Been a while since we’ve done one of these, hm? But we’re back, and today is all about theories for Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series! Spoilers for Bloodwitch absolutely ABOUND ahead, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished it yet (or dive right in, whatever floats your boat)!
Also, my apologies. It’s about to get very red-thread-push-pin-conspiracy-board in here on this fine morning. As it should.
What We Definitely Know
Well, we know a lot! With Bloodwitch, plenty has been confirmed, and along the way, we’ve also gotten a fair few hints in the other books, like the blood scents associated with certain characters, and their motivations, among other things. So let’s go down the list.
Basically everything comes in sixes.
Or multiples of six, in the case of the Twelve Paladins. But we have six Origin Wells, six doors in the depths of the mountain, six types of legendary beasts, six wounds Aeduan will never completely heal, etc. Sixes are IMPORTANT, and interesting, the only case of two seems to be the Cahr Awen. Make of that what you will.
We know a lot of the blood scents Aeduan has encountered.
Safi: mountains, dandelions, and truth under snow
Eron: mountains and vengeance
Leopold: new leather and smoky hearths
Vaness: sage, sandstone, an anvil, ink
Evrane: crisp spring water and salt cliffs
Corlant: wet caves, white knuckles, rusted locks, endless hunger
Owl: rose-water and lullabies
Owl’s mom: summer heather and impossible choices
Ragnor: sleeping ice, bloodied iron, and fire (which undoubtedly makes him the general from Sightwitch, further confirming that Aeduan is the son of THAT Eridysi)
Lizl: speed, daisies, mother’s kisses, steel
We know the legendary beasts have Threads.
Unlike other animals, which don’t appear to have Threads (or perhaps Iseult just doesn’t know how to find those Threads yet…), the beasts like sea foxes and mountain bats have clear, bright threads that Iseult is able to read. It’s not unreasonable to assume that other beasts that she hasn’t encountered, like flamehawks and stormhounds, would also have threads. It’s just a question of why.
Owl is the same child from Sightwitch, Dirdra.
Since we meet her mother at last, we know exactly who she is in this life and where she comes from.
Kullen is Bastien.
He’s referred to by name in Bloodwitch, pinning down one Paladin’s identity with total surety.
Aeduan doesn’t know the full truth of his parentage.
He realizes Ragnor talks about history like he lived it (because he did!), but he doesn’t realize that his mother was THE Eridysi. Which could have some interesting consequences when he does learn. If he learns.
The Sleeping Lands are cold and desolate.
The brief trip Merik and the Northman take is hardly an encouraging one, especially since they both get the hell out of there as soon as possible. Of course, there are plenty of questions about the Sleeping Lands, but none I can fully articulate from such a short visit and so little information.
What We (Pretty Confidently) Think We Know
There’s a lot Sooz could still shock us with, but here’s the things that are pretty much implied with all the knowledge we currently have.
Noden’s Gift is the ship Kullen nearly destroyed at the end of Sightwitch.
It appeared one year before Truthwitch, and no one seems to know how it happened. Neither Kullen or Ryber are present to confirm, but it lines up too neatly to be anything else.
There are some blood scents that can now be inferred.
Aeduan has run into a few scents that haven’t come with names or faces the first time around, but now, it’s possible to infer who they are.
Battlefields and burning bodies in Truthwitch: probably Habim, former Marstoki general and exceptionally powerful Firewitch
Owl is likely Saria.
It’s not 100% confirmed, but Saria’s skill in Sightwitch was her ability to shift the earth so easily, and she seemed to have a close friendship with Eridysi. Maybe this ties into the relationship Owl has with Aeduan, and it almost definitely ties into the sheer power that Owl exhibits in controlling the earth.
Kahina’s ring is Wordwitched.
This doesn’t mean Kahina herself is a Wordwitch, but the way the ring reacted to the deal she and Safi made gives me pause. There’s nothing good that’s going to come of that ring, especially now that we also know she’s at least in talks with the Raider King.
What I Think I Know
Now, I love theorizing about books, and the longer the series, the more excited I get about it. This, of course, is an absolute GOLD MINE for theories, so here’s some that I have.
We can guess at some of the reincarnated paladins.
