By Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
To Sum It Up: Safiya and Iseult’s friendship can withstand anything, including life on the run when the ladies find themselves pursued by multiple parties. Safi’s Truthwitch magic, unknown to most, makes her the perfect political asset in a world that’s about to reach the end of a twenty year truce between empires. Prince Merik Nihar knows all too well the destruction of war, and his efforts to restore vitality to his ravaged homeland put him directly in Safi and Iseult’s path. Although they’re fiercely independent and used to relying only on each other, this time Safi and Iseult may need the outside help, as their current predicament is far from being one of their typical brushes with danger.
Review: With the massive marketing campaign that preceded its release, it was nearly impossible not to have heard about Truthwitch. What really sold me on needing to read this book, though, was its being compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender. You had me at Avatar: The Last Airbender because I. Love. That. Show. So the expectations were high for this one, and try as I did to keep them within reason, I think it’s always a bit of a challenge to not anticipate perfection or something very close to it from ultra hyped books.
Truthwitch wastes no time cutting straight to the action. Best friends Safiya and Iseult become wanted young women almost immediately after we meet them when their little attempt to recoup some gambling losses goes awry. This puts a mercenary monk named Aeduan hot on their trail with Javert-like doggedness, a chase that persists for the rest of the novel but for motives that shift over the course of the book.
While I loved the whirlwind pace of Truthwitch and the relentless action, I also found myself wishing for more exposition. Other readers have mentioned that the world-building was a bit lacking for them, and I’m afraid I agree. This world is busy, with quite a lot to absorb from the get-go regarding elemental magic and the politics of the Witchlands. I struggled to add everything up and often felt like I had plenty of puzzle pieces to work with but no matter how I arranged them, I couldn’t assemble a full picture.
As with Rebel of the Sands, I also wondered about the overall story arc for Truthwitch. The twenty year truce between the empires of the Witchlands is about to end, and war could be on the horizon. The potential for conflict eventually gathers steam, but for most of the book, it takes a backseat to Safi and Iseult’s adventures. Truthwitch is very much Safi and Iseult’s show, not that this is entirely a bad thing, but every time the pair wound up in a new predicament, I couldn’t help thinking, but where is this going? How does this latest narrow escape figure into the broader story?
My difficulties fully grasping the world aside, there was still much to enjoy about Truthwitch. Safi and Iseult’s friendship is by far the book’s highlight. These two share an utterly unbreakable bond; there’s absolutely nothing one wouldn’t do for the other. Readers whose hearts melted over the epic brotherhood between Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs in The Infernal Devices should be very happy here.
Truthwitch also boasts some witty dialogue exchanges, particularly those between Safi and Prince Merik, a Windwitch with a temper that ignites as easily as Safi’s does. They bait each other frequently, usually to hilarious effect. Merik’s aunt, Evrane, a Carawen monk like Aeduan but unlike Aeduan, not a threat to Safi and Iseult, was one of my favorite characters. Evrane is as badass a fighter as Safi and Iseult, and her relationship with her nephew kind of reminded me of Uncle Iroh and Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aha—I’ve made my AtLA connection!
The characters are what made this book for me, and I definitely have enough investment in them to continue with the series. I do hope, though, that the sequel provides some more backstory to the world, especially the inner workings of the magic. If that happens, this will be a knockout of a series.
All in All: While Truthwitch was a solid read overall thanks to the wonderful friendship, the strong female characters, and the clever banter, the world-building left me with more than a few unanswered questions. This may not be a big deal for some readers; I just happen to like my fantasy reads highly detailed, and this one was a tad light with the explanations in my opinion.