Series: The Witchlands #2
Published by Tor Teen on January 12th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…
After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.
Second Book Syndrome, I spot you.
I feel so conflicted about Windwitch. It was one of my most anticipated sequels but it just didn’t live up to my expectations, albeit not being a bad book per se.
The first book had me hooked for several reasons. Those, however, disappeared in the sequel. A fast-paced plot? Negative. Safi and Iseult kicking ass together? Negative. Safi and Merik banter? Negative. Albeit offering an entertaining storyline and some extras like an LGBTQ+ character, Windwitch was clearly a filler, which definitely caused damage to my interest in this series as a whole. If you assume that the 3 stars are largely due to Aeduan and Iseult, then you are (sadly) correct.
What this book did right
In spite of its shortcomings, Windwitch managed to keep me entertained for the most part. Oh, the book is slow, there’s not doubt, but it didn’t make me want to throw the book in a corner and use it as a doorstopper. Furthermore, I feel like Dennard was able to explore some more of the realm the story takes place in, for example what the landscape looks like or what creatures hide in their depths.
From the cast, I enjoyed Aeduan’s and Iseult’s points of view. In contrast to her prickly best friend, Iseult is easy to like and root for; she’s loyal, determined, and cunning. But this book also reveals some of her weaknesses and vulnerabilities, underpinning the feeling of inferiority towards Safiya we get from Iseult from the beginning of the series (even though it is made clear that Safi has many faults). For instance, Iseult doesn’t always manage to keep a poker face and she has a slight stutter, which makes her not only flawed but also relatable. She also has a stutter. Windwitch added a great deal to her characterization and to her position as an important protagonist, for in the first book, she was portrayed more as a sidekick. Aeduan’s chapters were by far the most interesting to me, because Truthwitch hadn’t revealed a lot about him, either. Though I think Dennard did a better job with Iseult’s introspection, seeing Aeduan think, act, and interact with Iseult was the highlight of this book. It is already clear from the start that he hides a softer core behind his brick wall appearance, but some of the scenes in this book were downright beautiful. Nonetheless, Aeduan remains somewhat of a mystery, which will hopefully be uncovered with the publication of his book – the third instalment which is called Bloodwitch.
The slow burn that is Aeduan and Iseult is simply magnificent. Even though “slow” burn implies that my patience is sorely tested with this ship, but I’m willing to be a good girl and sit tight while this sizzling romance comes to life. I should applaud to Dennard for giving me so little but making me crave so much. The fact that these two cupcakes exist in my life is, however, also a problem for me, because after this rather mediocre sequel, it’s one of the reasons I keep holding on to this series.
Now, it is known that Susan Dennard and SJM are writer buddies, and though the latter’s books probably sell better, the former has heeded the reading community’s call for more diversity in fiction. The Witchlands series offers various ethnicities, prominent character flaws, and LGBTQ+ characters. Kudos to you, Susan!
What this book didn’t do at all
Plot advancement? Development? Progress? You won’t get it from Windwitch. Whereas the cast was united in one epic battle at the end of Truthwitch, they’re scattered with the wind in the sequel, which didn’t sit well with me. It feels like a lot is happening when only little of it is actually serving the advancement of the overall plot. I like subplots, I do, but they tore the general storyline to shreds. Everyone is out on some personal adventure, and it felt like I was reading several books in one, not several somehow connected storylines. With the exception of Aeduan and Iseult, the characters don’t actually meet, which made this book a filler.
Besides Aeduan and Iseult, the protagonist’s perspectives either annoyed or bored me to tears. I remember enjoying Merik in Truthwitch and even warming up to Safi after a while, even though the woman has the talent to get on my nerves, but Windwitch made that impossible. Merik drowned in his tragic self-misery, Safi was a pain in the ass. I suppose that, without Iseult there to balance out her ego, things got out of hand pretty fast. And last but least, Vivia’s chapters did nothing for me. I suspect Dennard tried to introduce a morally grey character, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care.
I don’t know if I mentioned this in my review for Truthwitch but I’m not a fan of Dennard’s writing. It’s too mechanic, too choppy. Her prose doesn’t have the ability to carry and transfer emotions. I do think she’s doing a great job with Aeduan and Iseult, but this is not due to the writing, but due to readers’ imagination, if I may say so.
Windwitch was mediocre at best, and if it hadn’t been for the romantic subplot, this book would’ve gotten less than 3 stars. The sequel couldn’t take the series to the next level. Second Book Syndrome crapped all over this instalment, if you ask me. Nonetheless, I might still be picking up the next book in The Witchlands series because IT’S AEDUAN’S BOOK K?