I’m almost certain Stix is Lady Baile, given her connection to the under-city of Lovats and her Waterwitchery. Meanwhile, Habim is an exceptionally powerful Firewitch, and I get the idea that, like Owl’s relationship to Blueberry, he has a connection to the flamehawk that attacked in Marstok, making him one of the two Paladins of Fire, though I’m not sure if he’s one of the Exalted Ones, or one of the Paladins who tried to save the Witchlands via Eridysi’s doors.
Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be surprised if Corlant is a Void Paladin. The question remains, though: what of the Exalted Ones? We’ve only seen the six rebel Paladins in Sightwitch, and it’s unclear if the Exalted Ones are also subject to the same reincarnation rules as the rebel six. That would mean there’s more Paladins than we realize.
The owner of the clear lakes and frozen winters blood scent might be Ryber.
Okay, I KNOW this is a stretch. I understand that. But I don’t think we’ve ever had definite whereabouts for Ryber on the occasions Aeduan has caught that scent, she is a Sightwitch with access to information from Eridysi and Lizbet, and she’s both a big fan of swimming and deeply connected to the frozen tombs in the mountain. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if it was Ryber. Of course, it does make me wonder how this fits in with Leopold, since their scents overlapped, and with Eron, since the scent’s owner knew somehow to put the stolen talers in the coffee shop where Iseult would be waiting for someone to meet her, but at the moment, it doesn’t feel entirely implausible. Aeduan’s also never met Ryber, so he doesn’t have a name or face to match with a blood scent.
Alternately, it could be the Rook. Another weird stretch, but that bird gets around, and the scents would be sensible given the location of the Carawen Monastery, which the Rook King is tied to.
If Esme dies, it will be at Aeduan’s hands.
She came really close in this last book because the Northman caught her by surprise, but that will probably make her wary. Not to mention that her power over the world’s Threads makes her a major threat.
But she’s afraid of Aeduan. She knows he has no Threads, and she knows why. He’s a threat to everything she can do, a snag in the weave of the world. If anyone can kill her, provided he can get through the Cleaved she commands, it’ll be Aeduan.
Kullen’s Cleaving was explosive because he’s one of the Paladins.
Esme points out that Kullen has so many Threads from so many lives, and she wasn’t able to Cleave him cleanly as a result. He’s already a powerful Airwitch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the messiness of his Cleaving (which has happened more than once, I might add) is tied to the sheer power and number of Threads snapping at once.
If Kullen cannot be restored from his Cleaving, and if he and Merik are ever freed from the ice, then he and Merik will have to die at the same time.
Esme testing the Threadbrothers’ bond by stabbing Merik in the heart makes me think that it has to be a simultaneous death. One can’t remain, still available to pull back the other. Interesting implications for other major Thread relationships in the series should someone else die.
When Merik unsheathed the knife, the Northman was saved from Cleaving; the knife has power.
Dare I say it’s even part of the blade that lies shattered in the mountain? Because if unsheathing that blade healed the Northman, it’s very, very like the bell that saved Kullen from Cleaving in Sightwitch (provided the bell was responsible and not just Ryber). Bottom line, that knife is no ordinary knife.
Leopold is tied to the Rook King in some way.
The Rook King in his appearances seems only half-tethered to the world as it exists, almost like he hasn’t been reincarnated like the others just yet. There’s a particular emphasis on his crown, too, and what sticks out at me is the scene in Bloodwitch where Owl promises to make a new crown for Leopold.
At that point, I don’t think she knew he was a prince. Interesting, hm?
Kullen isn’t gone.
His eyes turn blue now and again, and in the ice, he apologizes to Merik. Even if Esme says she wiped Kullen off the map, I don’t think she has. Besides, if she had, wouldn’t the tie of Threadbrothers have snapped? Which means his Heart-Thread to Ryber might still be in existence, and if I remember right, Baile and Bastien were Heart-Threads in Sightwitch, presenting another possible complication should he encounter reincarnated Baile…
What Hasn’t Been Answered
THERE’S STILL SO MUCH. After all, Bloodwitch isn’t the final book in the series, not by a long shot! So here’s the questions I still have that I don’t think we can brush aside.
What happened to Safi’s parents?
