“It is always easier to blame gods or legends than it is to face our own mistakes.”
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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.
TW: gore, violence, death (including parental and animal), graphic injury, misgendering, suicide, self-harm, slavery, racism
So here’s the really neat thing about the Witchlands series: each book is honestly better than the last. Which is a little weird for me to say since I’ve given all them four stars so far (as I write this, I haven’t read Bloodwitch, but check in soon for the full opinion!), BUT I really do mean it. Truthwitch was good, Windwitch was even better, and Sightwitch was excellent (check out my review from last March if you’d like to know why! turns out all my old opinions still stand, which is a nice feeling).
Of course, my favorite part of Windwitch is Vivia.
I know, shouldn’t I talk about the plot? Shouldn’t I get into detail about all the wrenches thrown in the plan, the way my favorite Threadsisters have been torn apart, the way Safi makes THE WORST PUNS, the way the character of the Witchlands is changing and war is coming?
I should. But Vivia is pretty much the literary love of my life (second to Lila Bard, sorry, Viv).
For starters, she is IN CANON pretty much a useless lesbian, but is also the most efficient, focused princess I have ever read about in my life. Is her love life successful? No, because she just CANNOT seem to summon the courage to talk to her crush about her feelings (to be fair, hard same). And is her political life successful? Okay, no, but not because she isn’t trying. Vivia loves Nubrevna with everything she has. Even if it doesn’t show because she thinks she has to keep up a focused, cold front, she loves her country with everything she has, and wants nothing more than to save them from the hunger and war that sits on their doorstep. Her people are everything to her, the reason behind everything she does.
And best of all, it was amazing to get her POV after only seeing her through Merik’s eyes in Truthwitch, because that proved just how good Sooz is with unreliable narrators. Merik absolutely hates his sister, thinks her power-hungry and dangerous, but he spends so much time on his high horse that he doesn’t see the rest of what Vivia does or why. The absolute 180 in my feelings toward Vivia in this book compared to my feelings toward her in Truthwitch shows just what strong POVs can do. That’s what fantastic characterization looks like.
And speaking of characterization, I love Iseult more than anything STILL. She’s alone and afraid for part of the book, and even once she has her alliance with Aeduan, she still has to grapple with so much. Her confidence takes so many hits, and the nature of her magic is like a weight over her head, held by a thread. It feels like it’ll snap at any moment, that she’ll be crushed by it.
Still, she keeps going.
She is, to me, one of the series’ most resilient characters. No matter what’s thrown at her, she manages to get back on her feet and try again, whether with help from others or all on her own. She’s clever enough to lock Aeduan into an alliance to benefit them both, rather than making complete enemies of one another. She’s desperate enough to throw herself into a river to escape danger, because her other options are slim. She’s a survivor, through and through, and she has some incredibly heavy choices ahead of her, I can tell.
While we’re on the subject of Iseult, though, I’d like to get more into that good ol’ unpopular shipping opinion I mentioned in my Truthwitch review: I don’t ship Aeduan and Iseult. At this point, I do admit that I like Aeduan more as a character. What he did for Owl has warmed me to him where I didn’t care for him very much before.
That doesn’t change the fact that he and Iseult are by and large using one another. Their introduction to one another was one of hunter and hunted, and their first real contact involved Iseult breaking his spine to save her own life and Safi’s. She chose not to kill him, but sparing someone’s life isn’t romance. In this series, it just creates life-debts.
And I don’t think for a second, not even a little, that a life-debt, a power imbalance, is romantic. So when we get to the point that Iseult tells Aeduan she owes him arguably three life-debts, and his internal response is to think “huh, two of those are paid, but I won’t tell her that so I can take advantage of this in the future,” I can feel my brain pumping out a thousand knife emojis at once. It isn’t romantic to me! It isn’t! It’s a matter of survival, and of manipulation. Really, in Aeduan’s words, it’s a matter of who will betray who first.
I just don’t like it. Maybe that’ll change in the future, but at the moment, I don’t see their choices as being even a little bit romantic, and I just can’t get on board the ship. There’s work to be done to convince me it’s shippable. Given what Sooz did with Vivia, it’s possible, but also, I am pretty stubborn on this point. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And the last thing I wanted to mention (with a quick shoutout to the plot, which is putting more puzzle pieces into place but also raising more questions, can I get a hell yeah from super intense theorizing land?), is that I didn’t love how Cam being trans is handled. I think it could have been done a lot better, and while it makes some sense (without making it acceptable) that Merik misgenders Cam constantly, because Merik has the perception of a brick and an ego the size of the moon, Cam pretty clearly is trans from the start, and even confronts Merik about it pretty emotionally. Yet there’s no proper use of he/him pronouns until the very end. Which is better than no proper pronoun use at all, but it was frustrating to read nonetheless, and I do think it could have been done better, resolved sooner, without changing too much of the character arcs at hand.
On the whole, though, it’s like I said: the series keeps improving with each book, getting more intricate and dangerous. I can’t wait to start Bloodwitch, and I’m absolutely ready to get punted to the moon by all my INCREDIBLY STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THIS SERIES. If you haven’t picked it up yet, now is the perfect time to get extra invested in the cast, the world, the slowly unfurling plot that threatens THE BIGGEST SHAKE-UPS.
Join me in Witchlands hell, folks. It’s unbelievably worth it.
0 thoughts on “Windwitch by Susan Dennard”
Ooooooo I’m SO intrigued by this review because I just finished Truthwitch and will be moving onto this one soon. And I’m shocked at your description of Vivia??? Because I literally was throwing knives at her in my brain during the first book, but if I get to see her as a strong lesbian
queenprincess then I am 100% here for it. Merik really does have an ego the size of the moon. Lol. And Iseult is AMAZING AND I LOVE HER!!! Great review!
HAVE FUN OMG!! Windwitch completely rocks all perceptions you have of Vivia and digs so much deeper into the characters it’s AMAZING.
YES ANOTHER ISEULT LOVER WOOOOOOOOO!!!