By Cynthia Ayala
“On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others. In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well. Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness. Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.” —Goodreads
What an interesting novel. It’s a fresh story that offers readers a unique experience as they delve into this mystical land of witchery and political intrigue. The worldbuilding is magnificent and the world is truly unique because here there are some a world where magic is available to select people, not for any reason other than genetics. It’s not used as a separation of classes but rather a separation of trades. It’s such a small detail in the world defining, but its this one quality that is excellent in shaping the world that this story is being told in. There’s a danger to having rare witchery, and distain for not being strong enough in a witchery. It’s a nice element in the plotline that gives the internal narratives some added tension and dimension.
There’s also something to be said about the characters in the novel. Safiyah is amazing because she has this almost Robin Hood like feel to her. She’s a high-born woman but she hates that role in her life. She’s a very tomboyish and spunky character, with the attitude of a cat. Her tone and actions make her such a vibrant and spunky character, making the reader invested in her. Iseult is the perfect foil for her, more tempered, thoughtful and strategic. Of course, both characters have their flaws, everyone is flawed, which is part of what makes this novel riveting. They come off as more realistic in the fantasy novel.
As for the pace of the novel, it’s a fast-paced novel. From the opening chapter, the characters are on the run, And the story progresses to follow these characters on the run. But the reasoning evolves, the method changes, and then the political drama creates intrigue for the characters, plots within plots.
The story evolves, over the course of 400-pages the story evolves, and the characters grow. There’s humor, action, and the character dynamics are rich and vibrant. The subtext in the scenes give the overall plotline dimension and makes those few scenes really stand out for the reader and give some history to the characters. It never slows down so the reader is glued to the pages because everything just happens bam-bam-bam, which is amazing. The writing is solid enough that the reader can’t get lost in the details. So overall, it’s a great starter to a new series. (★★★★☆ | B+)