We know she’s spent most of her life in her Uncle Eron’s care (if you can call it that), and then the protection and tutelage of Mathew and Habim, but what exactly happened that she no longer has her parents around? I feel like that’s probably tied to all of this business with the Twenty Year Truce and the war that led to it.
What else do Gretchya and Alma know?
They were planning to escape Corlant, which makes plenty of sense given how skeevy the dude is, BUT, the way Gretchya talks about the plan gives me the sense she’s far more aware of what’s going on that she lets on. Which would be appropriate for a Threadwitch. The question is, is she even potentially involved with the scheme Eron has set into motion? Does she know Iseult is a Weaverwitch rather than a Threadwitch? How much exactly is she keeping secret, how much has she shared, and where are she and Alma right this moment?
Why doesn’t Iseult have a blood scent?
I don’t think it’s anything to do with the Cahr Awen, because Aeduan can smell Safi’s scent pretty clearly, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that she’s the other half of the pair. So why doesn’t she have a blood scent? The only other answer I can come up with is that she’s a Weaverwitch, but I can’t confirm that unless we get a scene where Aeduan faces Esme. If she has a blood scent, then it’s something different with Iseult entirely, but if she doesn’t, then it’s probably their witchery.
Mountains and vengeance: what’s the revenge Eron is looking for?
There must be some very personal skin in the game if Eron and his allies are willing to restart the war. I’d be shocked if, given his blood scent (when it isn’t doused in alcohol), revenge isn’t factored somewhere into his plan.
How can Eron even be acting to restart the war if he’s a Hell-Bard?
He may have been dishonorably discharged, but he still wears his noose, and we’ve learned the exact nature of those: they bind the wearer to the will of the person who holds the fractured part of their soul. So who holds it now? Has he reclaimed it, or is it still in the hands of the Emperor of Cartorra? How does that factor in to his actions? And on top of that, Hell-Bards were formerly heretics, so what was Eron’s Witchery? AND, how on earth do you contain the magic and soul you’ve stripped from another person? What kind of container does that require?
Who are Leopold’s parents?
He’s Henrick’s nephew, but next in line for the throne. What’s the family situation there, and why, why, WHY would he be teamed up with Eron’s crew? What’s the motivation? What’s the full story?
How was the land around Noden’s Gift purified?
If most of Nubrevna remains poisoned, how did this tract of land shake off the Witcheries killing it? It did happen at the same time Ryber saved Kullen from Cleaving (which raises a ton of questions in its own right; was it all her, all the bell, both, something else, and did that heal the land at the same time?), but the how remains muddy, and probably because it’s going to be relevant in future books.
Could Cam have the powers of a Sightwitch?
His gut is NEVER wrong. Not just because he has good intuition. This kid is on the money every single time when his gut tells him something. It’s uncanny, and if his eyes turn silver now that he’s been inside the mountain, however briefly, I won’t be shocked in the slightest.
Why does Corlant want Iseult dead so badly?
The easy answer is that he’s aligned with the Raider King’s goal to eliminate the Cahr Awen. But why? What does he stand to gain from that? And if that’s why he shot Iseult in Truthwitch, long before there was any indication she was half of the Cahr Awen, how on earth did he know? If he didn’t know, what else is he angling at?
Could Jana have been a paladin?
I don’t want to diminish mental illness to “she’s a reincarnated witch and it’s driving her to extremes” because that seems incredibly dismissive, but I do wonder because she had such conviction about finding the under-city, and passed that on to Vivia. Not to mention she has a single patch of black irises in her garden that I don’t believe for a second were there by chance, not when all the other irises are Nubrevnan blue.
Why is Lady Baile a patron saint of slaughter in Saldonica, and seen as a symbol of prosperity in Nubrevna?
I can’t say for certain here, but the vastly different impressions of Lady Baile make me uneasy, like there’s more to the story of the paladins than we know, like it might just involve a betrayal.
Does Esme also have the ability to take Witcheries, or is this unique to Iseult?
Until jumping into the Aether Well, Iseult carried that Firewitch she Cleaved with her, to the extent that she was using his Witchery, even when she didn’t mean to. Is this unique to her as one of the Cahr Awen? Or is this is a Weaverwitch thing? Either way, does Esme know about it?
