Book Review : Bloodwitch

Book Review : BloodwitchBloodwitch (The Witchlands, #3) by Susan Dennard
Published by Tor Teen on February 12th 2019
Pages: 464
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three-half-stars

Fans of Susan Dennard's Witchlands series have fallen in love with the Bloodwitch Aeduan. And now, finally, comes his story.
High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.
The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.

Next up in my reread of The Witchlands series before the upcoming release of Witchshadow, is Bloodwitch. I fondly remembered Bloodwitch as being my favorite entry in the series, due to its focus on Aeduan. So imagine my surprise, when I found on my second read through, that I didn’t think Bloodwitch was quite as strong an entry in the series as Windwitch, my previous least favorite entry in The Witchlands series. Though I enjoyed learning more about Aeduan’s past, and finding out what he was thinking, the novel wasn’t as focused on him as I would’ve liked. I also felt that a lot of Vivia and Merik’s journeys were rehashed in this novel, found that I missed Safi’s adventures with the interesting Hell-bards, and there wasn’t as much romance between Aeduan and Iseult as I would’ve liked. Plus, I found I had more questions than ever about the world.

 

“He was born a monster, he will die a monster, and monsters do not get to have friends.”

 

I really enjoyed seeing glimpses of Aeudan’s childhood in Bloodwitch. Not only does author Susan Dennard tell us about how he was treated in childhood, but she shows us through flashbacks, nightmares, and through the treatment Aeduan receives from a fellow Carawen monk that has known him since childhood. These scenes truly explain so much about why Aeduan turned out to be more of a bounty hunter, than monk, and was mostly concerned with money. It is even clearer now why he struggles so much with being vulnerable with Iseult. Aeduan continually has trouble relying on her, trusting her, and dealing with the fact that he cares for her more than anyone. I really liked that author Dennard was able to layer those confused feelings for Iseult with his guilt and belief that he was a monster, which stemmed from his inability to control his powers as a child. It made his saving of Owl an even more precious thing than it already was in Windwitch because readers now know how much Aeduan sees himself in the little girl with monstrous powers who is without a friend in the world.

 

“And two weeks ago, he had not been traveling with a woman to whom he owed more life-debts than he could keep track of, and with more life-debts stacking between them each day.”

 

Though I loved the insight into Aeduan’s childhood, and consequently, his psyche, I was less than thrilled with the time Iseult and Aeduan spent together. I was really hoping for the same levels of romantic tension between the two that were present in Windwitch, but really the two spend most of the novel refusing even acknowledge to themselves their growing feelings for each other and dealing with Owl’s tantrums. Though I love a slow burn romance, this didn’t really fit the bill of it, in my opinion, as we didn’t ever really get even a sliver of the pay off of the classic “will they, won’t they?” struggle. Even though I found their lack of romantic progression frustrating to the point of being almost comedic, their reticence does make sense for both of the characters. Aeduan has been hated and feared his whole life for being a bloodwitch “demon” and Iseult has fared not much better as a Nomatsi, the race almost everyone seems to hate in the Witchlands.

 

“And since that day in the thatched-roof house, his course had been so clear. Aeduan had never second-guessed. He had never hesitated. Coin and the cause. Coin and the cause. No space for personal wants, and no desire for them either. He had given up hope so very long ago. There was only action, only moving forward. Coin and the cause. Coin and the cause. Until two weeks ago.”

 

What I did like most about their developing relationship, was how the two see each other. For Iseult, Aeduan is the only person who’s Threads she cannot read, rendering her clueless to his emotions. On the other hand, Aeduan cannot smell Iseult’s blood. They are quite simply, each other’s exceptions, and they are both forced to become more human, emotive, and sensitive with one another. Aeduan learns to read Iseult, despite her Threadwitch aversion to displaying emotions, and Iseult has to manage to look past the Bloodwitch red eyes and the tough exterior, to read Aeduan’s emotions, something with which she’s always struggled doing with anyone. In spite of themselves and their deadly powers, the care with which they must use to discern one another’s needs and emotions, renders their bond irrevocably tender. I loved how effortlessly Bloodwitch shows that it isn’t until Aeduan meets Iseult that he realizes how much his life was really missing.

 

“He nodded, and as she eased off the cloak, he realized the problem was not that the room felt too small. No, the problem was that Iseult felt too big. She filled every space in his vision. Every touch, every word, every breath. There was no escaping her.”

 

I’m fervently hoping the two reach the culmination of their romance in Witchshadow, but I’m not sure if this will happen, as sadly, View Spoiler » at the end of Bloodwitch. This was literally the opposite of what I wanted to happen in the book. And now with Iseult reuniting with her precious Safi (sorry, I’m sick of hearing about how bad they want to be with each other), I cannot help but wonder if Aeduan will remain high on Iseult’s priority list. I can’t help but be skeptical that she she will even reunite with him once the shit hits the fan, as I know it will now that Iseult is back with Safi.

