I was pretty excited about this one given the buzz, and with Robin Hobb’s endorsement on the front cover. Unfortunately, and maybe this is partly because of the hype, Truthwitch didn’t really work for me. I loved the idea of the two girls at the center, their friendship being the most important thing, but in practice there was a lot of mooning over boys (well, Merik) on Safi’s part, and they spent a surprising amount of the book apart. I felt like we were told that their friendship was deep and complete more often than we were shown it; Safi’s concern for Iseult in the latter half of the book did help, but she was so quickly re-focused on other things.
The world would be an interesting one, if there was more to it, but instead of a sense of history and a sense of the characters having a place in a tradition of magic and magic-use, I felt like the rules were being made up as the narrative went along. Merik’s magic is weak — but he can fly with it?! I eventually decided that Threadfamily meant the people you were most closely bound to in friendship, and Heart-Thread was a romantic connection, but it took a while to be clear, and I wasn’t always sure of people’s relationships to each other. I do hope that the large dollop of queerness I read into it was true, but I was too hopeful re: Merik and Kullen, so I’m thinking not. And what’s Cleaving — or, no, that becomes apparent, but not the history of it: is it recent? Is it increasing? Has it always been a threat?
It’s fun enough if you read it without thinking too much; it’s basically an eternal chase scene, with Safi and Merik blowing up at each other in a way that’s clearly meant to denote their passion for each other, but which has strong overtones of “insta-luv”. Evrane and Aeduan were more like background characters, but I did find them interesting — particularly Aeduan, since he’s an antagonist but somewhat ambivalently placed.
I think with more background it would have felt stronger and better-paced; instead, with events coming one after the other but often without context, it actually dragged. It’s hard to care when you’re not entirely sure what the significance is, after all.
Since there are people who did love the book, I’m also open to the idea of it being a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” — and it’s not that I think it’s dreadful. I’m just not hooked, and not that tempted to pick up the sequel when it comes out.