Witchshadow by Susan Dennard
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.
The Witchlands are at war, and the Cahr Awen are apart.
With the Twenty-Year Truce in shambles, war is rising in the Witchlands. The Raider King approaches, assassination attempts fall on unready rulers, and ancient powers arise to finish the destruction they once wrought on the land. In the middle of it all, split up once again after the briefest reunion, Safi and Iseult must find a way to save the world as they know it, facing greater obstacles than ever.
Without her Truthwitchery to guide her, Safi is trapped as Henrick fon Cartorra’s bride. Though she made be Empress of Cartorra now, her scope of power seems more limited than ever. Still, she is not without allies, and the discoveries she is poised to make may change the Witchlands forever.
Meanwhile, Iseult is on the run once more, scrambling to find safety in a world that would rather see her dead. Even as she flees the reach of Cartorra’s greatest powers, she must also contend with the true extent of her own Weaverwitchery, and what that means for her future. She is the Dark-Giver, half of the Cahr Awen, and she may be the only thing that can prepare the Witchlands for war, if only she understands the true power of the magic in her hands.
At last, Iseult gets a proper arc of her own!
That’s not to say she’s hasn’t grown throughout the series. But finally, at long last, we get to see her come into her own. She may begin the book at her lowest point, but I am so, so thrilled to see my favorite character at last realize who she is and what she can do! There’s no doubt that she and Safi are inseparable. As Threadsisters and the Cahr Awen, they are never truly apart, never without the other. But Iseult is finally learning that this doesn’t make her one half of a whole. She is whole, Weaverwitchery and all, and though she does not share all the same strengths that Safi does, it does not make her lesser.
Plus, she also gets to showcase her own strengths! Her cool logic plays a vital role in her survival, as does her growing command over the Threads of the world. Most importantly, though, her insight changes everything, allows her to see Threadwitch teachings for what they were always meant to be, allows her to find a way forward where no one else ever could.
She’s an amazing, brilliantly complex character, and I’m so excited to see her really blossoming. It’s been a long time coming, and it was pulled off so very well.
Of course, the other POV characters had a hell of a time, too!
I’m not even kidding when I say certain chapters from in other POVs gave me chills. Chapter 51 is the best of them, if you ask me (come shout at me on Twitter or something if you’ve read it, because HOLY HELL), but the flashback chapters and the final chapter, among others, pack some serious punch.
Thanks to the impending war, the tension is nearly non-stop, at least for the characters. As readers, we have moments to breathe and process throughout Witchshadow. It’s not all a roaring ride downhill. But the characters are fighting for everything they’ve ever held dear, and they want to achieve their goals so strongly it aches.
Naturally, Stix and Vivia had my favorite POVs. They so badly want to do right by their people and their loved ones, but they’re meeting so many obstacles along the way. It’s practically impossible to know who to trust, and even harder still to prove that they’re doing the right thing in that very moment. They both have this razor sharp sense of duty, though, this dedication to their ideals, and I loved watching them struggle ahead to carry it out, unrelenting all the while.
And, of course, shout-out to Aeduan, who’s just having a bad time. Sorry, bud. You don’t get a break yet, but the love of your life is crushing it, if that’s any consolation.
Witchshadow is set to be the second to last Witchlands book, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it to end!
What do you mean, I’m supposed to accept there’s only one book left? That’s it’s all coming to a head in the final installment? I loved Witchshadow so much, and I’m so reluctant to leave this amazing world behind. Every installment has been more exciting than the last, each one packed with long-haul plot reveals that never fail to delight. I’m already feeling empty at the thought of not having too much more of those to go!
But at the same time? The journey’s been breath-taking, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Witchshadow is a shining example of how to keep a longer series moving along, how to make sure your careful foreshadowing pays off. If you’ve already come this far in the series, please continue. I swear that it’s worth every page. 💜
CW: racism, violence, gore (including eye gore), graphic injury, animal death, child abuse, torture, suicide