Bloodwitch is the third in the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard and one I have been looking forward to reading. It is very much a continuation of the story, started in Truthwitch and continued in Windwitch, rather than a standalone novel. It is in the classic fantasy genre, in a medieval style world with additional magic.
The series centres around two young women, Safi, the titular truthwitch of the first book, and Iseult, who has powers of a threadwitch, who find themselves moving through their world sometimes moving towards something, but often running from others, their unique magical gifts, both known and suspected making them valuable tools to others. A truthwitch is one who can tell if someone is telling the truth (as far as they know) from one who is deliberately lying, a power valuable to rulers and powerful regimes who want to seek out those who disagree with them and find traitors or dissenters. A threadwitch is one who can see the “threads” that make up a personality, the links of love and loyalty that bind them to others and to influence this. Iseult has some areas that she is not good at, which makes her believe from a young age that she is a failure, but she begins to learn that she has other skills and might be a much rarer and more dangerous magic user. One of those that perused them has now become an ally, of sorts. Aeduan is a Bloodwitch, another rare magical type meaning that he can track people by the scent of their blood. In this novel we learn more about his background while the adventures continue. This novel is less focused than the previous volumes in the series. Our protagonists, Safi and Iseult are separated. Safi is held by the Empress, both a prisoner, but also as a result of a deal she made, she uses her skills to tell truth from lies. Iseult and new ally, Aeduan travel with the enigmatic young girl, Owl, to find safety and avoid those who want to possess or kill Iseult. As well as exploring Aeduan’s past the novel follows Merik, the windwitch from book two, another ally in a difficult place. The split focus of this novel does make it a little slower paced than Dennard’s readers might be used to and it is a bit harder to pull together the threads, but for those readers already invested in the characters, it is a definite treat in terms of understanding them better. Safi and Iseult are very likeable, they are not perfect, but their intentions are good, even when it does not pan out the way they hope. They are so much more than the stereotype of strong female characters, with nuances of personality. The series has some tropes of the classic coming of age quest, the protagonists are fairly young, they are travelling, they learn more about themselves as they go, meet those who would assist or hinder them and appear to be the subject of prophecy. However Dennard manages to avoid the most unsubtle parts of this, they are not travelling because of the prophecy, but primarily to stay safe and free. At the start the characters are generally unaware of any possible destiny and when they find out, they don’t necessarily think it is about them. The use of two slightly older female protagonists instead of the previous trope of a young boy guided by prophecy helps to ensure this is an up to date fantasy. These books show how far the genre has moved on since the days of David Edding‘s Belgariad for example. There is a hint of romance between Safi / Merik and Iseult / Aeduan, but these are secondary to the plot and character development, it is definitely not a central theme and there are significant obstacles to them being together. Safi believes Merik is dead and he can’t contact the others. Aeduan is brooding and wrapped up in his own issues, so has little time for softer emotions. As well as telling its own tale, this novel also sets the reader up for the next instalment in the serise, we find out a lot in this story, but almost end up with more questions than we started with, so needless to say I am keen to read more. This is a great ongoing tale, with a balance of plot and character. The series as a whole is well worth reading if you love relatable female characters, intriguing world-building and fantasy adventures.
Here is an Amazon Affiliate link to the paperback of Bloodwitch released on the 14th May 2020.