A Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017! In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price... Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there's anything I've learned from him in the years since, it's that the dead hide truths as well as the living. When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she's a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles...and make a powerful choice. Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!
The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1)Featured
What Left Me Wanting More:
I was a little confused by the alternating POV. The POV’s are ‘Tea’s’ during her Asha training and an unknown narrator who speaking about ‘Tea . Much of what is mentioned in the second POV is never explained.
The second half of the book did drag a bit for me. It felt as if some of the Asha daily life routine could have been skipped.
I also was constantly confused by the Eight Kingdoms and the cities within. There is a map at the beginning and a break down of each kingdom at the end that helped me sort things out a little.
The ending did leave me hanging a bit. Hopefully, the next installment with time up some of these loose ends . There is a twist at the end that was a little difficult to pick up on. Again, hopefully this will be explained it book two.
My Final Judgement:
‘The Bone Witch’ is a high fantasy novel with an amazing backdrop, complex characters, and timely topics. I loved it and it has inspired me to dive into more high fantasies soon. I can’t wait to read the next installment of the series. Hopefully, future books will tie up some of the cliff hangers.
High fantasy usually isn’t one of my go to genres. I am more of a real world kind of gal. However, the premise (i.e. necromancy) of this story along with the fantastic cover, made me decide to give this one a shot.
I loved the character of Tea. She was both amazing and touchingly vulnerable. Her character was well-developed and relatable. I felt myself rooting ‘Tea’ throughout the book.
Since I am not much of a high fantasy reader, I generally am not used to world building so this was initially a lot to dig through. Once I got through the details the setting really brought me into ‘Tea’s’ World. The description (especially of the clothing) was vibrant and truly amazing ( I want a hua for myself). I also thought it was unique the way Chupeco gave each kingdom a unique personality. Each kingdom had unique dress, customs, and rituals.
‘Tea’s story was unique and created an interesting tale for me. It had a interesting perspective and created a fairytale feeling .
I loved that the underlying story. I also loved that real world issues were explored inside the fantasy setting. ‘Tea’s’ ostracism by those around her was definitely one of those issue. Tea couldn’t help who and what she was born as but this didn’t stop those around her for judging her because of it.
Rich and Unique!
The Bone Witch is an intriguing tale, rich in descriptions and full of unique settings. As we follow Tea, a girl of twelve years who discovers she is a Bone Witch after she raises her brother from the dead, we journey with her through training and knowledge until she is fifteen. There are daeva which are described as cursed monsters but seem like dragons, three types of Asha (Bone Witch is one), Deathseekers, and familiars (who can indeed be the dead). This novel is the story of how Tea got where she is at 17, though the second book will most likely continue this as we do not yet have all of the past. At least, not enough to fully understand why she is where she is now.
The story alternates between two voices. Tea is our voice in first person for the past (majority of the book) and an alternate character's voice also in first person is for for the present (short bursts in between each chapter). This allows readers to see inside the characters heads more, even if there is little to see.
Tea is very strong but also impatient, so we mostly see her struggle to learn more faster. She throws herself into some situations where she shouldn't, because she wants to test herself and taste more of that wondrous power she feels every time she uses dark magic. She is impulsive and doesn't necessarily think things through before she acts. We don't see much of her actual character however, because she was mostly busy with training and talking about which parts she liked and didn't like. We do get to see some relatable childish rebellion though, such as skipping lessons, playing little pranks of sorts, and keeping secrets. Granted, Tea's secrets are a lot darker and more dangerous than expected of a fifteen year old.
The premise of this novel definitely intrigued me, and the story started off strong. Rich details and a unique world enriched the reading experience, and one can easily tell how much a hua means to an Asha. While I enjoyed learning about the training and what it takes to become an Asha, I must admit that there was too much even for me. Most of the novel is training (as a maid, as an apprentice) of fighting, history, social behaviour by attending parties, flowers, proper appearance, magic, and dancing/singing. We learned of the different rankings in each and which Tea excelled in and felt little for. The issue with this however is that it is repetitive and gives very little personality for the characters.
As for romance, it's hard to say that there is any. Tea has feelings for someone yes, but that someone fails to notice and do nothing comes from it. We mostly see Tea stumble over words and thoughts in the character's presence. And by the end, in one of the bursts of the present, we see her with someone she calls "my love", though this has yet to be touched upon. Hopefully the next book will bring clarification.
While the writing is flowery and rich, it affects the plot. There is very little room for plot when most of the pages are filled with descriptions of pretty hua's and buildings and training. It may feel like a lot has happened, but it also feels like nothing did at the same time. There is definitely potential, so hopefully the second book focuses more on character development and plot.
Overall, The Bone Witch is an intriguing tale that is both unique and beautifully visual. While there are some issues for me, I still very much enjoyed reading this novel.
"The Bone Witch" is a fascinating set of intertwined tales: the first in italics is told by a bard who has encountered the young bone witch (at about 17) after she has been exiled and the second is longer and the brunt of the story about this same bone witch's past and development, told from her point of view. The main story reads like an intricate oral narration of Tea's life as a bone witch from her discovery by Mykaela when she resurrects her brother, Fox, to her trainings and beyond.
Tea and Mykaela are a special and rare kind of asha called dark asha (insult term for a dark asha is a bone witch). Other asha have some combination of elemental powers. Tea's sisters are witches/asha as well, though much smaller scale and less powerful than the dark asha. Dark asha have some kind of power over death, being able to raise the dead (with their consent- except animals which can be raised without consent), but also to heal and treat illnesses. Their main job, which takes most of their energy/life force, is to raise the daeva and kill them at set intervals to take their bezoars, so that they cannot rise on their own and wreak havoc. Daeva were created by the False Prince and only dark asha have enough power to deal with them. A daeva which was not dealt with had killed Fox. We learn through the daeva created by a bone witch, that they have special names and are more tame like young animals in the right hands (e.g. taurvi, akvan, indar).
