Phenomenal third installment. Dennard is a fantasy powerhouse.

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The Twenty Year Truce is on the verge of ending and war is on the horizon for the Empires. Politics are at the forefront of this story, which means Safi and her powers are in even more demand. To compound it further, Cleaved are appearing at an alarming rate, only they aren’t the Cleaved that everyone is used to. These ones are decidedly different, almost as if they’re being created as opposed to being overtaken naturally by using too much power. Each character has their own adversary to deal with this time around, but the adversaries all come back to the same thing — something is behind the destruction and the looming war, and each one needs to figure out their role in this battle and how to save as many people as they can, regardless of where they come from.

If you were to ask me at the beginning of this series who my favorite characters are, I’d answer without hesitation: Safiya, Iseult, and Aeduan. If you were to ask me who my favorite characters are after finishing Bloodwitch, my answers remain the same. From the Bloodwitch’s very first appearance in Truthwitch, it was apparent that he was not only going to play a large role in the series, but that he was also more than he seemed. Much more. And through his narrative, readers learn that dear Aeduan isn’t the bloodthirsty demon the world thinks he is, but simply a man with the same thoughts and feelings and emotions as any other man, only he feels everything on a much deeper, gut punching, heartbreaking level. Aeduan is complicated, to put it simply, and Bloodwitch is his book. His journey, his life, his future.

Bloodwitch furthers the main story arc quite a bit, but the heart of this series is still Iseult and Safi and their unflinching, incredible friendship. Readers already know how powerful they are as a team, but Bloodwitch takes it a step further and shows growth and personal achievements, individual sacrifices and resiliency as each woman ventures off on their own journeys. Most important, this book showed that Safi and Iz aren’t two halves of a whole — they’re two incredibly dynamic individuals that are stronger together, and strong in their own rights as individuals. These girls and their friendship truly make this series and I can’t express in words Dennard’s brilliance in creating these characters. And while the series will always revolve around them, that’s not to say the secondary characters are just decorations. In fact, they’re so incredibly rich and deep and solid that I even hesitate to call them ‘secondary’.

All told, Bloodwitch is my favorite in the series to date, and not just because I’m a huge fan of Aeduan. This book continues to expand the phenomenal world of the Witchlands, continues to showcase Dennard’s incredible characterization, her meticulous and skillful worldbuilding, and her mastery of creating such an intense and complex fantasy series. This series landed on my favorites shelf from the very first book, and it moves closer to Favorite Series Ever with each new installment. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of these beloved characters.

*ARC received courtesy of BookishFirst.