Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard

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Truthwitch, by Susan DennardTitle: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Teen
Published: January 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

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.

It wasn’t freedom she wanted. It was belief in something—a prize big enough to run for and to fight for and to keep on reaching toward no matter what.

I rarely seem to see fantasy geared toward younger female readers that focuses on the friendship between the female protagonists rather than focusing mostly or entirely on the relationships with boys that the girls have. Sure, there are elements of romance in this book, but I feel as if that romance is overshadowed by the importance of a strong bond of friendship.

Each of the girls, Safiya and Iseult, possess a supernatural skill set, a “witchery,” that allows them to do specific things at a heightened level. Safiya, a Truthwitch, can sense the truth in another’s words. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see threads that bind and connect the lives around her. Iseult’s power doesn’t work as it should, though, so that adds a level of complexity in her self discovery. Safiya’s story seemed to be more conventional, following tropes of the genre, but I found Iseult’s story fascinating, fresh, and exciting. Both of the girls do rely on each other a lot as the book progresses, and in some ways they can’t live without each other. I think that’s where a lot of the real magic is for me.

In reading this, I was hoping for a spark of a lesbian relationship, because I think it certainly has the power to go there, but I am really thankful for the strength of their friendship. Their friendship never seems forced or contrived, and it never turns catty, jealous, or superficial (something I seem to see a lot with two female leads in books marketed toward young women). Safiya and Iseult are Threadsisters, which means they are bound together and closer than family. I was also hoping for more world building. I ran into this with Cinder, too. It’s as if we got a flavor of the world in which they live, but not enough to fully visualize it. We, as readers, are thrown into the beginning of the story with the barest glances at the history behind it. I was also hoping for a romance that didn’t seem to happen instantly like the one between Safiya and Merik because it didn’t seem to solidify itself and seemed less realistic to me. I’m hoping that with the next novel we get more world building and development all around!

Even so, I really enjoyed this one, and I can’t wait for the next one to come out. I try not to fall for the hype, but I found that this one certainly lives up to many of the accolades it has received.

The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s Cress

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The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s CressTitle: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: February 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 550
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

 

I first read this book as an e-copy while studying in England, and I plowed through it in a day. I couldn’t bring myself to do much else. I love Rapunzel as a fairy tale. Cress embodies that role perfectly – innocent, yet intelligent and intuitive. She grows throughout the entire book in a way that I never found forced or false. Her budding relationship with Thorne is perfect too. They’re probably my favorite relationship in the series because Thorne (the charming scoundrel) learns to love Cress without being able to see her (and it’s a nice reference to the fairy tale itself with him being blinded after a fall).

One of the things I am really liking about this series is the way Marissa Meyer can add new characters to the plot and not have it feel like those additions are too much or too confusing. Each character adds their own flavor to the story and round it out nicely. On some occasions it does tend to drag out a little bit, which may be the only downside to multiple POVs, and that makes it for a weaker novel if you’re looking at it from a standalone perspective. I honestly cannot wait to see how everything is resolved in the last book!

The Renegade Red Riding Hood; Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet

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The Renegade Red Riding Hood; Marissa Meyer’s ScarletTitle: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Published: February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 452
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

As I’m rereading The Lunar Chronicles in preparation for Winter, I’m taking a closer look at each of the books. I studied fairy tales in college, and I’ve always been interested in reinterpretations and retellings of the stories. I love that this series has a lot of science fiction elements woven in with the traditional magic elements often found in fairy tales.

This second one rates just a slight bit higher than the first because there’s more action, there’s a bit more world development, and a lot more character development. I won’t write out many spoilers, so I’ll touch on things I liked and didn’t like. Out of the new characters introduced, I really like Thorne. He reminds me of a younger, more rash Han Solo. Scarlet is the sort of heroine I want to see more of in books marketed toward younger readers because she’s quite open-minded about a lot of things, especially with regards to Wolf. Something that I found a little unbelievable was everyone’s utter blindness to Cinder’s true identity. The obliviousness left in that blind wake made for sort of clunky storytelling, so if anything could be remedied about this series would to either make a bigger deal of Cinder’s identity or withhold it until a more climactic reveal. Because honestly, why else would Levana be so adamant about killing Cinder?

Meyer’s writing and characterizations are stronger in this second novel of the series, and it ends with a great lead-in to Cress.

The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s Cinder

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The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s CinderTitle: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: January 3rd 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I love love love fairy tales. I especially love imaginative retellings of fairy tales. Some of my favorite books of all time are retellings, and they are often the titles I recommend to people first. I couldn’t honestly tell you what got me into retellings initially. I grew up on Disney movies, and some of my favorite movies are Ever After (a Cinderella “history”) and The Princess Bride (which plays on fairy tale tropes). The first retelling I vividly remember reading was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I think that one might have been the tipping point. After reading it, I sought out every other retelling I could possibly find (and this was in the early stages of internet searching, so it was a difficult and arduous task!). My searches led me to Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Cameron Dokey, and many others. I’ve got an entire overflowing shelf filled specifically with retellings.

When a few friends told me about Cinder, I had to read it. When I read it for the first time back in Feburary 2013, I devoured it in a single day. It wasn’t until I finished it and had some more conversations with friends about it that I found out about Meyer writing Sailor Moon fanfiction and everything fell into place. It’s the perfect mix of fairy tales and Sailor Moon. While I worked in a bookstore, I would recommend it based on that alone. Love fairy tales and anime? You’ll love this series.

I love how Meyer weaves in several fairy tales in one overarching narrative. It’s not an entirely new concept (and admittedly I’m using a similar one for a series of novels I’m planning), but the little science fiction twist to it is something I like most about this series. Most fairy tale retellings I’ve come across have a very high-fantasy/historical twist to them, but this adds space and science to the mix. I didn’t know how much I wanted to see princesses in space and cyborg princesses until I came across The Lunar Chronicles.

Cinder follows the traditional Cinderella storyline. Cinder is a ward who was adopted by her now-dead father. She is raised by her step-mother, and she has two step-sisters. There’s a handsome prince, a cute android sidekick, a ball, a terrible queen, and mild drama sprinkled between. It’s a perfect setup for a series. The events leading up to the ball bring everything together and set the stage for the rest of the series. The only thing I really wanted more out of Cinder is more about New Beijing, the culture of a future world in which China is the leading world entity, and the day-to-day details of that culture. Why China? What happened? I can’t remember if much of it is touched on in the later books as its been a while since I’ve read the second and the third, so hopefully this reread will be a bit more revealing!


I’m trying a sort of new format with my posts! I love the images other book bloggers use, so I’m trying out some new styles from Canva! I feel like my blog needs a few more graphic elements, so this is a good place to start.