Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Well, it seems like the good/bad/good/bad pattern of reviews is finally broken completely. Sadly, it was the result of two bad books in a row. I picked out Truthwitch by Susan Dennard as a fairly popular and reasonably recent Fantasy work, and…well, you’ll see.

I’m honestly not sure I can be objective about this book. Normally, I do my best to address three elements, character, setting, and plot, in a reasonably objective manner. Oh, I certainly express my own opinions, pet peeves and the like, but I generally try to stick to a reasonably clinical approach, rather than descend into ranting. This book, though…I finished it over a week ago and I still find myself conflicted about it. Mostly, to be honest, about the various characters in the book. As such, I’m going to knock out the other two areas first, then very probably rant in an angry rambling sort of way about the characters.

First, the setting. Honestly, the best word I could use to describe the setting is “mediocre.” While it seemed like the author took the time to build a fairly well thought out and unique world, she did such a piss poor job of telling us about that world that I found myself utterly underwhelmed. As this book is part of a series, it’s possible that the setting develops into something compelling, but in this book it’s really just a bunch of snippets and snapshots with little explanation. The net result is that the setting gets a resounding, lethargic, “meh.” It doesn’t detract from the story, but it really doesn’t add anything either. If anything, it injects lots of confusion, as lots of details are left hinted at but undefined.

The plot…the plot is pretty horrible, actually. I pulled the whole thing apart in the first 1/3rd of the book, and nothing after that really surprised me. Worse, the execution was substandard at best, containing a heavy dose of plot holes and “what the hell?” moments. There were elements about it that should have been good, but the fell apart when they weren’t followed through on. I suppose it’s possible that later books in the series pick up the pieces and build something out of them, but for the most part that doesn’t matter, as the first book failed to interest me enough to read any farther into the series.

The characters. For the first fifty pages of the book I adored the two main characters. I loved them, I wanted to read more about them, and they were that very rare example of strong (as in self-actualizing) female characters. Then the entire middle section of the book made me hate…not them really, but the author, for systematically destroying all the awesome until all that was left by the end of the book was a pair of blubbering self-pitying damsels in %#@!ing distress. Weak, angsty, pathetic shadows of decent characters. Somehow an abusive, erratic lunatic with anger issues is represented, not as a villain, but some sort of half-assed lust interest (there isn’t even remotely enough depth to his characterization or their relationship to be a LOVE interest). The main two characters go from amazingly strong fighters who know what they want and have the drive to get it, to two cowards who flee from a mage they’ve already trounced, whine about how they hurt everyone around them like Harry Potter with a double dose of angst and emo, and utterly lose any purpose or drive that doesn’t belong to their lust-interest or pseudo-sister. I kept reading on in the desperate hope that they were just going through some self-doubt, and that they’d return to being the amazing characters they started as, only to be let down on the last page as the character who valued freedom above all else effectively enslaves herself for the asinine goals of her lunatic, abusive lust-interest. Goals that she already accomplished, I might add. Accomplished twice-over. What. The. Hell.

In the end, I hated the book. The writing style and technical execution are excellent, making the book easy to read despite its extreme levels of suck. So there’s that. And people who don’t mind the ruination of a good character(s), or enjoy psycho lust-interests and self-hating damsels in distress might just find the book enjoyable. I don’t know any such people, so I can’t ask.

Final Rating Breakdown:

Setting: 5/10

Characters: 2/10

Plot: 3/10

Overall: 3/10

Score Adjustments for Misc:
-1 for the absolute worst attempt at writing a romantic subplot that I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering.

Final Score: 2/10

Personal Recommendation: Don’t. Just don’t. While the technical quality is high, the tragedy that is this novel’s horrid characterization is made worse by a meandering, illogical plot and mediocre setting. I honestly can’t figure out what the heck people that rate this book highly saw in it.


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