Harry Potter fans, if you’re not already reading the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard, then I don’t know what you’re waiting for. This fantasy series has everything you could possibly want. And the latest installment, Witchshadow, is no exception to the magic that Dennard has woven together.
For those of you who may be new here, the story follows the nations of the Witchlands as they go to war with one another. At the heart of the conflict are two besties, Safiya and Iseult, the only ones who may have enough wit and witchery between them to save the world. Throw in some kickass fights, a highly unique magic system, and several gorgeous love interests, and you’ve got yourself a series!
Plus, the books are rife with queer and racially diverse representation, making them a world that everyone can feel safe to play in.
Typically, each book in the series is multi-POV, with a concentration on one particular character, in this case, Iseult. Dennard was challenged with weaving together what she originally envisioned as two separate books into one to tell Iseult’s story, and she does so with triumphant success.
As someone who has been around since the very first book was released, I felt such an absolute pleasure in witnessing Iseult come into her own power. She really owns this story. She’s learning how to stay true to her core self while also creating a new dark and dangerous persona to wield her power. It was so nice to, for once, not feel like a character had to sacrifice a component of themselves to fulfill their story. Rather, they’re allowed the space to embrace it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Girlfriend kills it! She’s seriously so amazing, I was kicking and screaming in my jammies while I read her throwing that deadly magic around!
Speaking of killing and deadly magic, there is kind of, um, a lot of it going on in this book. Like, a lot. People (in the general sense) are killed. Cities are killed. My feelings are killed. It’s a bit of a bloodbath. And I don’t say that to be spoilery in any way. Trust me – nothing will prepare you for the twists and turns this book takes.
But my biggest struggle was the fact that so many deep, dark horrors awaited me in this book. If Order of the Phoenix was the book that made you realize Harry Potter wasn’t just a fun little story about magic and dragons, then Witchshadow is its equivalent in this series. Be prepared with this one. There’s a lot of suffering, the characters are in difficult places, and the stakes are all finally heart-stoppingly real. I care tremendously about these characters. Reading about how much pain they have to go through with little to no relief was truly awful. I put the book down more than once just to catch my breath.
And now? Well, now, I love my threadsisters and all their weirdo companions even more for what they’ve gone through. This book stands as a true testament to how brilliantly Dennard’s writing craft has developed. She takes a story of enormous heartache and drags you in deeper when you’d have thought you’d want to run the other way. I am DYING for the finale next year to bring this magical series together. I hope you’ll all consider joining me along the way!
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Tor Teen, for review.