Windwitch

29939390by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 in the Witchlands series

If you follow the author at all, you’ll know that she writes amazing monthly newsletters, has a wealth of helpful advice on writing and craft on her website, and this book took her two painful years to write. It is completely, entirely worth it, and I am so grateful she put in the blood, sweat and tears to share this story!

Picking up right after the events in Truthwitch:
-Merik the Windwitch is horribly scarred from an assassination attempt that destroyed his ship and killed all but one crew member. Merik thinks it was his sister’s doing, but his companion Cam is not convinced.
-Safi the Truthwitch is on her way to Marstok with its Empress, Vaness, who is an Ironwitch.
-Iseult the Threadwitch is alone and trying to meet up with her Threadsister Safi.
-Aeduan the Bloodwitch finds himself tracking Iseult again both as a job and to get his missing silver back.

-Added to all that is Merik’s sister Vivia (a Tidewitch) and her attempts to secure the throne.

Given all the intricate plot threads and magic tied to these characters, I think it’s completely understandable that this would be difficult to write. But Sooz makes it look easy! Each arc, each transition between the points of view is so smoothly done. Each character has a different voice as well, which is so hard to do. Characters naturally collide and separate again, and all of them experience such moments of growth. This book is just action-action-action EMOTIONAL PUNCH–repeat!

Without spoilers–we see Merik and Vivia struggling to help their starving nation as tensions erupt all around their borders. The Puppeteer continues to invade Iseult’s mind with disturbing information and hints about Iseult’s potential abilities. Safi continually finds herself among enemies-turned-tentative-allies. All of them are forced to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and the world around them, and it’s this that keeps you flipping the pages as quickly as possible.

I think my favorite part was Vivia–learning about her motivations, her struggles as she attempts to run a country full of men who think she shouldn’t, and her dedication to her country regardless of what she must sacrifice or who gains the credit was so interesting and inspiring. All the characters make decisions you don’t always agree with, yet their earnest intentions keep you on their side. It’s truly enjoyable to follow their journeys!

This has all the best aspects of a sequel: deepened world-building, more types of magic, more intimate character relationships and interactions, and nonstop action. It’s hard to convey without spoilers, but if you enjoyed the mood and characters of the first, you will find more of that here!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Windwitch is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce – The Circle of Magic quartet and The Circle Opens quartet features four teens with different types of magic whose intense, unyielding friendships help them defeat evil sorcerers and unite cultures. Adventures abound, and it’s fun watching these characters grow up. These were some of my favorites when I was younger and Pierce is an author worth reading.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas is captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena to train a sea monster for her (instead of training them to kill pirates). See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this because this story has another awesome female friendship at its heart, but it was much darker than Windwitch. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush finds herself in an archipelago where every hour of the day has its own island and she discovers she is destined to save them all. Beautiful artwork by the author fully illustrates this series.
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Writing Update: Draft 2

If you’ve wandered through writing posts before, you will know that Draft 2 is the Beast. The hardest draft because it has you fighting on all fronts: plot holes, character arcs, world-building/setting, and pacing.

Your rough draft attempted to pin a story to paper and it probably resembles the story you intended like you resemble a human when you first wake up—the confusion, tangled hair, and morning breath. Sure, the story is there under all that, but it needs a comb and caffeine.

But before you can even spend time fixing it, you have to make a list of everything TO fix, and HOW you want to fix it!

For me this is agonizing, because hours staring into space chewing on a pen do not feel productive, no matter what I call it. “Brainstorming” “plotting” “revision preparation” “exploring my mind palace”– whatever, it is not a rising word count, and progress is not always quantifiable. It might take days to unravel one problem! And that means nothing on my detailed “Plan of Attack” list gets crossed off for days, leading to anxiety dreams of how I never finished the book because I got so far behind. There is so much to fix, how do you address all of it efficiently?

Well, my lovely CP Christine helpfully reminded me of an important revision tool that I had bookmarked and forgotten about: Sooz’s revision guides!

