Getting sucked into bookish hypes is so easy, but often not worth it. Esmée will look into these hypes for you, so only she has to potentially waste her time.
What’s this hype everyone’s talking about?
YA hypes come often and die quickly, but when Truthwitch took over my Goodreads feed in early January, I couldn’t help myself. Now I’ve been burnt many times, reading the next BEST YA novel to me feels like nothing special, so I was a little hesistant to try Truthwitch. After asking around on Tumblr, Sarah J. Maas calling it an instant classic and rave reviews on Goodreads, I knew I had to try it this one yet again. If you’re not well-versed in YA bookland, you might have missed this one, but the hype around Susan Dennard’s book was clear all over the internet. There was a massive marketing machine happening on Twitter which included readers and book bloggers picking their own witch clans and it was on many most anticipated YA books of 2016.
We’ve got it on the second try! Last time I said I would probably always tell you not to believe the hype, but damn it if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this book.
Truthwitch is part 1 of Susan Dennard’s new Witchlands series. The series is expected to be four books published between 2016 and 2019, so early fans are going to need a lot of patience. In Truthwitch you get thrown into the world of Safiya and Iseult (also prepare for a lot of names that you will not know how to pronounce. I suggest the audiobook if you want to get an idea of what everyone’s really called). Safiya is a Truthwitch which are thought to be extinct. This means that she can tell if someone’s telling the truth or not, but at the same time it’s very possible to trick her powers as well. Iseult is a threadwitch, which means she can tell from your ‘threads’ what you are feeling. So Dennard throws you into a world of magic and witches, all based on the cultures of old Austrian, Venetian and Ottoman empires. Safiya and Iseult are best friends that get into trouble and suddenly find themselves in the middle of an upcoming war between many nations. There are many more kind of witches, crazy animals (seafoxes anyone?) and loads of magic to tie it all together.
Truthwitch seems to embody everything that YA readers are looking for at the moment, so the writer was definitely on the ball here. We have two female main characters who have an actual awesome friendship and don’t just talk about boys all the time. Besides that we have many characters that come from different cultures, among which is our main character Iseult. Then there’s a lot of ass-kicking done by the women, there’s self-confidence, a positive portrayal of sexuality and many women who are in power. Hypable aptly calls it a fantasy saga for the feminist generation.
Now I hear half of you writing this book off as Tumblr dross, but then you are very clearly mistaken. Besides these very important points – which sets this book apart from many other YA fantasy novels – Truthwitch is also a good and exciting story. One of the things I liked most about it, is that Dennard trusts her readers to figure things out. She doesn’t explain too much about the world and just throws you right in the middle of all these crazy witches and warring nations, to fend for yourself. Truthwitch is exciting, filled with action and I honestly fear for many of the character’s lives. I don’t think Dennard will pull a GRRM on us, but I definitely believe that we are going to lose quite some of these characters throughout the series. The writing is good as well. I loved the banter between all the characters – Safiya and Iseult’s nagging and joking makes them feel like real friends – and there are plenty of romantic leads for you to ship the hell out of. I myself am holding out hope for Iseult and the blood monk called Aeduan (who hilariously gets called by this complete title almost every single time he appears), because he’s portrayed as pretty evil, but can’t seem to kill her. I foresee a lot of interesting ethical questions arising that Iseult is completely unequipped to handle.
Now for the criticism. Some of the writing could be a little too teenagy for mu taste. Especially Iseult had some eye-rolling moments for me whenever she was experiencing emotions (which is something threadwitches try not to do). The love at first sight between Safiya and Merik (the sexy Windwitch prince from a struggling nation who can’t keep his shirt one) is something I hear people moan about, but again their banter was too much fun for me to be annoyed by it.
Final Verdict time: Truthwitch is a great book, but I don’t think it transgresses the YA genre. So I would definitely recommend it if books by Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor make your heart flutter. However, if you think most of these stories about magical people being kick-ass and falling in love are beneath you, then just let this one be. You’ll miss out on something really cool, but being cool isn’t for everyone. The only caveat I have about recommending you this book, is that you will have to wait almost an entire year for part two and then a another year for part three and yet another year for part four. However, if you read it now we can commiserate about the publishing world not being like Netflix and allowing us to binge-read series. Why publishers, why?
Did you buy into the hype of Truthwitch and did you think it was worth it? Share your experiences in the comments!