YA Fantasy

My Review: Truthwitch (Witchlands #1): by Susan Dennard

Publish Date: January 5th, 2016
Number of Pages: 415 Pages
Publisher: Tor Teens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

A YA-Fantasy title with major potential!

It seems like there are so, so, so, so, so, so, so many fantasy-genre titles that have come out over the last couple of years, and I’m happy about it, but at the same time it makes me ask myself: which ones are actually worth reading?

It’s a question that’s been seriously stressing me out lately, and I’ll be honest, there are plenty of titles that I’m sure are just recycled spin offs of others and are filled with a lot of the same themes, character-arcs, settings, etc. Even the blurbs mesh together and sound the same at this point, and characters are only memorable if I have no idea how to even pronounce their name!

Don’t even get me started on how the titles have a variation of any of these words in no particular order: Throne, Sword, Glass, Storm, Glass, War, Thorn, Rose, Crown, Queen, Flame, Shadow, etc…

This title was one that I’d really questioned, and was really hesitant to open. The blurb didn’t blow me away, and everything just sounded unoriginal and just recycled material I’d read in other titles already. It’s Goodreads score was decent enough, and Sarah J. Maas hyped it up (before her and the author had a huge, mysterious falling out), plus I started seeing awesome fanart on Pinterest and Instagram, so I slowly warmed up to the book and decided fuck it, I’d give it a chance.

It was good, but not great. It has a lot of major potential, that is for sure, but nothing really amazed me or caused me to want to stay up until 4 am on a work night because I needed answers and not sleep. I say that with a grain of salt because I also have to take into account about trying to judge a series based off just the first books. I mean…look at any first book of a series you love, then think about either the latest or the final book if it’s finished. Was the first book absolutely eye-opening? did it make you excited? were the characters as amazing then as they are when it’s over? Odds are no, you read on and grew with the story as it’d developed and thats what made you love the book/series. Truthwitch wasn’t the most amazing book I’d read, but I can say I liked it well enough to care what happens next and want to read the next title someday!

One thing I appreciated about the author’s work is how she’d made sure to make her cast of characters incredibly diverse. This was as much for me to reference back to as well as anyone who wants to (feel free to bookmark the page), but here’s a rundown of the ethnic backgrounds of the main empires of the storyline and what they’d match up to in contemporary times:

Nomatsi: Eastern Asia

Nubrevna: Mediterranean/ Greek/ Spanish

Cartorra/ Dalmotti: Austrian/ Venetian

Marstoki: Mixed Races of darker skin, eyes, and hair

The author goes into detail about all this HERE on her Tumblr page for anyone who wants to look for themselves!

And now, onto the story!

What It’s About:

Map of the world of the Witchlands, image courtesy of the Witchlands wiki page

Truthwitch takes place in a world known as the Witchlands–seriously–and is ruled by three empires: Marstok, Dalmotti, and Cartorra. There are regular people, but there are also those with special abilities that put them in a class all their own. For the past 20 years, the three empires had been involved in a truce to not go to war, but times almost up, and tensions have risen to their boiling points, and not everyone may be renewing the contract.

The story revolves around two young women, Safi and Iseult, who come from different backgrounds, but had become best friends through training under the same mentor who’d helped them master both their special abilities.

Safi: blonde, tan, hot-headed, and of course beautiful, is a Truthwitch – someone who can sense if someone is lying, and it’s a power that is an extremely rare gift, which makes her extremely sought after by many powerful forces.

Iseult: pale, narrowed eyes, smart and strategic, calm and collected, and dark hair is a Threadwitch – someone who see’s invisible ties like string that bind those closest to her, meaning she knows where they are and what they feel.

They both fight for the chance to earn a simple and free life away from all the politics, the overpowering rule, but with war threatening to erupt, plans are quickly extinguished. The two of them find themselves working with Prince Merik–A Windwitch and ship’s captain– as they travel to foreign lands and see for themselves the world they’d only begun to understand. Meanwhile, a vengeful Bloodwitch –Aeduan–hunts each of them to try and return Safi to powerful rulers who want nothing more than to use her as a weapon!