You really can’t get more organized than Susan Dennard. She has outlined every step of the book-to-query process and you can tailor it to fit your own goals! Highly. Recommend. So I reviewed all these and made my own Draft 2 Plan of Attack in January.

To prepare for February, I had these done in January:

  • Read through my novel and note everything I need to fix
  • Sort these notes into four categories: plot, character, setting, other

So here is what my February looks like:

  • Solve these problems! (done…for now)
  • Go through chapter by chapter (all 43 of them…) and implement my changes (here we go!)

Note: this is still not the line edit, make-it-pretty version. That comes next! For now I just want all the details and beats I need on paper, connecting the dots in the right order, making sense.

You may remember I did a lot of pre-writing for Fox Story last summer. I made a detailed outline for plot, character arcs, and world-building. Everything I did has saved me so much time at this stage! It’s impossible to write a perfect rough draft. But this rough draft resembles draft 2 or 3 of previous projects thanks to all this hard work, so 10/10 I will repeat this process in the future! No, it did not magically eliminate the need to revise, but when I sat down to make my draft 2 notes, I was dealing with a pretty organized story, not a mess of “inspiration” that got out of control by chapter five. I had no extraneous chapters of random events. I did not have to analyze chunks of my book wondering what I wrote it for and how it was supposed to fit in my outline because apparently I thought it was important at the time and now I can’t remember why! Most of my notes were about things I could not have known until I wrote the rough draft! Extra layers to enrich rather than explain the story. Not everyone outlines a story and that is totally all right, but if you do, remember everything you add to that outline is time saved later on! Treat your future self!

I have set the (very) aggressive goal of finishing draft 2 by March 1. We’ll see if I can manage it!

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What’s new this month

Happy new year! Here’s what I’m looking forward to this month:

209833661/3 – Wayfarer – by Alexandra Bracken

Etta’s debut violin recital culminated with being pulled into the 1700s by an estranged time-traveling relative. With the quest to find the astrolabe and save her mother and the Timeline in tatters, Etta awakens in an unknown time, alone. Nicholas and Sophia have teamed up and are racing through time to find Etta and astrolabe before the Ironwood clan destroys everything. I loved Passenger (see my review here) and I can’t wait to be immersed in a new set of times and place with these characters!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


299393901/10 – Windwitch – by Susan Dennard

The explosive start to this series had me on the edge of my seat the entire time! (You can see my review here). Safi and Iseult are best friends with special abilities, called witcheries. Safi can always tell truth from lies, and Iseult sees the bonds between people. Truth-telling is a rare and valued skill among the three kingdoms, and Safi has kept it hidden until now. With two kingdoms and bounty hunter bloodwitch on their trail, the two friends struggle to stay one step ahead of plans they hardly grasp. Now Prince Merik, a windwitch, must find them and save his kingdom from his conniving sister. I am so excited for this book, her world-building is excellent and the non-stop action is addictive!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


254891341/10 – The Bear and the Nighingale – by Katherine Arden

A story inspired by Russian fairy tales! When a stranger gives Pytor a necklace for his young daughter, he hides it away. Vasya is a wild child who grows up realizing that with the power of the necklace she might be able to save her village the dark foces that threaten to destroy them all. I absolutely adore fairy tales and I can’t wait to see what this winter story holds!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 


220820821/31 – Our Own Private Universe – by Robin Talley

Aki knows she’s bisexual, even if she has only dated guys. Her best friend is the only person who knows, and that’s fine for now. But when they go on a youth-group mission trip to Mexico Aki meets Christa–the first girl she has wanted to date. This sounds like all the female friendship and all the LGBTQ love! I’m so excited–a cute story with interesting friendship dynamics. I’m curious to see how they explore the church aspect too.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


306523341/31 – The Crystal Ribbon – by Celeste Lim

So curious about this one! A middle-grade novel about Jing, a girl in medieval China who is sold as a bride to a baby in order to provide money for her family. When she is treated badly by her betrothed’s family and sold again, Jing decides it’s time to take control of her own life. She wants to find home again, and she just might with the help of fantastical creatures guiding her way. I love middle-grade books, and this sounds like something completely new to me. So excited to see how it unfolds!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


