Book Review : Windwitch

Book Review : WindwitchWindwitch (The Witchlands, #2) by Susan Dennard
Published by Tor Teen on January 10th 2017
Pages: 416
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On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
Windwitch continues the tale begun in Truthwitch, with a focus on Merik--cunning privateer, prince, and windwitch.

Since I read through half of The Witchlands series without stopping to review, I am finally rereading and reviewing these books before the impending release of the latest entries in the series, Witchshadow. After my first read through of the series, I would’ve said Windwitch was my least favorite title, but upon my second read through, I found that I think it is a stronger title than its predecessor, Truthwitch due to the fact that this novel is not set at quite the same breakneck speed and thus, spends more time on character development.


“There were advantages to being a dead man. Merik Nihar, prince of Nubrevna and former admiral to the Nubrevnan navy, wished he’d considered dying a long time ago. He got so much more done as a corpse.”


By far my favorite part of Windwitch is any part that does not deal with the titular character, Merik. Merik is in a world of emotional confusion and hurt in Windwitch after surviving an assassination attempt. Believing his sister, Vivia, tried to kill him, the chip on his shoulder pertaining to her grows even larger, something I didn’t think possible. And as readers find that Vivia is actually a good person who cares for her people, it makes him even more unlikable. Plus, I got so tired of reading about him unleashing his Nihar rage every two seconds. It’s sad that Merik never really accomplishes a whole lot the entirety of the novel with his investigating and agitating, what with his appearance of a Nubrevenan God known as the Fury. But I will say this, the most important thing he needed, a reality check, the book delivers on. 


“Thank Noden, Merik soon arrived at the hut, for he could keep his winds and temper contained for only so long—and the fuse was almost burned up.”


The standout in Windwitch for me is everything involving Iseult. Her relationship with Aeduan is so complex and fascinating. I adore watching these two characters struggling to figure out what they mean to each other; it’s riveting. I also love that Iseult is so capable on her own, and manages to make an ally out of the single person who previously hunted her. The growing of her magical powers and fear of them is also really fascinating, as is her begrudging interaction with the Puppeteer. I honestly cannot wait to see what happens on all of these fronts in the next novel.


“It was incredible to watch. Inhuman, really, this gift to heal one’s body. The power of the Void. The power of a demon. Yet when Iseult glanced at the Bloodwitch’s sleeping, dirt-streaked face, she didn’t see a demon lying limp before her.”


I also enjoy Iseult’s persistent insecurities, which make her even more flawed and interesting. Despite feeling doesn’t really fit in anywhere, back in her Nomatsi tribe, with her Thread family, or the Puppeteer, she always forges ahead, finding the strength to do what needs to be done. I also like her sense of humor and her struggles to read the emotions of people without Threads, something she is forced to do with Aeduan, who in turn, cannot smell Iseult. I know the series is supposed to be about the bond between Safi and Iseult, but I honestly much prefer it when the two aren’t together.


And thankfully, Windwitch allows Safi and Iseult to become separated on a more than temporary basis. This, to me, was a really smart move on author Susan Dennard’s part, because it allows the characters to develop outside of one another. Iseult and Safi are so used to being with one another, that they even rely on the other person in their duo to figure out their emotional feelings for them! It’s very codependent and unhealthy, so I relish that the two are separated and forced to not only function without their Threadsister, but also to make decisions for themselves and to form other relationships. Consequently and thankfully, the two are also forced to stop and think more often, as they don’t have their Threadsister at their back to deal with the repercussions of their actions. 


“If Iseult were here, then Safi could charge off into that jungle without a second thought. With Iseult, Safi was brave. She was strong. She was fearless. But Safi had no idea where her Threadsister was, nor any clue when she’d see her again—or if she’d see her again.”


Honestly, even when they’re separated, their obsession with each other does irritate me a bit. The novel constantly tells us how much they need each other, to the point that I think “enough already, I get it.” To me, I feel that I’ve never been shown that Safi and Iseult are, in fact, better off together. For instance, when we are first introduced to them, they are spectacularly failing their attempt at a heist, and getting themselves hunted by a Bloodwitch and half the city. Definitely, it seems to me that the girls get into less trouble separately. One of the other main reasons their bond annoys me, is that Safi and Iseult are young adult girls. Yes, they have magic and years of training under their belts, but they never once listen to adults who know more about the situation than they do or have plans to deal with what has arisen. Iseult and Safi continually ignore the rest of their Thread family’s or other people’s instructions in their desperation to be with one another above literally their own safety and well-being. Does Safi ever stop to think that Iseult wouldn’t want her to get killed or injured trying to get to her or vice versa? No, and it’s ridiculous.  


I also think that because we didn’t get to see much of Iseult and Safi growing up together and learning to be close, that the series suffers a bit. Everything about their relationship is told to us by one of the girls reminiscing about the past, and it stunts how supposedly strong their relationship is as a result. We never directly see how their lives changed as a result of their relationship. I honestly think Iseult does better partnering with Aeduan and Safi does better with the more blunt, collected, and confident Vaness. Regardless, it is nice that Windwitch forces Iseult and Safi to go in a direction that does not lead to the other.  


“The paladins we locked away will one day walk among us. Vengeance will be theirs, in a fury unchecked, for their power was never ours to claim. Yet only in death, could they understand life. And only in life, will they change the world.”


I similarly enjoyed how seamlessly the author manages to weave in information about the lore of the Witchlands. Readers learn through dialogue about the lore surrounding the Contested Land, the under city, the Origin Wells, and Erydisi’s lament. It never feels like an information dump, but a small piece of a very big puzzle that I can’t wait to find out more about. I also really enjoy that this lore of the ancient Witchlands is effortlessly intertwined with the politics of the modern day Witchlands. I still would really like to know why the Nomatsi people are so despised, but there are sadly no answers to that here. 


Likewise, I enjoyed all of the new characters introduced in the book, even if I didn’t love any of them as much as I loved Iseult and Aeduan. I was so thankful to Cam for knocking sense into Merik, enjoyed seeing what Vivia was like outside of her brother’s viewpoint, and loved Empress Vaness. The return of the Chiseled Cheater was an unexpected surprise and I’m anxious to see where that goes. I was less than thrilled that Owl had to join Iseult and Aeduan, as I shamelessly love the two being alone together, but I’m sure she’ll play an important role. Owl is already bringing to light more important facets of Aeduan’s already complex and compelling character. To me, Iseult and Aeduan are really the heart of this series, and I know I wouldn’t love the books nearly as much without them. Merik and Safi just don’t compare with their frustrating hardheadedness, impulsivity, and single mindedness. 


All in all I think Windwitch is a worthy follow up to Truthwitch, and in some ways, even surpasses it. Though it is not quite as fast paced as Truthwitch, the novel makes up for it by delving further into characters’ motivations and emotions. Likewise, Windwitch does a great job revealing more of the Witchlands world at large, complete with political scheming and magical mysteries. I think the stage is really being set for a full on war, and I’m excited to see how the characters will rise to meet challenges in the next book. 

Book Review : Windwitch - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 21, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult


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