What I Liked:

  1. The Various Point-Of-Views! I’m always a big fan of these kinds of fantasy novels, it’s like you’re getting multiple mini stories in one big book! I love when they intertwine and events from one point of view can become a big plot point for another point of view later on in the series. Safi, Iseult, Merik, and Aeduan were all the different perspectives of this story, and I personally liked Safi and Aeduan the most. Safi was a little clichĂ©d, but I like her spunk and her dynamic with Iseult was fun to read. Merik seemed too moody and annoyingly angsty most of the time despite how I did like how everything he did was for the welfare of his kingdom and his people. Iseult is a great character, but I found her storyline to be a little lacking since she was injured in a bed for a good chunk of time, hopefully she gets more time to shine in the next title!
  2. The Theme of Female Friendship! It’s a major theme of the book, and something that anyone can enjoy if they’re fans of Fantasy, or fiction in general. It’s something we see surprisingly little of, where friendship is a theme or main focus of the overall story. Sure, it’s there in plenty of titles, but it doesn’t get as much attention. It would be cool if it’d possibly be an LGBT F/F relationship, but there are other titles out there that include that too, so I’m good with platonic friendship!
  3. The Diverse Cast! The author made it a point to not white-wash her cast, and instead made sure to make sure about 80%–my own estimate–are POC.
  4. Aeduan! He’s by far my favorite character of the book! He’s a Bloodwitch and a Carewan monk, and has an air of mystery to him that I liked. He’s technically a villain, but will probably have a similar arc to Magnus Damora from Falling Kingdoms and go from villain to anti-hero. Sure, he seems like an Assassin’s Creed knockoff with his white cloak and the fact that he’s a hired assassin, he still has some major potential to be an incredibly memorable character in this whole series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Insta-Love…Well, it wasn’t outright, but it was obvious that something shifted between Merik and Safi the instant they’d met, and then danced together at a ball. The way the author wrote it was similar to a storm out at sea, making it sound like it was this epic thing with sweeping winds, harsh thunder, dark clouds, and the earth shaking, and even if the characters themselves didn’t realize their feelings for each other, it was an insta-love for us as the readers…ugh.
  2. Off To A Slow Beginning…After the initial setup at the beginning, the book felt slow to me. It was hard for me to get fully engaged in the story until after the halfway point. It was there that I’d gotten more attached to the characters and felt like the story had gotten more interesting.

Conclusion:

Overall, I can honestly say this novel has a lot of potential. It’s nothing too spectacular or mind-blowing, but I also say that knowing that nowadays, it’s incredibly difficult to be able to sum up a series from just the first book. I remember the first book of a lot of series I consider my favorites: both the Throne of Glass and even Harry Potter first books left me feeling like there was more to be desired, and look how they turned out…two of the most popular YA fantasy series of all time.

Truthwitch leaves you just curious enough to want to read on and see what may possible happen next. It’s filled with imagery and themes that are both familiar and somewhat new as well, and while I felt I wasn’t fully engaged for a good chunk of it, the positive definitely outweighs the negative.

I recommend this title to anyone who enjoy strong heroine-centric YA fantasy titles written by authors like Sarah J. Maas (who has an interesting past with this author), Kristin Cashore, Victoria Aveyard, Richelle Mead, Tamora Pierce, and Cassandra Clare (But I can at least say the writing is better than some of these names mentioned). Truthwitch is filled with adventure, action, complex and engaging relationships between it’s main cast of characters, and like I said earlier, the promise of more; let’s hope this series continues to improve as it develops!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of of Instagram account: @darkfaerietales_

This series is about a young assassin named Calaena Sardothien, who’s been trapped at a concentration camp for over a year before she’s hand selected by the crown prince, Dorian Havilliard, to be his champion in a tournament in order to be the king’s royal assassin and eventually gain her freedom. Without giving too much away for those that haven’t read it yet, SO much more happens in this series, and we’re introduced to a lot of memorable characters:

My review of book #1 –Throne of Glass – Click here!

My review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click here!

My review of The prequel – The Assassin’s Blade -Click here!

My review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click here!

My review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click here!

My review of Book #5 – Empire of Storms – Click here!

My review of book #6 – Tower of Dawn – Click here!

My review of book #7 – Kingdom of Ash – Click here!

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Calaena Sardothien: Amber Heard, or Samara Weaving

Amber Heard, credit to owner
Samara Weaving, image courtesy of celebmafia.com

Both these blonde bombshells have that little fire in their eyes that perfectly encompass our main protagonist, Calaena! Amber Heard has been in Pineapple Express and Aquaman, and Samara was in the Netflix Halloween flick, The Babysitter. Amber was my original choice when I read the series over the years since while they were published, but I discovered Samara recently and thought she’d also make an excellent Aelin!

Dorian Havilliard: Chace Crawford, or Karl Kugelmann

Chace Crawford, image courtesy of stars-arena.com

So ever since I watched him be pretty boy Nate Archibald in the CW’s Gossip Girl back in the day, Chace has been a favorite of mine! he’s got the charm, he’s got the smile, and to help further my justification, it was the image of him below that had me sold on him being my Dorian!