 

“And above all, Safi hated that Iseult was so very far away. With Iseult, Safi was brave. With Iseult, Safi was strong. And with Iseult, Safi was fearless. On her own, though, she was just a girl trapped in another country while unknown enemies tried to kill her.”

 

In another strange twist, I found that I didn’t mind reading from Merik’s point of view in this novel. In fact, Merik reaches new levels of humility in Bloodwitch, as he falls into the hands of Esme, also known as the Puppeteer. I was really fascinated by Merik’s interaction with the Puppeteer, who seems pretty uh, unhinged (this is putting it mildly), and how he managed to sort of win her favor and to play her against Kullen. I didn’t know Merik had it in him to calculate this thoroughly before acting. I was also very interested to see that Merik chose View Spoiler » However, despite liking this new cautious form of Merik, I found his whole plotline in Bloodwitch to be a rehash of Windwitch‘s. It just felt like more of the same, where Merik gets repeatedly kicked while he’s down and has to reevaluate a lot of the things he thought he knew.

 

“Though right now, all that mattered was obeying Esme. It shamed him that he could be so weak, but there was the truth: he would do anything she told him if it would keep the fire away.”

 

Meanwhile, Vivia, who I have always liked better than Merik, actually got on my nerves in Bloodwitch. She spends a lot of time in Bloodwitch feeling sorry for herself in my opinion, and trying to decide whether she should be more like her mom (the Nubrevean fox) or her dad (the Nihar? bear) once more. Why can’t Vivia just be Vivia or some the mix between a fox and a bear, at the very least? I would’ve enjoyed less wrestling with what she “should” be and more action, especially after I thought she put this whole philosophical argument to bed in Windwitch.

 

I did, however, like Vivia’s developing friendship with Vaness. Two powerful female leaders and witches banding together could be monumental in the upcoming war. I also can’t help but to wonder if their friendship will turn romantic, as I don’t think Stix will be herself much longer, if Kullen’s paladin transformation is any indication. But anyways, I say an upcoming war, because somehow, the full scale war hasn’t really happened yet. This surprised me quite a bit, as the war escalating seemed a done deal. However, I read that each of The Witchlands books only covers a few days, so I guess it makes sense that not all hell has broken loose at once.

 

However, in a way, hell did break lose for me when the characters discover the ancient magical doors that we first learned about in Sightwitch. These doors were originally created thousands of years ago to escape the Exalted Ones. Characters were constantly jumping in and out of portals, despite them supposedly being only one way for safety precautions. I honestly couldn’t keep track, no matter how hard I tried, of where characters were or who went through what magical door from where or how they even returned or met up with others. So, I quickly just gave up and went with the flow.

 

“Was there any part of Safi’s life that had not been a lie? And how had she, the only Truthwitch on the entire continent, never once suspected?”

 

I also found that I was disappointed with Safi’s life at Vaness’s court. I really thought that her life in the Marstoki Empire would be filled with more intrigue, political strife, and subterfuge but instead, Safi just stands next to the throne, asks visiting courtiers three questions to determine their loyalty to Vaness and her empire, and then they are swiftly executed if Safi finds they are failing to tell the truth. I found that I missed Safi’s escapades with the more entertaining Hell bards quite early on, which surprised me, as I wasn’t initially the biggest fan of these characters. But without the more interesting Hell Bards and Iseult, Safi’s plot line is quite boring, and even disappointing, in this novel.

 

One thing about Safi’s plotline that I am very confused about in Bloodwitch is what the heck Safi’s uncle and Thread family have been planning throughout this entire series. Every time I think I have a grasp on what they want for Safi and Iseult, I find I am quite wrong. Less perplexing to me were all the hints pertaining to Aeduan’s parentage, and I am so glad I also reread Sightwitch in order to pick up on them. I am really curious to see what all of the next moves for Aeduan’s father, the Rook, and Ryber are in future entries in the series. And I’d love to know what is going on with Evrane.

 

All in all, Bloodwitch does a very good job bringing Aeduan’s character to life in this entry of the series, but does less of a good job developing its other characters, who often seem stuck in the same cycle or circumstances. However, I feel, with Bloodwitch, Aeduan is moving from antihero into an actual protagonist. As Aeduan is one of my favorite characters in The Witchlands, it definitely makes slogging through the other characters’ sometimes redundant headspaces to watch him develop. I cannot wait to see how Aeduan chooses to move forward in Witchshadow. I can only hope that it is with Iseult.

 

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Stay tuned for my review of Witchshadow, the newest entry in The Witchlands Saga, on Monday, 6/28/2021!

 

 

three-half-stars
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Book Review : Bloodwitch - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 25, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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