I’ve decided to post this review in place of announcing the release of it’s sequel, Windwitch, next week. This is mostly due to my conflicting feelings about the book. Not the greatest of starts to the New Year.
Series: The Witchlands; Book 1
Author: Susan Dennard
ROTS Setting: UU, Higher Magic (sort of)
Synopsis: Safi and Iseult are Threadsisters and as close as any family could be. When they attempt to rob the wrong mark it is but the first act in a harrowing adventure that will take them further than they ever thought possible
Recommendation: I’m on the fence with this one. It’s not completely horrible, but it’s not very good either.
This is definitely a YA book. Every line, every thought, every mental picture oozes Young Adult novel. And YA and I have this love/hate thing going on. I love YA because the kid gloves are off so a decent story can be told but usually not too deep and generally an easy read…..but more often than not it’s full of hormone driven teens who can’t think straight let alone keep their pants on. Thankfully for this book the pants stayed on (but only barely) however it fell into many of the pitfalls all too common in the genre.
First, I did not like the style the author chose. It was too modern for something set in a pre-industrial world. The pacing was pretty much breakneck and the frequent action, while entertaining, didn’t allow for the tension to build so the ending was fairly anticlimactic.
I also didn’t appreciate the author choosing to replace “fuck” with “rut.” It was a lazy and intellectually dishonest tactic to keep the rating down. On top of that none of the times it was used needed any sort of profanity at all and it certainly didn’t add to the story.
I found the cultures and nations to be very flat/drab. The world was clearly based on real world cultures, nations and geography…..although slightly reworked, including names. Really it was the lack of the tiny little details which didn’t allow the world to feel alive.
The magic felt like a more complicated and complex version of bending from Avatar: The Last Airbender. You have elemental witches (like benders) but then others like Wordwitches, Truthwitches, and Bloodwitches. By the end I was still left with hardly any idea of what sort of thing may or may not be possible. Sure it’s mysterious but that could have been something to hook me if it had been done differently. Additionally, I assume Threads are important. They’re basically the emotions a person is experiencing but so much more is hinted and really felt underdeveloped and underutilized. Again, it’s there but lacking depth or even much more than the hints of potential depth. One of the main characters is even a Threadwitch capable of seeing and, I suppose, interacting with them.
There were so very few details.
Let’s talk characters. Sifa and Iseult are the two main characters. For the first three chapters I couldn’t distinguish between them and they are basically completely over-power which is only emphasized by the reckless pacing of the book. This greatly hindered character development and what little was developed came across feeling artificial. They we’re completely flat but they still didn’t feel organic and real, again the pace and lack of detail left little to work with.
As for secondary characters, Merik’s first chapter was perfect and riveting. Sadly he devolved into the horny boy-toy he was always destined to be. His temper while originally unique and oddly endearing became tantrums with startling quickness before morphing into pure lust. However, Aeduan is probably the best character in the book. He felt real and organic, his lack of details actually felt mysterious and his growth felt natural.
Lastly, the storyline. The first third of the book should have been it’s own book. That would have allow loads more time for world building and character development. I literally was reading through and thought I was at the end only to realize I still had two third of the book to go. As I said before, the pace was too fast and too frantic. There were 10 separate fight scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good fight scene, but that is too many for a book this size and so few details.
In summary, the book’s pace left little room for much else. The world and magic had untapped potential. The characters, while not bad, were largely forgettable and lacked depth. In the end, I’m left with little desire to read the next book but also see how some people may enjoy it.