Karl (below) is a model/Tik-Tok creator/influencer (I also can’t believe that’s a thing), and he is so stunning that I actually tear up a little if I look at him for too long! He’s like if Ian Somerhalder and Matthew Bomer had a baby together, and a lot of people are also fancasting him as Rhysand from SJM’s other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I see that, but personally, I think he encompasses our dashing Dorian Havilliard just a tad more.

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

Chaol Westfall: Steve Boyd

Credit to owner

The guys no actor; he’s a model I found on Instagram, but he’s my version of the proud and stoic Chaol Westfall. You don’t see it in the first image I selected, but Steve has that smoldering gaze that made it easy for me to select him as another one of my favorite male SJM characters. To further prove my point, here are some more images below to enjoy for your own eyes, and maybe see where I’m coming from…you can thank me later 😉

For all images: Credit to owners

Nehemia Ytger: Antoinette Robertson

Image courtesy of actress’s Instagram account

I love her portrayal of Coco Connors in Netflix’s TV show Dear White People, so I know she’s not afraid to play a strong woman of color. She’s absolutely gorgeous, and has such a glamorous presence on screen; she’d be perfect to to play Princess Nehemia!

Kaltain Rompier: Camilla Luddington

Image courtesy of gotceleb.com

She’s tough and spunky Jo Wilson on the later seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, but I feel like she’d also be able to play the catty and brash Kaltain. Her character starts off as the basic, interchangeable mean girl trope, but becomes much more compelling as you read Queen of Shadows, and that is where I think Camilla will excel at this role.

The King of Adarlan: Alan Van Sprang

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

He’s played a brutal king on the CW’s Reign, plus other titles too, so I know he’d be great at playing the sadistic King of Adarlan! Not the most original casting, I know, but the guy plays corrupt men on the thrown so well, I felt like some of us would be disappointed if he didn’t get the role!

Nox Owen: Bernardo Velasco

Image courtesy of the model’s Facebook page

I’d hoped Nox would play a bigger role in the whole series because I really liked the time we had with him, short and brief as it was, but I could totally see this handsome model play the part of Nox.

Sam Cortland: Sam Claflin, or Cameron Cuffe

Sam Claflin, credit to owner
Cameron Cuffe, image courtesy of gettyimages.com

Both actors just fit the description I had pegged for the one character who everyone loves but only a few actually meet (At least those who read The Assassin’s Blade), and both actors have the ability to teach me love, teach me patience, and teach me pain with Sam’s terrible fate.

Archer Finn: Armie Hammer

Image courtesy of thefashionisto.com

Archer is a total pretty boy, plain and simple. He’s a male escort in Rifthold, and Armie is just so delicious to look at, and he’s surprisingly not as old as he actually looks! I’ve seen him in The Social Network, The Lone Ranger, and Call Me By Your Name.

Queen Elena: Amanda Seyfried

Image courtesy of thesharenator.com

A lot of people have fancasted her as Calaena and/or Aelin, but I always thought she seemed too old for that part. With her being put into the list of possible names, I just came up with the idea of the actress from Mean Girls, In Time, Mamma Mia, Jennifer’s Body, and Red Riding Hood would be better suited to play the first queen of Adarlan!

Duke Perrington: Stellan SkarsgÄrd

Image courtesy of hollywoodpicture.net

Stellan is a terrific actor, even if he’s never been an actor who I seek out whenever finding a movie to watch. I imagine Duke Perrington to be this more portly nobleman who just has foot soldiers do all his dirty work, but actually has SO MUCH GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE, I”M NOT SPOILING IT BUT OH MY GOD, please appreciate the meaning of that sentence!

Sorscha: Kelsey Asbille

Image courtesy of ign.com

I loved her as Gigi in One Tree Hill, and immediately thought of her as the healer we meet in Heir of Fire who also becomes a love interest to our favorite Prince, Dorian.

Rowan Whitethorn: Chris Hemsworth

Credit to owner

Watching him play the god of thunder, Thor, in the MCU movies was what really gave this idea to me. I mean, he had such gorgeous long locks of hair that were so similar to Rowan’s when we initially met him in Heir of Fire, and I’d hoped he’d have kept it a little longer than he did, but nonetheless, he’s beautiful no matter what length it is! But since everyone is so NOT for this choice, here’s a visual of Thor’s hair both long like Rowan’s in Heir of Fire, and shorter like it is in Queen of Shadows and further on:

Credit to owner

Aedion Ashryver: Josh Upshaw, or Christopher Mason

Josh Upshaw, credit to Owner
Christopher Mason, credit to owner

Both highly agreeable options to play Aedion, I feel no need to further justify!

