A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Truthwitch is a complex romantic fantasy from Susan Dennard (the Something Strange and Deadly series). The Truthwitch, Safi, and her loyal "Threadsister," Iseult, are on the run for most of the book. They get in a number of skirmishes involving swords, knives, poison arrows, and even a giant iron flail. Some heads roll, and some blood spurting is described. There's one sad death of a protagonist. Another protagonist is almost hanged by an angry mob of zealots and, another time, almost dies of slow poisoning from an arrow. Dozens of witches die by "cleaving," a process where bodies bubble up from the inside and end up with a rabies-like strength and loss of self before dropping dead. It's not all chase-scene action, though. There's one steamy romantic moment cut off at kissing and some groping, and there's a party with a little drinking. Swearing doesn't get worse than "s--t," used about a dozen times. The main characters start out as misguided, acting as thieves as the book opens. They end up finding more purpose and using the powers they didn't know they had for good.
What's the story?
Safi and Iseult are Threadsisters, witch BFFs bound to each other by a loyal oath. Their life in a port city offers little to amuse them beyond fight-training, card games, and their studies. So they steal from travelers on the side for fun. When all their money is gambled away and one heist goes horribly wrong, sending a scary Bloodwitch onto their tail, they decide they'd better leave town. An estranged uncle has one favor before Safi goes: Can she attend a royal ball as the Domna fon Hasstrel? It's her true rank and title. She accepts what she thinks is the easy way out of the life she never wanted. What's the catch? Her uncle means to betroth her to a nasty old emperor, then spirit her away in a feigned kidnapping. He's worried they'll find out she's a powerful Truthwitch and thinks this will protect her; but with a Bloodwitch already after her and now the emperor's guards and some witchy monks, it doesn't feel much like protection.
Is it any good?
The two warrior witch leads, Safi and Iseult, are worth the read alone, but expect a very slow reveal of the magical world they live in. Regular readers of dense fantasies may not mind that they know so little about so much. But there's an enormous amount to take in: threads and what they reveal, the different kinds of witches and monks, the countries and emperors and their wars and treaties, wells with lost power, the guildmasters, the scary cleaved witches, someone called the Puppeteer invading Iseult's dreams and possibly causing the cleaving, an evil takeover of Iseult's old tribe, a rift with her mother, and on and on.
Author Susan Denard keeps the action going, but this doesn't matter when the reader has to keep stopping and flipping back pages to see which country has the firewitches or when we've met that bloodthirsty royal before who's next in line to kidnap Safi (way back at the beginning). Perhaps instead of a failed heist at the beginning of TRUTHWITCH, brief origin stories of Safi and Iseult would have helped ground the reader in this complex and fascinating world and always move us forward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about kinds of magic. How are the witches in this book similar to or different from witchcraft in other stories you've read?
How does Safi change during the book? How does she come to realize she needs to change?
This complex magical world unfolds after the story is well underway. As a reader, were you ever too confused? Would you have preferred that the story take precedence?
- Author: Susan Dennard
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Tor Teen
- Publication date: January 5, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.