Book Review : Sightwitch

Book Review : SightwitchSightwitch (The Witchlands, #2.5) by Susan Dennard, Rhys Davies
Published by Tor Teen on February 13th 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 240
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four-stars

From New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches.
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch...
Before Merik returned from the dead…
Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.
Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.
On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
Set a year before Truthwitch, Sightwitch is a companion novella that also serves as a set up to Bloodwitch, as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.

I was so dismayed when I saw how small Sightwitch was! I had no idea it was a novella when I ordered it, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not normally a fan of novellas or short stories, and I might not have even read Sightwitch had I known it was one! I was even more skeptical when I saw it had illustrations, but I absolutely loved Sightwitch and devoured it in one sitting. The novella was completely immersive, as it is told from the unique perspective of many characters’ diaries, with drawings and articles ripped from textbooks. For the first time since starting the Witchlands series, I felt like I finally understood a lot of the lore surrounding the world.

 

First lesson of the Sightwitches….There are no coincidences. If you are here, it is because you are meant to be here.”

 

Sightwitch takes us to the hidden away world of the Sightwitch convent. There the sisters wait to be called on by the sleeping Goddess, Sirmaya, to journey into the mountain beyond the convent, and to awaken to their powers. Once awakened, these sisters have glowing silver eyes, signaling their abilities of Sight–to remember something after seeing it once, to use their knives to retrieve memories from corpses, and to see visions in the Scrying Pool. Until the day they are called by the Goddess, the sisters serve the convent, strictly adhering to the strict rules of their order and remaining hidden from the outside world.

 

Main character Ryber, who readers of Truthwitch and Windwitch will recognize from  the crew of Prince Merik’s ship, follows every last rule in the hopes that the Goddess will call her. But she is dismayed when first her Threadsister, Tanzi, is called by the Goddess and does not return–and then horrified when all the other sisters are summoned, and also do not return. All alone, and plagued by dreams of her sisters suffering and crying out for her help, Ryber sets out with only her determination–no Sight–and the help of the convent’s mysterious bird, “The Rook.” 

 

Known across Witchlands for their abilities to both record the memories of the dead as well as foresee the events of the future, their mysterious sect has not been seen since the days of Eridysi, almost a millennium past.”

 

I was immediately hooked by everything in Sightwitch, not just Ryber’s perplexing situation. Heck, before reading Sightwitch, I, like the rest of the people in the Witchlands, thought Sightwitches did not even exist anymore! So I jumped at the chance to learn everything I could about them! Plus, the way the story was told, from the perspective of the diaries of several Sightwitches–that of Ryber’s, her Threadsister Tanzi’s, and the Sightwitch of legend Erydisi–only added to the suspense and intensity of the novella.  Not only was I trying to piece together what was happening to Ryber in the present, but also what was happening right before the Summoning event to Tanzi, and also what was happening way before both of their times, to Erydisi.

 

I loved reading from every single one of these perspectives–a rarity for me in most novels where I generally hate reading from at least one character’s point of view–as it allowed all the characters a chance to fully develop in such a short book. As a result of how it was written, I got to learn who Tanzi was. Readers don’t have any time to get to know her before she is summoned and disappears, but we are able to get to know her from her diary and Ryber’s. And through Tanzi’s diary, I get to know the main character, Ryber, even better. It is really a unique window into the world of each character. We get to see how other characters see or saw them, instead of just seeing events or other characters through their own unique perspectives. I was invested in Ryber’s personal struggle to find meaning without the Sight of her Sisters, in Tanzi’s hopes for Ryber to see that there is more to life than just following the rules, and in Erydisi’s struggle to build magical doorways to save mankind from the tyranny of the Exalted Ones and to teleport them into a refuge city underground.

 

There are two kinds of Sight, Ryber. The kind that lets you see the future, relive the past, and catalog the world around you in a detail you never knew possible. That is the Sight that I and the other Sisters have. But there is another Sight, a simpler Sight–one that is rooted in clarity of purpose. An ability to see the path that matters most and stay firmly gripped upon it. I’m sure you can guess which one will serve you better in the long run. Which one will serve us all.”

 

Perhaps it was due to this innovative writing style that I grew to like Ryber so much. In the other novels of the Witchlands series, she is simply a side character and I didn’t really think much of her. To me, she was simply there to demonstrate the existence of Heart-threads–or the Witchlands version of soulmates and to mourn the loss of her boyfriend, Kullen, when he Cleaved. So, I was really quite skeptical that I would enjoy reading a novella entirely about her–but I loved it and her! There’s so much more to Ryber than was presented in the other novels. In fact, I am now tempted to go back and to read the other novels just to see what hints are there of her future actions since Sightwitch takes place before Truthwitch.

 

“Originally the 12 Paladins were the only people with magic. They had absolute power over the elements they were born to keep in balance….Sightwitches were the only people aside from the Paladins to possess magic in the Witchlands. But Sightwitches are made, not born.”

 

I was most thrilled to finally learn more about the mysterious Paladins of the world from Erydisi’s diary. These Paladins have been mentioned a few times in Truthwitch and Windwitch, but I didn’t really fully grasp their role until reading Sightwitch. Reading the history of the Paladins through snippets of textbooks and notes from Ryber and Tanzi prevented the information from feeling like an information dump.  Simultaneously, it also allowed readers to see the characters funny notes to each other. I felt like I was in on the secret passing of notes or something! Somehow, everything feels much more secretive and mysterious through a diary. And watching the events that brought magic to the world of the Witchlands unfold in Erydisi’s diary as she tries to solve her own puzzle was truly exhilarating.

 

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was how Sightwitch tried to hit me over the head with how special Ryber was and how important choice was over the Sight. I felt like I already understood that merely from reading Sightwitch, and that the author didn’t need to oversell it to me, especially on the very last page of the novella. Besides that, certain events unfolding were a little predictable, such as View Spoiler » But I honestly didn’t view that as a negative thing. If a story is predictable, that means the author has weaved a coherent story and has laid a solid framework. I much prefer being able to predict something in a story, to being completely blindsided by something done purely for shock value, which seems to be a very popular storytelling method of late. 

 

Ultimately, author Susan Dennard does such a great job with her storytelling. She always finds a way to make her stories a wild, fast-paced ride, but balances it with plenty of character development and world-building. With every entry in her series, I am more impressed by her work. She is truly becoming one of my favorite authors. After reading Sightwitch and learning more about Ryber and the development of magic in the Witchlands, I am even more excited for what is going to happen in the future novels. To me, it is amazing that the author managed to do so much set up for the rest of the series with Sightwitch. It is only through reading Sightwitch, a prequel, that I realize how much is truly at stake with Safi, Iseult, and the rest of the gang’s story and the implications for what it means for the rest of the Witchlands and magic as we know it. I also have a few sneaking suspicions that I can’t wait to confirm one way or another. 

 

If anything, Sightwitch made me even more excited to read Bloodwitch and other future installments of the series. It provided so much clarity and background depth to the Witchlands and some much needed character development for Ryber, and to a lesser extent, Kullen. As a result of reading Sightwitch, I am more invested in the Witchlands saga than ever before, and I highly recommend reading it if you are already a fan of the series.

four-stars
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Book Review : Sightwitch - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 22, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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