I’m not sure I quite get the connection to Sabriel, the A:TLA inspiration is clear. Truthwitch is the first book in a projected four book young adult fantasy series, in which two girls with magical powers are born into a world where three Empires are constantly vying for power and war is a looming threat. Magic is not uncommon in this world. It’s called ‘witchery,’ and there are five basic types (essentially the four elements plus a fifth more intangible one Dennard refers to as the Aether).
The main viewpoint character of this first book, the titular ‘Truthwitch’, is Safi. Being a Truthwitch, gifted with the ability to see if someone is telling you the truth, and to see into someone’s character, is something she’s closely guarded her whole life because if people knew about her powers, they would try to capture her and use her for their own ends. Her best friend (her ‘Threadsister’, but more on that later) is Iseult, a Threadwitch who can see the connections between people and visualizes their emotional states as threads intertwining. Together, the two girls become embroiled in the escalating war, and are soon engaged in a cat and mouse chase with a scary dude called a Bloodwitch as they are ferried across the ocean to safety. Safi is emotional, headstrong and a hard worker, but a bit flighty; Iseult is calmer and cooler and has a head for tactics and strategy. Together, they make a great team, and their friendship is probably the highlight of the book. (We also get POVs from Iz, the ship’s captain who is tasked with getting them to safety, and the Bloodwitch himself.)
The thing is, despite being sort of derivative, this book was a really fun read, and I read it so, so fast. Like, maybe under four hours. I couldn’t stop myself. But this book was also sort of a mess, which I disregarded because I was having so much fun. The worldbuilding is haphazard, and only really worked for me because I’d read books like it before and could extrapolate. The plotting is also insane. One crazy thing after another happens until it’s just escalation after escalation. There is no down time, no small character moments. It’s all BAM BAM BAM. There is three books worth of action crammed into this thing, and so the big emotional moments don’t hit very hard when they come. The book also suffered a little by having its main character be the least interesting one, although Safi does have an actual character arc that ends up being pretty satisfying. (Luckily, I believe Iz, who is the most interesting by far, will get her own book in the future.) It’s also pretty predictable. But still, the writing itself is nice, I liked the characters, the dialogue, the setting. And the villain ended up being pretty intriguing, with connections to the Big Bad of the series.
If you like YA fantasy, you should probably check this book out, because if you don’t mind the complaints I listed above, you’ll have a lot of fun with this book.