There is a growing subgenre of Young Adult fantasy fiction that runs across fairly specific lines. Broadly, we meet a young female protagonist who lives in a world where magic is a thing, but not necessarily a good thing. Then it turns out that this young woman has a unique and different magic power that not only marks her out as different and dangerous, but also means that her personal relationships are spectacularly complex.
Truthwitch follows along this well established line of storytelling. The Witchlands is a place that enjoys a fragile peace. The thing that’s keeping everything from descending into war are the various witches. Most witches have one specific talent (more of a superpower than magic) and these include controlling the wind, sending messages long distance, being hard to kill and so on. The rarer your power, the more valuable you are. The main character, Safiya, is a Truthwitch. In short, she knows if you’re lying. Her best friend, Iseult, is a Threadwitch; she can see the complex bonds of fate and consequence between people. Given that they are both teenage girls with a distinctive edge when it comes to social interaction, wackiness ensues. Unfortunately for the pair, more than a few people would like to control a Truthwitch, and as the fragile peace begins to crack, the duo find that they have to work very hard to keep their freedom.
Despite its formulaic trappings, Truthwitch is a steady and highly engaging read. Of course, we know that the main character is going to fall for some powerful young man, and yes, at some point we expect one of the lead characters’ special abilities to be more trouble than it’s worth. The fact that we know these beats are coming doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable experience. Dennard breathes life into her protagonists, and it’s the relationships between these heroes that keep us turning the page. The dialogue is strong, clever and sweet, and though the world is nothing special, we care so much about the characters that we want to know more. Truthwitch is as good as it gets, and well worth a look.
TRUTHWITCH / AUTHOR: SUSAN DENNARD / PUBLISHER: TOR / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 14TH (HARDCOVER), AUGUST 11TH (PAPERBACK)