278832141/31 – Caraval – by Stephanie Garber

I don’t think I have the words for excited I am about this book! I’ve been looking forward to it since last MAY. Sisters Scarlett and Tella secure invitations to Caraval, and incredible annual performance where the audience participates in the show. Despite being assured that it’s all a game, Scarlett quickly realizes that losing will have serious consequences. She has five nights to find her missing sister before everything unravels. Siblings! Magic! A carnival! Love! I signed up ages ago and I will devour this book!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Truthwitch by Susan DennardTruthwitch

I adored this book and the pacing is unmatched! Nonstop action with incredible characters and world-building. Best friends Safi and Iseult have gotten into and out of a lot of scrapes over the years, but now they’re in over their heads. Three different groups and governments are hunting Safi for her truth-seeing abilities, and they don’t know where to turn or who to trust. As they race around the world, barely one step ahead, the true nature of the plot begins to come together.

No more spoilers, but you can see my review here! Windwitch is the second in this series of four books. It comes out in a few weeks, so pick this up now because you’ll want more of this story!

29939390

Something Strange and Deadly

9859436by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: July 24, 2012

This is such a fun read! I loved Dennard’s Truthwitch, and I had to check out her first series. It’s completely different, except for the incredible action-packed pace. I read this in just over two days!

Eleanor is Elizabeth Bennet with no fear! Her family is out of money and she must make a suitable match soon. It would be nice to do that before all of the Dead leave Philadelphia’s cemeteries to invade the town.

When her brother goes missing, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters to find him because she fears his research caught the interest of a necromancer. Of course, chaos ensues.

My favorite part of this book is never quite knowing who are the “good guys.” I mean sure, the Spirit-Hunters are there to help, but how selfish are they? They have some secrets! Almost every character has two sides presented and it was fun wondering how their motives would intersect. The pace of this book is flawless, and I loved the near-constant adventure and mystery. Eleanor holds her own with the Spirit-Hunters, and although some of her swearing struck me as over-bold, her spunky attitude towards her problems is endearing. She’s quite alone but makes the best of it!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Something Strange and Deadly is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Mary has lived all her life within the confines of the fences. The Sisterhood knows what’s best, and the Unconsecrated will never relent. But then a girl arrives from outside the fence–from a world that’s supposedly devoid of humans and overrun with the undead. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren’s birthday present is her mother’s abandonment. Maren understands–she has this unfortunate habit of eating anyone she is close to. See my review here.
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Meet R, a zombie conflicted about being undead and eating people. He’s about to meet Julie–a beautiful girl that he wants to protect instead of eat. This is a quirky and charming retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – Her new series is set in a fantasy world where certain people have witcheries–useful skills like being able to tell truth from lies, or summoning wind. Safi’s truth-telling abilities have her and her best friend being hunted by three different parties in this action-packed story! See my review here.

Truthwitch

Truthwitchby Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I have been looking forward to this book close to a year, ever since I saw it pitched as “Avatar: The Last Airbender” meets pirates. It was hyped so extensively I actually worried that I would be disappointed (a la Red Queen) but thank goodness my fears were unfounded. This story is just plain fun! Although the first few chapters took some time to suck me in, once I reached 50 pages I was hooked.

Technically, the story is a lot of world-building mixed in with chase scenes across the world, but it was so enjoyable I didn’t care—these characters have my attention and I’d follow them anywhere! It really feels like an old-fashioned fantasy romp from my Tamora Pierce days, with light-hearted quips and serious friendships amidst all the adventure you could want. Cinematic and carefully crafted. I’ll rein in the fangirling now…!

