“Veñaza City Guard!” came a muffled voice. “Open up! We saw you break in!”
Iseult sighed—a sound of such long, long suffering.
“I know,” Safi growled, sliding the last button in place. “You told me so.” (33)
Truthwitch is the newest addition to my list of “favorite fantasy books with strong female MCs”, and I flew through this on a buddy-read with the wonderful Esmée. Dennard has created a clever new magic system, a rock-solid female friendship storyline, and thrilling scenes that set an addictive plot pace.
The twists in this book were half the fun, but here’s a short blurb: Safi and Iseult are threadsisters, bound together the day Iseult saved Safi’s life. Hailing from opposite ends of the social ladder, both girls have spent years hiding their magical powers from the world (but training together in weapons and self-defense, just in case). Safi, a rare truthwitch, makes all decisions with her emotions; Iseult, a threadwitch, with her logic and planning. After they attract the deadly attention of a bloodwitch during a botched robbery, they must flee for their lives.
I loved the multiple POV of this book. We see the world through Safi, Iseult, the bloodwitch Aeduan, and Safi’s swoon-worthy kidnapper/rescuer/ship captain/prince Merik, and each scene revealed just a little more of the MC’s background and internal motivations. It particularly helped us grasp how ridiculously strong Safi and Iseult’s friendship is, and I could not get enough. I loved how they were “best together”, where each girl’s weaknesses were complemented by the other’s strengths. There was never doubt the other wouldn’t have their back or best interests at heart. I do wish they had trusted sharing info with each other more, particularly crucial information like Iseult hearing a voice in her head, but this is more of a personal pet peeve (I hate when characters need to share a crucial story element and refuse to). I am curious if the sequel will see them develop more fully as individuals (but please still retain their devotion to each other!).
The tension between Safi and Merik throughout this book gave me life. I love how Safi doesn’t need him, but will still concede to teaming up. Their back-and-forth banter (starting with the very first button scene) was on point. I specifically like how they didn’t go through the “misunderstanding leads to temporary hatred” trope; during their misunderstanding, each POV revealed they were internally conflicted and both sides readily accepted an apology without an annoying amount of insistence on its sincerity.
“I see,” she drawled, “that you have learned how to work a button. Congratulations on this no doubt life-altering feat.”
He laughed—a surprising sound—and bowed his head. “And I see you have cleaned the bird crap off your shoulder.”
Her nostrils flared. (110)
This new magic system was so interesting. Safi’s ability to sense someone’s truthfulness was useful, as was Merik’s ability to control the winds. However, the concept that each person is made up of threads that reflect their true feelings and can be read by threadwitches was fascinating. Dennard very slowly introduces bits of information as the story progresses, creating an addictive need to keep reading. There’s still a great deal to be learnt about this system (how do threadsibling bonds form vs soulmate bonds vs marriage bonds?), which ups my anticipation for the next book.
I loved Dennard’s writing style. Her use of italics and casual dialogue among the characters felt very informal and natural. The scenery building was vivid and easily visualized, particularly when Safi reached Nubrevna for the first time and witnessed the death and destruction. Dennard used little info dumping, and where it did exist, it blended well into the style and discussion within the scene. It was very easy to lose track of time while reading this book due to this immersive style.
So much is left open-ended in the most fantastic way. The plot was well-controlled, so I’m not frustrated by how much I don’t know but rather incredibly excited for the sequel. There were a couple of unexplained holes, most notably for me how Iseult could have a threadstone linking her to Safi when, as a threadwitch, her threads are invisible, but I just had so much fun reading this book. As an entertaining, fast-paced fantasy read with an incredibly strong female friendship, this was perfect.
Also — Evrane was fantastic and wonderful and fierce and devoted and hopeful and everything I want in a character – thumbs up for older warrior women still kicking butt!