Lysandra Ennar: Megan Fox, or Phoebe Tonkin

Megan Fox, image courtesy of cosmopolitan.com
Phoebe Tonkin, credit to owner

Despite people not seeming to be big of fans of Megan Fox, I’ve always liked her in whatever film I’ve seen her in. She’s type-casted as the bitchy hot girl, and Lysandra definitely starts off as that, but it’d be a great bridge for Megan, who has more ability than just being the same role! Phoebe is another great choice; catch her in the CW’s The Vampire Diaries and its spinoff, The Originals.

Manon Blackbeak: Catherine Joy Perry

Image courtesy of the WWE Superstar/model’s Instagram profile

So I follow SJMaas on Pinterest, and she’d pinned images of caucasian girls playing Manon, and not east asian actresses like others are casting her as. I won’t knock anyone who chooses their own fancasts, but I’m just personally going with the author based on her own visual cues.

Asterin Blackbeak: Teresa Palmer

Image courtesy of ranker.com

Another fancast option that’s been mentioned for Calaena and Aelin, so I had her included in my casting as the Second-in-Command for the Thirteen in the Blackbeak clan.

Lorcan Salvaterre: Henry Cavill

Credit to owner

I love this man…with his Netflix show, The Witcher, showing him in his white wig as the main character, Geralt, and EVERYONE was instantly like “IT’S ROWAN!!!!“… Not me, I’d already had him casted as my Lorcan!

Fenrys Moonbeam: Jason Momoa

Image courtesy of usmagazine.com

Fenrys was by far the hardest character to cast! First, not enough artists have commissioned fanart of him, and no one else has given me satisfying fancast options of him either! Jason Momoa came up because he’s a person of color, he’s can show the cockiness to match, and Aquaman here is also just plain gorgeous! I like him being my Fenrys; give me a better actor’s name, I dare you!

Gavriel: Charlie Hunnam

Image courtesy of moviestillsdb.com

He’s been in the show Sons of Anarchy and the Guy Ritchie directed flick, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He’s got a more mature look, so I thought he was an actor of proper age to play our calmer member of the Cadre, Gavriel.

Blackbeak Patron: Jessica Lange

Image courtesy of gala.de

She’s an icon, plain and simple. Jessica usually plays homophobic old women in her roles, but I can look past that for the sake of having her play an ancient, but powerful Ironteeth Witch and patron of the Blackbeak Clan. I’m literally getting chills just thinking about it!

Elide Lochan: Nina Dobrev

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Everyone knows her as Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce on The Vampire Diaries, but now you can also picture her as the resourceful and courageous Elide Lochan! Both characters know they aren’t the strongest players in the game, but that doesn’t stop them from sticking it to the big male alphaholes who continuously underestimate them.

Nesryn Faliq: Liza Soberano

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Liza has beautiful Filipino features, and she was someone who I thought of to play the master archer, Nesryn. It’s up for debate what ethnicity she technically falls under, but I’ve always pictured her having more eastern Asian features in her appearance, plus there’s plenty of fanart to back me up, so I’m sticking with my choice!

Ren Allsbrook: Alex Libby

Image courtesy of selectmodels.com

Ren isn’t described a whole lot in the books, so I feel like it can be pretty up in the air with whoever would portray him. I had a major crush on this model around the time we met this character in the books, so I just put a face to the name at that time. This choice could really be anyone!

Ansel of Briarcliff: Rose Leslie

Image courtesy of vk.com

If not Sophie Turner, I believe the role of Ansel should go to the other fiery redhead in Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie! I loved her portrayal of Ygritte in the hit HBO series, and even though Ansel is a little more refined and less rough around the edges, their spunk and confidence is what made this choice for me!

Queen Maeve: Kate Beckinsale

Credit to owner

When her most famous roles include movies like the Underworld films and the Van Helsing flick with Hugh Jackman, It’s no surprise that this gorgeous, British bombshell should play the High Queen, and one of Aelin’s biggest enemies!

Erawan: Alexander SkarsgÄrd

Image courtesy of the actor’s official Facebook page

This is more for when we physically meet (one of) the King of the Valg, and big villain of the series, in Empire of Storms. I believe the host he took over was described as statuesque and blond and beautiful…um, so basically Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd then! I find it funny that I have two SkarsgĂ„rd brothers to play the big boss villain!

Captain Rolfe: Theo Theodoridis

Credit to owner

Theo is a model I found on Pinterest of all places, plus I do believe digital artist @morgana0anagrom kind of based her commission the character off him too, so he’s a choice for me to play the Pirate Lord who we first meet in both The Assassin’s Blade, and then later on in Empire of Storms!