How has Serafin healed so quickly?
After nearly keeling over in Windwitch, he overshadows Vivia so forcely in Bloodwitch, and I can’t understand how he’s made this sudden recovery after being sick for so long. Something fishy is at work that I can’t unravel for myself, and I want to know what it is beyond his absolutely awful ego.
What side is the Rook on?
For the life of me, I really don’t know what team the Rook (and by extension, the Rook King) is playing for. He always turns up when he’s most needed, and he’s saved Iseult, Safi, and Ryber many times. But to what end? He must want or need something, and I’ve yet to figure out exactly what it is.
Is the Alma Aeduan remembers in Bloodwitch the same Alma in Truthwitch?
Either it’s a common Nomatsi name, or it’s Gretchya’s apprentice, and if it’s the latter, it would be interesting if she still remembers Aeduan and what her reactions will be to his return, should they meet again. I can’t help but think that she’s poised to be a critical part of the story at some point, especially because she and Gretchya escaped the Midenzi settlement, and because Esme later sensed in Truthwitch two Threadwitches at sea, which were probably Alma and Gretchya. Strange, too, that Esme can sense Threadwitches and so far, Iseult cannot (though perhaps now that she’s embraced her Weaverwitch skills, she might).
Esme is using the Arlenni Loop, not the Knot that Eridysi used to make the doors. Why?
Does she lack the information, or is the Arlenni loop more useful to her purposes? If she lacks the information, which she presumably got from Ragnor, why did he withhold or, or why did he not have it to begin with? There are gaps in the knowledge here, interesting gaps.
Could Bloodwitchery be a subset of Waterwitchery?
It does seem very Void in nature, and yet Waterwitchery, whether in healing or in Poisonwitchery, is focused by and large on the fluids of the body. I actually don’t see why Aeduan’s Witchery couldn’t be used to heal others (after all, it heals him!) save for the fact he’s really only been trained to use it to fight and even kill.
Why would the Raider King align with Esme and she with him? Why would the monks who swore to protect the Cahr Awen seek to destroy them?
There’s something unusual here, another bit of insight we don’t yet have in the motivations of the antagonists. It’s mostly centered on the Cahr Awen (though Esme’s main goal seems to be to gain access to the Void Well).
What’s happened to Evrane?
I absolutely cannot reconcile the Evrane of Bloodwitch with the Evrane of Truthwitch, and I think Iseult is onto something when she sees a darkness infecting the monk. Evrane felt so strongly about seeing the Cahr Awen return at last, and if she’d wanted them dead, like Natan seems to want, then she had plenty of opportunities on the way to Lejna. She could have let Iseult die of the cursed arrow at sea. But she didn’t, and yet she’s now aligned with these super sketchy monks. Something is very wrong, and I don’t even think it necessarily has to do with Esme because her actions are too…sentient for a Cleaved person.
Is there a chosen child for every Origin Well?
Vaness is the Chosen Daughter of the Fire Well, Vivia the Chosen Daughter of the Void Well. Neither of their Witcheries match the Origin Wells they take their titles from. The question is, is Vivia modeling her title on Vaness (hey, I wouldn’t say no to some Viviness…), or are there six children of the Wells, and who might the other four be?
Why would Eridysi want the Cahr Awen to die?
Ragnor claims this, but it seems exceptionally strange. Is it part of Eridysi’s Lament? It could be, since we haven’t gotten the whole thing, but that would also make it Lizbet’s desire, not Eridysi’s. If it’s not in the Lament, why would Eridysi want it? If it’s not in the Lament and Eridysi didn’t want it and Ragnor is telling himself she would, why?
Why were the mirror and blade shattered? Can they kill Paladins for good?
We don’t have the full story of the shattered items by any means, only the sense that in their fractured forms, they’re dangerous to the reincarnated paladins, and I suspect that whatever happened to them is incredibly important to the future of the Witchlands. I even have an inkling they’ll have to be restored, but at what cost?
And that’s where we come to an end until the next installment! Like I said, it’s looking very conspiracy board in here today, so if you want to help complicate this delightful mess and tease some threads (ha) out, let’s chat!