While this novel is technically high fantasy more than anything else rather than contemporary realistic fiction that deals with mental issues, we are exploring a range of difficulties and problems experienced by literary characters, so I thought in my review of this novel, I’d focus on two characters with marked vulnerabilities.
Windwitch (The Witchlands #2)
Author: Susan Dennard
Publisher: TOR (2017)
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.
The minute I received this book from Pansing a few months back, I immediately devoured it. Truthwitch, the first book in the Witchlands Series, was one of my favourite fantasy reads last year. I was eagerly looking forward to revisiting the European-feel of The Witchlands and discover what happened to the characters I fell in love with, as Truthwitch did leave the end in a bit of a cliffhanger.
I also wanted to zero in on my thoughts about one particular female character in the novel, Iseult det Medinzi – believed to be the other half of the powerful Cahr Awen, the mythical pair that is said to restore balance to the unique magic in The Witchlands.
Unlike her threadsister, Safiya, who is born of nobility, Iseult is an outsider. The description of her family is very similar to that of gypsies in real life, as they are seen as outcasts and nomads by the rest of the Witchlands folks who tend to avoid them. While Iseult’s power in the first book is that of a threadwitch, this second novel shows her skill evolving into something darker and more sinister. I suppose what really makes the characters come alive for me is that regardless of their extraordinary abilities, their superior physical prowess and agility, their magic for heaven’s sake, there is also a sense of vulnerability about them. Iseult, in particular, has a stutter that is believed to be unbecoming of a Threadwitch – who is supposed to be calm (stasis), clear, and collected. The first novel hinted at her being the powerful other half of the Cahr Awen, but there is also a part of her that feels she is unworthy of such an honour, such infinite magic – a nagging thought that is fed by Aeduan, with the monk’s articulated doubts about who she is and what she is capable of.
In contrast to the first book, Windwitch, I felt, focused more on Iseult’s journey with Aeduan the Monk, as she attempted to find, and be reunited with, her Threadsister Safiya. I found this second instalment to the Witchlands Series to be more intricately woven, more plot driven, and written in such frenzied pace that the reader has to really keep up to find out what is going on, what is happening, and to flip-flip through the pages until the very end. It doesn’t help of course that there is no glossary of terms, nor is there a list of characters for the reader to fall back into, in the event that they get confused with the whole cast of characters. I found myself re-reading the last several sections of Truthwitch, just to refresh my recollection of who is who, and what happened the last time I visited the Witchlands universe.
Another broken character in this series is Merik, the disfigured Prince – known in Windwitch as The Fury. Everyone thought he was murdered in his boat, but the once-ravishing Admiral lived (oops, spoiler alert right there). Except that, he is not what is shown in the fan-created images above any longer. His burns and scars have left such a complete mark that he is barely recognizable, except for his famed temper that simply can not be contained. He is convinced that his sister wanted to have him killed and he is out to prove just that, ignoring everything else that says otherwise. His transformation in this novel is quite remarkable, as he metes out justice in the best way he sees fit, and unravels the mystery of his murder.
As I was reading the novel, I was struck by the broad range of this universe is, and there is more that are yet to be fully explored – such as Iseult’s dream-sister, the Puppeteer, who is clearly deranged but immensely powerful. And the young broken girl that Aeduan and Iseult found and protected, whose existence is tied to a mythical beast who flies in to protect her from harm.
I really liked how two of the main characters in this series are not your usual blemish-free, porcelain, flawless types – but rather wounded creatures struggling to survive, to find meaning in what they do, and discover who they are meant to be. I can not wait for the next instalment in the series.