I put off buying this for a long time. Almost a year. I kept hearing about it. The blogosphere, social media, booktube – it kept popping up. I was convinced by the hype, and the blurb, but every time I read the first page in a bookshop, I put it down again. I couldn’t understand it. Two baddass magical women having adventures? Why couldn’t I get myself to read it?
All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom. But with war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike to survive.
COME ON. Doesn’t that sound great?
So when it came out in paperback I bit the bullet and bought it. It still took me a little while to read it… I was so anxious I would be disappointed.
I was not.
It was great.
Let me tell you more about it.
Safi and Iseult are witches who have a habit of finding trouble. Iseult is a Threadwitch: she can see the threads that connect people. Safi is something rare, however – a Truthwitch, who can discern truth from lies, and some will stop at nothing to get their hands on her. When they clash with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, they must flee their home.
Things I liked
To be honest I’m not sure what I’m going to put in the things I didn’t like section, but here we go with this one anyway.
Safi and Iseult: you might have seen in my review of Caraval that I wasn’t so convinced by the sisterly relationship at the centre of this – well, this relationship convinced me. It helps that it was mirrored in other sets of characters. Safi and Iseult are each other’s ‘Threadsisters’: connected by something more soul-felt than friendship. Individually, too I loved this pair. Besides the abundant cosplay potential, these are some of the most fun and well-developed characters in YA fantasy that I’ve read recently. Iseult is one of the Nomatsi and experiences a certain amount of racist abuse, but she remains kind and strong, merciful and fierce. Safi is sometimes rash, but warm and able to admit to her mistakes (able to make mistakes – hurrah for nuanced characters), stubborn and unforgiving, but loving, too. Throughout I kept switching between who I thought I preferred…and couldn’t choose.
The love stories: this is a small one because I don’t want to get into it much, but they are satisfying and while they have the YA trope of an inexplicable tug of the heart towards another character, they are also built on engagement between characters.
I also really enjoyed getting to grips with the magic system and the world here. The world-building is terrific and the magic system is inspired and plays on some traditional magic systems to make something that feels quite new.
Things I didn’t like
I realised one of the reasons I put off reading this for so long – it was the hardback cover design.
I know, I know, don’t judge yada yada… but it just didn’t convince me! It wasn’t bad or anything. I wasn’t drawn in by it. I actually liked it, which is the weird thing. But it felt…wrong somehow. This is what it looks like, anyway.
Let me know if you figure out why I had an adverse reaction to it.
Should I read this?
Yes, of course you should. Was that not clear? Yes, please read it. I want more people I know to read it. And I just realised it has an endorsement from Robin Hobb on the cover, so you don’t have to just take my word for it.
“This book will delight you.”
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The Book Depository
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