King Gavin Havilliard: Wes Brown

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

This was just kind of random choice to be completely honest, I believe I was watching Private Practice on Netflix around the time I met him in the books, as Wes was a guest star on it, and he had similar features to Dorian, so that’s how I made the choice!

King Brannon: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Image courtesy of randomhotguy.blog

Love, Love, Love him as Jaime Lannister! I think by the time we get a surprise appearance of this character in the series, I was just looking for any character I could have Nikolaj play. If not King Brannon, he could also play a good Gavriel too I think!

Galan Ashryver: Jay Byars

Image courtesy of smgmodels.com

Another character who really anyone could play I feel like…Jay was another model I discovered on Instagram around the time I met Galan in Heir of Fire, so that’s how I made this choice!

Ilias of the Silent Assassins: Kendrick Sampson

Credit to owner

I wish Ilias was around more in the whole series! I really liked the whole Silent Assassins thread when you meet them in The Assassin’s Blade!

Yrene Towers: Kat Graham, or Tina Kunakey

Kat Graham, image courtesy of instyle.com
Tina Tunakey, credit to owner

Yrene Towers is one of the harder characters to fancast, just below Fenrys to be honest! There are so many different names thrown out there as to who everyone believes should play the healer that escapes to the Southern Continent, and becomes such a huge role in how the whole series wraps up! Kat Graham is a choice for me so long as she has her hair longer and lighter like in the image above, but someone on Tumblr mentioned Tina as their choice, and with her long curly hair, I do see her as a choice too!

Prince Arghun: Godfrey Gao, or Alex Landi

Godfrey Gao, image courtesy of showpo.com
Alex Landi, image courtesy of mattsimpkinsphotography.com

Godfrey Gao, who was in the Mortal Instruments movie, was my first choice to play the pompous high prince of the Southern Continent, but I was so sad to hear about his unfortunate death…the story behind it is just so tragic too! He died way too early. I have to include him, but Alex Landi is a newer choice, and you can see him on the most recent seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Prince Sartaq: Sam Asghari

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s Instagram profile

Mr. Britney Spears is my choice for Sartaq, who is by far the best new character to come out of Tower of Dawn (You meet Yrene in The Assassin’s Blade first!) Obviously, put a wig on top of Sam’s head, but wouldn’t you swoon if you saw him flying by on the back of his noble steed, Kadara? Can Ruk’s (Giant Eagles) be referred to as noble steeds?…

Princess Hasar: Constance Wu

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly Magazine

I first saw Constance star in Crazy, Rich Asians, and crazy enough, I also pictured her playing the exact opposite of a character as the the vicious, sharp-tongued princess and eldest daughter to Khagan, Urus. Some other fans see Hasar as more Middle Eastern, Egyptian, or Indian, but Constance really resembles how I pictured this character.

Prince Kashin: Sean Sarrantos

Credit to owner

The handsome middle son of the Khagan, I’d found this Greek/Korean fitness model on Pinterest and it was love at first sight! Someone said he looked like an asian Ryan Reynolds, so do with what you wish with that information…I hope that’s not offensive to anyone!

Borte: Naomi Scott

Image courtesy of the actress’s Instagram account

Borte is one of the Ruk riders alongside Sartaq and his clan, and is described as having golden-brown skin and onyx hair, and I know Naomi is a credible actress, so I thought she’d make a great addition to my stacked cast!

Yeren: Ariel Ben Attar

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

In my opinion, Yeren could really be casted as anyone…for anyone who needs a reminder, he’s engaged to be married to Borte despite the fact that they can hardly stand each other, even though they’re both in the same clan of Ruk riders in Tower of Dawn.

Falkan: Aiden Gillen

Image courtesy of latimes.com

We meet him in Tower of Dawn, and he’s incredibly worth mentioning based off what you learn about him later on in that book–not that I’m spoiling it in this post for anyone who possibly hasn’t read that far–and I want Aiden to play a role where I don’t hate the character too!

Bronwen: Elizabeth Blackmore

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB profile

Katherine played Heretic Valerie Tulle in the seventh season of The Vampire Diaries, and I think she’d play this role very well. Not much was told about this character’s appearance, so I think it’s a little more up in the air, but since she played a notable role in Kingdom of Ash, I thought “why not?” and included her.

Arobynn Hamel: Tom Hiddleston

Image courtesy of popsugar.com

I had to end this fancast on a high note, and why not have the Master of the Assassins–and Aelin’s former mentor–to end it with? My first choice was originally Michael Fassbender, who’s also a lot of other fans’ choice, but I believe Tom as Loki in the MCU movies changed my mind, as Arobynn and Loki are very similar in personality and demeanor, at least in my opinion!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell