I received a review copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - book 4
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for TRUTHWITCH, WINDWITCH, SIGHTWITCH, and BLOODWITCH*
War has come to the Witchlands . . . and nothing will be the same again.
Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.
Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia—rightful queen of Nubrevna—finds herself without a crown or home.
As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
WITCHSHADOW is another thrilling instalment in the Witchlands series. The longest so far, the snappy pacing (not to mention reduced font size shrinking the book) disguises the length. The story is sprawling as the new wars/wars resumed from the truce rage, tugged and manipulated by a centuries old war as the paladins step further into the narrative light.
The book focuses not on the “new war” (though you see this through one of the POVs), but on the “old war”, through the largest POVs (Iseult and Safi.) The ancient beings returning with all their power and playing out old grudges is very much the stuff of classic epic fantasy, but the Witchlands has a modern vibrancy around it, rather than falling into outdated patterns.
There are some really rewarding reveals, including one just before the 300 page mark (UK HB format) that was my favourite. You absolutely have to have read SIGHTWITCH to understand the significance of some of the reveals, particularly as more paladins are revealed – and exactly who’d they’d been before. Which side of the ancient conflict had they come down on?
This book is two books in one, with what would have been the first book largely condensed into flashbacks. It does create a sense of mystery about what happened to create Iseult and Safi’s situations, peppered in between the action. The balance is generally really good, the right sort of distance between where the characters had ended the previous book and where they were now. The right amount, mostly, to be a mystery without being too different to understand.
However, there were points where there was too big of a distance, characters who were jarringly different. The main one was Aeduan, who was introduced after quite a while and something big had happened to him that took me a long while to work out why he was no longer who he had been. Once I’d worked that out, there was a definite forward momentum with me wanting to know if and how he’d return to who he’d been.
This is definitely the girls’ book of the series. The last two full-length books (WINDWITCH and BLOODWITCH) have revolved around Merik and Aeduan. The girls were there, but they were not the focus. Even TRUTHWITCH, centred on Safe, still had a large presence from the boys. But this book only has one male POV (and Aeduan has little page time to himself relative to the others) and four female POVs. Merik is still sleeping in the ice, so isn’t present until one of the final chapters. It was a bit odd not to have him at all, after three books, but it was also quite nice to have a really female-focused book.
Only one book left to go in the series!
Read my reviews of the other books by Susan Dennard:
The Witchlands (this series):
- TRUTHWITCH (#1)
- WINDWITCH (#2)
- SIGHTWITCH (#2.5)
- BLOODWITCH (#3)
Something Strange and Deadly:
- THE LUMINARIES (#1)