About the Book

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
Published: 2016
Series: The Witchlands
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Waterbending
BFF Charm: Platinum Edition x2
Talky Talk: Magic and Mayhem
Bonus Factors: Friendships, Fresh Fantasy
Anti-Bonus Factor: Racism
Relationship Status: Buying Wedding Magazines

Cover Story: Waterbending

This cover definitely screams “this is a fantasy novel!” but I’m not entirely sure why it looks like the girl on it is controlling the water, as neither of the witches in the book is a Waterwitch (clarification on that below).

The Deal:

In the Witchlands, many people are born with magic. Some can control the weather, some can see the hidden connections between people, and some have even stranger—or rarer—gifts. Safiya is a Truthwitch, one of the most rare types of witch, and can sense when someone is lying to her. Because her gift is so rare, it’s also very valuable, so she’s kept it a secret from everyone but her closest friends.

Iseult is a Threadwitch who can see people’s emotions and the connections that they make with others. Which can be a problem when you’re a member of a race who is misunderstood and reviled by many.

Thrown together by circumstance, Safiya and Iseult quickly became close friends (Threadsisters, in fact) and partners in crime. But when one crime goes south, it threatens to unravel the many safeguards the two women, and their friends and family, have built.

BFF Charm: Platinum Edition x2

BFF platinum charm

Safi is the more outspoken of the two witches, and has the self-confidence to back it up. She’s not exactly humble, but not in a bad way; she merely knows what she’s capable of, and isn’t afraid to prove it. She can be rash and reckless at times, but that comes with the territory.

Iseult is the more cautious, quiet member of the pair, which might stem from years of dealing with (and literally seeing) racism and persecution. She’s often the brains to Safi’s brawn, but no less able to hold her own in a fight.

I would be friends with both women in a heartbeat, but would likely find it difficult to become such, given the relationship they share. Threadfamilies—the individuals in the lives of people from the Witchlands that they’re most closely connected to, regardless of blood ties—are serious business, and it can take a lot of time and effort to become a part of one. That said, I’d totally be content to be a fifth wheel on these ladies’ crew, they’re that awesome. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Safi and Iseult might think it’s best to go about their lives free from romantic entanglements, but chance encounters—or in Truthwitch’s case, a chance dance—can quickly throw best laid plans out the window.

Talky Talk: Magic and Mayhem

Although the main characters in Truthwitch are Safi and Iseult, a lot of other characters join them within the first few chapters, and their POVs are added to the two womens’. Thankfully, Susan Dennard has created a set of characters who are all different enough from each other that it’s easy to tell who’s who (even if you missed that first indication as to whose thoughts you’re reading). Additionally, all of the characters in Truthwitch, from Safi and Iseult to the most secondary of people, feel like real people, which makes for a more engrossing read. I connected to these people—even the bad guys—right away.

Dennard’s world-building is also fantastic. Fantasy novels can often fall prey to too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” Dennard avoids that, even as she sets a story in a world that’s unfamiliar to readers. I easily saw the landscapes and cities in my imagination, smelled the seas and other, more unsavory smells, and felt the action—and there was a lot of it—as it happened.

Bonus Factor: Friendships

Characters from Baby-Sitters' Club show sitting on a bed talking and laughing.

More than anything, the story at the heart of Truthwitch is the friendship between Safi and Iseult. It’s a friendship built on trust and love, and it’s both beautiful and realistic. It’s the kind of friendship that I think everyone wants with their friends.

Yesterday, I posted a Between Two Lockers with Dennard, and she had this to say regarding the importance of this kind of relationship:

I think it’s critical. I have an incredible network of female friendships, and they’ve been as important if not more important to me than my romantic ones.

We glorify romantic love—and I don’t think that’s a bad thing (I LOVE romance)—but I don’t see friendships glorified quite so often. At least not female friendships.

It’s awesome to see such a friendship in YA books, and am all for this becoming a trend in YA books in the future.

Bonus Factor: Fresh Fantasy

A castle on a hill with a large moon behind it.

Although the idea of people who control weather, emotions, etc. isn’t a new one in the fantasy genre, the way Dennard created an entire world around these abilities is a fresh spin on the idea.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Racism

cropped view of woman holding carton placard with stop racism sign on red background

Iseult comes from a nomadic tribe whose members look different than most of the people in the big cities of the Witchlands. Her position in the minority comes with a lot of terrible treatment at the hands of others. The reason behind this mistreatment and the longstanding beliefs that cause it isn’t really explained, but is totally (and unfortunately) believable for anyone who’s ever lived on Earth.

Relationship Status: Buying Wedding Magazines

I’d heard a lot of hype about you, Book, before we met. So I admit to being hesitant; I’ve been let down by advance hype before. Thankfully, you didn’t disappoint. And you introduced me to a new world that I’d love to dive into again and again and new characters that immediately found a place in my heart.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Tor Teen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Truthwitch is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.