Truthwitch by Susan Dennard has been on my Mt. TBR pile for over a year. It is the first in a trilogy of novels, the second of which has just been released. However, I’m hesitant to review the book at all because the author’s social media presence and politics are so personally vile and repellent that I do not want to provide her with any more publicity.
The book is fantasy fiction and is intended for a younger audience, although despite the publishers and author’s classification as young adult fiction, I personally wouldn’t let younger members of my family read the novel.
World building is paramount in fantasy fiction. You can’t build a believable novel if the reader has no context for the world in which the characters live and act. Unfortunately, despite the glowing reviews, world building fails in this novel. It is incomplete and there is no context for the rampant prejudice one of the protagonists faces. The author fails to flesh out the many nations, gods, and politics that exist within the story. Why are all witches marked, in a world in which witches are far from uncommon? Never answered. What nations compromise the signers of the Truce central to the plot of this novel and what caused the great war in the first place? World building takes more than 350 pages to accomplish well when so many of those pages are filled with action scenes and teenage angst. There are too many loose threads, and believe me there is no pun intended here, left floating in the wind.
The author’s real world political beliefs are also infused into the core of the novel, which is fine but also not fine. It’s fine because as writers our beliefs are part of our core personality and make us write. It’s not fine because those very things I find abhorrent about the author’s social media presence are present in the novel. This book is a prime example of why authors should use their social media platforms to promote their book tours and books and not their social agenda.
The actual story itself is well written and packed with action. The failure at world building turns this from a potential epic fantasy classic to a throw away beach read. The characters are interesting and well crafted but lack depth. The pivotal plot line was obvious well before that “tension” filled moment arrived in the novel and then proceeded to let the reader down. Another problem with the book is the lack of a central voice, there are too many main protagonists vying for the readers allegiance and attention. Are the two teenage girls the main characters, is it one of the two princes, or is it the mysterious monastic order that the antagonist and the aunt of one of the princes’s belong to? Honestly, despite the title of the book I have a hard time telling you that the only Truthwitch in the novel is the main protagonist.
Would I sit down with any of the characters from this book and enjoy myself? Quite honestly, I don’t know. The most interesting potential characters have the lest amount of detail.
Three reluctant stars out of five for being readable but not memorable. Will I buy the next installment of the series? Good question that I honestly cannot answer yet. Part of me says yes because overall it wasn’t a bad story but a larger part of me says NO! because I so strongly despise the author’s politics that contributing to her financial success even marginally leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Guess I answered my own question there, next two installments will be used bookstore finds.