Monday, November 23, 2015

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Susan Dennard has made me fall in love—with the characters, the world, the magic, the politics, the chemistry, the writing, everything. I was completely torn between wanting to devour every word and wanting to savor every word. I don’t really know what to say. I’m a little in shock.

For those who are unfamiliar with Truthwitch:

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.

Dennard wove together such a fantastic tale. I honestly think that this is going to be the next sensation in fantasy. I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but I’m definitely sensing a new classic in the leagues of the more recent Throne of Glass and the timeless Lord of the Rings. The world created in Truthwitch was truly captivating. Between the fantastically imaginative take on “elemental” magic and the suspenseful tangle of politics, I was sucked in.

I loved the magic of the novel. It was such a unique and thought out interpretation of elemental magic. It was like Avatar: The Last Airbender, but with a twist. There are general groups of magic—Aether, Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Void. But, within each group, there are more specific types of witches. For example, both Safiya and Iseult are Aetherwitches. However, Safiya is a Truthwitch and Iseult is a Threadwitch. I loved the intricacies! Though the world was definitely overwhelming at the beginning, as expected with such a well-developed world, it was easy to catch on and get caught up in the story.

The politics were edge-of-your-seat interesting. I was constantly scanning through every mention of every character, trying to puzzle together each person’s allegiance. Every chapter revealed a new clue, snapping a piece into place. I loved trying to figure out everyone’s individual plans. It was also so interesting how the Witchlands were loosely based on the real world. If you look on the map, Venaza City is in Italy—it’s clearly an iteration of Venice. The Marstoki people were definitely more Turkish, both in their location and in their style. It was so cool to make those connections!

But to the most notable part of this book… God, the characters. Dennard didn’t just write the characters; she actually created them. I literally feel like Iseult, Safiya, Merik, Aeduan, and everyone else are sitting here with me as I write my review. From the first paragraph of the first chapter, the characters were enchantingly real. They had so much personality and so much individuality. And, sweet Lord, that chemistry. The relationships that Dennard created were heart-capturing. I loved the Thread-Families and the variety in the relationships that the Threads fostered. There was the to-death friendship of the Threadsisters and Threadbrothers, like Iseult and Safiya, as well as Merik and Kullen. There was the deep-seeded love of the Heart-Threads, like Ryber and Kullen. And then there were the constantly developing and changing Threads—which I won’t go into, for fear of spoilers. But, guys, so good.

I also really admired the romance of the novel. I don't know if you noticed, but I didn't labelTruthwitch as a romance. I only labeled it as fantasy. Yes, there was romance and it was absolutely swoonworthy. But it wasn't the main focus. It was a slow-building, realistically developing relationship. It took a backseat to the friendships at play in the novel, which I found amazingly inspiring.

I adored Dennard’s writing. She is truly gifted. I felt the voice of each individual character whispering in my mind—no lie. The characters were so well-developed and so unique. Just by the writing, I could tell whether it was Iseult or Safiya talking. I literally felt like I was in the Witchlands every time I cracked the book open. Dennard is definitely a Wordwitch because—wow. Magic is honestly the only explanation.

Overall, Truthwitch definitely deserves a whopping 5 stars. Susan Dennard created the perfect start to what will surely be an amazing fantasy series. Let’s just do a quick recap of all of the characteristics that Dennard absolutely nailed:

1. Strong characters (particularly women)
2. Inspiring female friendships
3. Badass action scenes
4. Swoonworthy men
5. Riveting world
6. Nail-biting politics
7. Undeniable chemistry
8. Unique magic
9. Beautiful writing
10. Distinct voices

Basically, you better get your butt in gear and preorder this book that will surely sweep the fantasy genre off its feet. Go.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Title: The Burning Sky
Author: Sherry Thomas
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 464
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Okay, this book was freaking splendid. Absolutely fantastic. I devoured it. I'm basically drowning in work and stress (with the mental breakdowns to prove it), but I couldn't put this book down. I've been meaning to read it ever since people started going gaga over the third book (The Immortal Heights). And now I finally got around to it. God, it did not disappoint.

To those who aren't familiar:

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.
Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

Just a heads up that this review is going to be absolutely wretched for two reasons:
1) I haven't written a review in 108432 years because college life is freaking hard.
2) I'm giddy over this book.

Guys!!!! This book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm going to have to break it down into parts to review it because otherwise I'm just going to be gushing and crying over it.

The characters were absolutely perfect. Titus and Iolanthe had such amazing chemistry. They were so real and believable. Even when Iolanthe was being a silly, shallow little girl (focusing on jealousy instead of the life-or-death situation at hand), she completely acknowledged it. It made it endearing and heartwarming instead of annoying and frustrating. I honestly can't find a single flaw in their portrayal. Of course, they did have flaws (as the best characters do), but that made them all the more captivating. They were perfect, charming leads. I honestly couldn't have asked for better main characters. And the romance was gradual and seamless. It was utterly realistic. Thomas perfectly captured the slow and painful development of their relationship, the ups and downs of the partnership. It was fantastic.

If I could scrounge up a complaint about this book, this is where it would be. Honestly, I can't really explain the world to you. I know that there are elemental mages and Atlantis is the enemy. Other than that, the details are pretty vague. I don't know if it's because I was so eager to find out what happened next that I didn't pay enough attention or if it's because the world really wasn't explained enough. Also, one of the big reasons I may not have understood it as well as I should have might have been because I read it on the Kindle. Sherry Thomas included a ton of amazing notes in the back of the book that you could flip to as you read. They seem to be super relevant to the story: an awesome resource for worldbuilding. So if you read a physical copy of the book, your experience with the worldbuilding should be much better than mine! But even in my case, it didn't detract from the story itself at all.

I loved the world! I feel like Thomas could make five million prequels and still have more to talk about. There was so much depth to the world and so many facets to it. I want to read more about everything mentioned, from the January Uprising to the potion books. With that, the Crucible was utterly fascinating and one of my favorite parts of the book. It was literally captivating. I want a copy right now. The Crucible itself was like a whole other world in and of itself. I also loved the jumps between the mage world and nonmage world. It was super interesting to see the contrast there, and I really enjoyed the way Thomas toyed with that.

Do words count as an element? Because if so, Sherry Thomas is a word mage. Or a mind mage of storytelling?? Are these things??? Because they should be. And Sherry Thomas deserves those titles. The writing was amazing. However, there does need to be a disclaimer here since I literally sucked this book down. Which means that I didn't get to fully embrace the writing. I have every intention of rereading this baby later and relishing in every single word, don't worry.

The plot was flawlessly developed. It was simultaneously simple and complex. It was complex in that it was multi-layered with twists and turns. But it was simple in that it wasn't too overwhelming. I felt that I could, if necessary, boil the story down to one core plot. The relative straight-forwardness of this main plot balanced out the disorientation of the worldbuilding. It made it easier to follow the story and jump into the world, since we had that core to latch onto. It did wonders for the story. Not to mention how creative the plot was. Thomas put such a unique twist on something that can be so monotonous and overdone (elemental magic).

With the logistics: a 4.5 rounded up to a 5!

In conclusion: please go read this book right this second because you will not regret it and it was so cute but also so exciting and so action-packed. I gasped multiple times and my heart stopped a couple times too. But then I aww'd and hugged the book to my chest a couple times. And also laughed a couple times because THE CANARY. And basically, yes to this book. A million times yes.

Someone go buy me the next two books please?

(And seriously more apologies for the poor quality of this review. I haven't written a review since summer because college is literally so overwhelming and exhausting. But I had to write one for this book.)