Ultimately all stories (real-life or fiction) seem to be power. Mainly the power to control ones own and/or other people’s lives. Sometimes that includes war between nations on the pretext of one person. In the case of Truthwitch, that person is Safiya fon Hasstrel.
In the Witchlands series there are three kinds of people: witches, norms and the Cleaved. You have to read the story to find out who the Cleaved are. Witches have all kinds of strange powers. Thus far, I know about Truthwitches, Sightwitches, Threadwitches, Bloodwitches, Windwitches, Earthwitches and Waterwitches. The types cover every degree and permutation within their category. The category witch people on the world of Truthwitch seem to know least about is Truth.
Truthwitches have not existed for about 200 years. That is, until Safiya became one. In the past, people in power wanted a Truthwitch by their sides because Truthwitches knew if people were lying. They were either loved or hated thing. Imagine politicians having to speak in front of congress/parliament knowing that a Truthwitch was there to “tell” on them. Or if you had a sister/father/daughter who happened to be one. Truthwitches were often murdered. Over those 200 years information about Truthwitches has been hidden or destroyed. All Safi knows about her powers is that they can tell whether any person is lying. Due to the danger, Safi tries to hide her witchery from as many people as possible. But she sucks at being inconspicuous. Fortunately, she has level-headed Iseult to hold her back. Sadly, there is only so much Iseult can do no matter how level-headed or good at strategizing she is.
Iseult is a Threadwitch. “Threads” are ties that bind people together and to life. Except for their own, other Threadwitches’ and those of Bloodwitches the world is filled with threads that Threadwitches can see. These threads bind people together to varying degrees, but can also be bound into stones to help members of a thread-family find each other. Unlike most Threadwitches, Iseult cannot make threadstones nor is she able to control her feelings (stasis) as much as a Threadwitch must to keep those around them safe.
Both women are trained in martial arts and fighting with various weapons. Both started fighting by themselves, but soon became an unbreakable team and later Threadsisters. The two of them have trained together for years, and that is the only thing that saves them when they are unfortunate enough to encounter the Carawen martial monk Aeduan. To make things worse for them, he happens to be a Bloodwitch, a type of witch no longer thought to exist. Bloodwitches can smell a person’s blood and the witchery within it. Like bloodhounds, they follow blood-smell across continents. It is debatable whether anything can kill them. Safi and Iseult fear Aeduan smelled their witchery and so they run, run, run. And they will need to run far as not only Aeduan, but also the guards, soldiers and Hell-Bards of Emperor Henrick end up being after them. And then, of course, come the Purists.
Purists are non-magical people who do not want others to have powers they do not have themselves. They are an odd and violent group. Real life history is full of what people like that are able to do in the name of “purity”.
Another important encounter for the two women is Prince Merik of Nubrevna who is a Windwitch. Windwitches control air currents. Prince Merik has been sent on a diplomatic mission to Emperor Henrick, except he has problems with his temper. Not setting air on the Guild leaders he is meant to make trade agreements with is nigh to impossible. To make matters worse, he already knows that most Guild leaders have no interest in a trade agreement with Nubrevna. In fact, the opposite is more likely. Nubrevna is full of magic but empty of most other things that keep people alive.
Truthwitch is the first story in what looks to be a 4-novel & 1-novella series. Number two, Windwitch, has already been published. According to Goodreads the next stories are titled Sightwitch (novella), Bloodwitch, and untitled. The story is written in third person – my favorite POV and has been well edited. Considering the people Dennard works with, anything else seems impossible. Its musicality drew me in.
Plotwise, Truthwitch has been told many times – both in fantasy and in real life. War, peace, growing up, freedom, starvation, death, love and hunting others are all topics we have heard before. As is magic. But the refreshing thing is our main pair, Safi and Iseult. They are both amazing and annoying at the same time. Humour abounds between them. Their support of each other, even when blame could be placed on the other person, is not often seen in teen fantasy.
I’m not sure any of the characters are particularly likeable from the onset. But they are fun all the way through. Even when I think they ought to be drowned. But then drowning does not always help get rid of them. What seems inevitable is that a pairing off of at least two of them will happen. It would be nice if it didn’t, or at least if it did not happen in the usual YA-fantasy manner = love-triangle. Truthwitch is one of the better stories I have read.
- Bulgarian: Сюзан Денърд; Веровещица; Translated by Александър Маринов; Егмонт, 2016 (Review)
- German: Schwestern der Wahrheit; Translated by Review); Penhaligon Verlag, 2016 (
- Polish: Prawdodziejka; Translated by Kołek Regina, Pawlak Maciej; SQN – Sine Qua Non, 2016 (Review Youtube)
- Romanian: Vrăjitoarea adevărului; Translated by Andreea Florescu; Nemira, 2016 (Review)
- Russian: Видящая истину; Translated by О. Грушевская; Издательство, АСТ, 2016 (Review)
- Turkish: Doğruluk Cadısı; Translated by Murat Karlıdağ; Novella Dinamik, 2016 (Review)
2 thoughts on “Dennard, Susan; Truthwitch (Witchlands I); London, Tor, 2016”
This sounds like an interesting read. Maybe I’ll have to check it out when I get some time.
At least it portrays women as more than people who need men to succeed. And as people who can be friends with other women without being mean or backstabbing. Just friends.
US YA fantasy seldom manages this. In fact, this is probably the first time I have seen it. So Dennard is to be lauded for being a forerunner for something healthier than what was. For US fantasy her writing was refreshingly feminist.