Safi and Iseult are two friends on the run from their expected roles (for Safi it’s the political and social responsibilities of a domna, for Iseult it’s a Threadwitch apprenticeship in her tribe that she can’t hope to accomplish). Their unquestioning commitment to each other is what has gotten them into and out of scrapes for six years—until a heist gone wrong lands the girls in more trouble than they ever bargained for. Everyone seems to be hunting them for different reasons and they have nowhere to turn. Suddenly their abandoned pasts are catching up to them and a stranger destiny is looming before them. Throw in a Bloodwitch bounty-hunter seeking Safi’s coveted truth-seeing ability, a beleaguered prince on the high seas trying to help his country, and some secret plots between kingdoms, and you have an amazing setup for a series!

What I enjoyed the most was the exploration of the bonds (or Threads) between the characters. The story explores all the motivations we face with mundane and massive decisions. What is best for ourselves, our friends and family, or a country? Usually you can’t have all three. What do you sacrifice and what do you save? What if you have to decide within minutes? I love considering questions like that through fiction.

My biggest critique would only be that the book does feel like a setup more than a standalone novel (as first books in a series typically do), but the writing is solid and this should definitely be on any fantasy-lover’s list.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Truthwitch is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce – The Circle of Magic quartet and The Circle Opens quartet features four teens with different types of magic whose intense, unyielding friendships help them defeat evil sorcerers and unite cultures. Adventures abound, and it’s fun watching these characters grow up. These were some of my favorites when I was younger and Pierce is an author worth reading.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas is captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena to train a sea monster for her (instead of training them to kill pirates). See my review here.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa’s magical gift is killing, and her uncle uses it to control her. But when a foreign prince allies with her to save his kingdom, Katsa wonders if her Grace is actually something else, and if she can escape her uncle long enough to find out. This is more in-depth than Truthwitch but has a similar interesting take on magic. See my review here.
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Susan Dennard’s real-life Threadsister’s series about an assassin removed from her life sentence of hard labor to compete for the role of King’s Champion (i.e. sanctioned assassin). Celaena Sardothien’s epic story is filled with magic, mystery, and veiled destinies. See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this because this story has another awesome female friendship at its heart, but it was much darker than Truthwitch. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush finds herself in an archipelago where every hour of the day has its own island and she discovers she is destined to save them all. Beautiful artwork by the author fully illustrates this series!

What’s new this month

Happy new year! 2016 is starting off with a bang – here are the books I’m looking forward to this month:

Truthwitch1/5 – Truthwitch – by Susan Dennard

This has been getting more than its fair share of hype and marketing for about a year now, so I’m super excited to finally read it! Originally pitched on twitter as Avatar: the Last Airbender meets pirates, I’ve been craving it for months. This is much more up my alley than Dennard’s previous trilogy (Something Strange and Deadly), so I’m excited to see what her style is like and how she meshes with Sarah J. Maas (her soul-twin/BFF). This story was inspired by their real-life friendship. How fun is that?!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

Passenger1/5 – Passenger – by Alexandra Bracken

Another instance where her original trilogy didn’t grab me (The Darkest Minds) but I’m excited to read this book. Time-travel, adventure, destiny, a sort of treasure hunt…yes please! I know time-travel is one of those things that people tend to love or hate depending on execution, so I really hope I like her style. She’s coming to Denver in a couple of weeks so I get to meet her as well! (And attempt to not be awkward).

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


 

Bookishly1/16 – Bookishly Ever After – by Isabel Bandeira

This is a debut novel that seems super cute. Phoebe just wants a life as exciting and romantic as the books she reads. When she starts falling for Dev in real life, she decides to imitate her favorite characters in order to win his heart. But what if it doesn’t work? Normally this isn’t my thing but how can I resist, it just sounds too stinkin’ cute!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


 

dark days1/26 – The Dark Days Club – by Alison Goodman

London, demon hunters, mystery, yes please! Goodman’s world-building is incredible, so I can’t wait to dive into my favorite city through her words. I’m hoping this puts an adventurous spin on a modern version of a “period novel” to break up long descriptions. This is the first in a trilogy!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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