Two devoted friends dreaming of independence contend with unfathomable magic and the schemes of empires in this action-packed series opener.
Safiya and Iseult are an unlikely pair. Safi, the hotheaded daughter of an impoverished but noble family, is a Truthwitch, born with the rare ability to tell if someone is telling the truth or lying. Quiet Iseult is a Nomatsi Threadwitch, despised for her ethnic identity but gifted with the ability to perceive the emotions of others as colored threads. When the two friends become fugitives from the law, they decide to flee together, not realizing that Safi’s witchery has already made them targets in a larger political struggle. Dennard (Strange and Ever After, 2014, etc.) jumps from alternate history with zombies to epic fantasy with this new series. Her worldbuilding is impressively detailed, though neither the vaguely European setting nor the magic system breaks much new ground. The cinematic action scenes keep the storytelling brisk, and the rotating third-person narration introduces not only Safi and Iseult, but also Merik, the prince of an impoverished small nation, and Aeduan, a mercenary. The overall characterization is uneven, but readers captivated by the intense friendships and burgeoning romances will probably be happy to overlook the novel’s flaws.
Epic adventure and steamy smooches make for a crowd-pleasing formula. (Fantasy. 13-18)