What I did not expect from the way the synopsis is written is the style of the story. This book seems very clearly inspired and closely related to "Memoirs of a Geisha" which surprised me. If you exchange geisha for asha (a term for a witch in this fantasy world), then you have most of this story. The asha are trained in special homes with a head of house ("Mother") where they begin as servants and then apprentice (she is Mykaela, the only other bone witch's, apprentice)- although the term is misleading, as they are an apprentice in general, not to one specific asha. Asha are primarily (90% of their classes) trained in the arts of entertainment and conversation, with classes in music, singing, dancing, etc. They then also have some classes in magic and fighting, but not all asha continue in these classes (depending on skills). The asha have teahouses where men gather to speak with the asha and watch them perform and the asha are paid for their company. They have one major performance which is a source of jealousy, if you do not get the main role, and this creates a rivalry between Shadi, an asha at Tea's house, and Zoya, an asha at another house, which leads to Tea's embarrassment and discovery (when Zoya tries to shame her house by having her dress in Shadi's hua- which sounds like a kimono to me- and play her sitar before Tea is trained). This backfires when Tea's magic takes over and the incident catapults her from servant to actual apprentice with classes. The asha also have "Sisters" which are older asha that give them specialized training. Tea has 4, of which Mykaela is one. All the asha-in-training make a debut which is allowed after testing by the asha-ka, a group of leaders.
There is little romance in this book, but I found that it was unnecessary and the book certainly wasn't wanting. Tea fixates on the prince (Prince Kance) with the hint that they have conversations not explicitly detailed in the course of the book, though I am not 100% sure I get why/that I buy into this relationship (maybe just the enigmatic alure of power/royalty?). However, I do not think the book was lacking, and I assume romance will develop more in sequels.
I found the whole asha process fascinating. All the asha are dressed specially in hua and with special hairpins. These have a spin from geisha too- some of the hairpins have special significance (e.g. Tea gets one early which allows her to filter some of the magic from overloading her senses).
I was most interested in the heartsglass, which everyone- not just asha- wears and carries. The heartsglass is like a piece of yourself and is crafted when each person becomes a teenager. You can exchange your heartsglass with another individual and this is akin to marriage. The heartsglass will wither without attention- unless you are an asha, and then it will not (if you lose it, it is gone forever/cannot be replaced and you are susceptible to illness/less able to heal). For most people, once it withers, you can get another (as one of Tea's sisters consistently does). Heartsglass can also be forged by using memories (which Tea gives at times); for most people, giving these memories means you will no longer have them unless they are very strong and then will come back after a while, but for dark asha, they retain the memories and are only weakened a little. Tea, as a dark asha, can read heartsglass to see when others are lying, sick (and if so, what), embarrassed, interested/bored, etc.
Chupeco has really created an intricate world here which is fascinating to read. I think the synopsis is misleading and might direct away some potential readers and attract others who like different kinds of stories. I myself was on the fence about it from the description, but it was not at all like I expected. It would be better marketed as a twist on "Memoirs of a Geisha," with more descriptions of what asha are really like (e.g. not just witches). It seems that most of the magic is instinctive and the training is more for making sure their powers do not prevent them from maintaining traditional gender roles, though this is a minor theme, and then secondarily about selecting the spells which are to be used in which situations.
It is an incredibly descriptive book and has more information about small things (hua, hairpins, etc.) and lessons (this is the vast majority of the book) than action. The traditional gender roles is a pervasive, but less focused/minor, theme and interesting not only for Tea and women in cities, but also because Likh, a young boy, is also trying to break them to become an asha and dance with them.
Despite the limited story of training/lessons, the book was incredibly engaging. If you like action packed books, this may not be for you. The action scenes are few. At about 90% of the way through, the story begins to grow, as Tea goes to fight the dragon/avi, shirking her customers who pay for her attention/time (but not her skills). This leads me to believe future books will contain more action.
Despite it not being at all what I expected, I loved it- such an amazing world and story. It fascinated me and I could not put it down! I am really looking forward to the next installments, which promise to be more action-packed. The ending is very intriguing, and I am very curious to hear/read about how Tea's backstory continued/progressed. If only I could continue now!!
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
A vividly descriptive high fantasy
THE BONE WITCH by Ren Chupeco is a YA high fantasy (witches) novel with a cliffhanger that promises a sequel.
The eye-catching cover and the ironic opening line of the blurb piqued my curiosity and excited my inner nerd. I requested and received an advance copy eBook from the publisher via NetGalley for review.
In a world of witches, Tea is a teenager who accidentally raises her brother from the dead and thereby discovers she is a highly revered yet highly feared necromancer, who holds the power to save her kingdom from demons at the slow expense of her own life.
The opening line of Chapter One is the opening line of the blurb, and in my opinion, the best line in this book:
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise.
That line! I loved it! And I had high hopes, VERY high hopes of an enchanting, engaging tale, but that one fantastic line proved to be not only an empty promise of an ironically humorous sister-dead-brother dynamic, but sadly, it was also by far most interesting piece of this 400+-page book. It’s a great sales line, but the irony there is certainly not indicative of the pages that follow. Though the writing is beautiful, the alternating chapters of Tea’s past and present serve up a constantly interrupted tale that effectively sucks this story dry of adrenaline. Most disappointing was the utter lack of plot, the omission of Tea actually accomplishing (or not accomplishing) any sort of goal, and the endless reminders that Tea is a special sort of witch. Together, this formed a perfect storm of no-connection-whatsoever to Tea and threw my skim engine into high gear.
Readers will easily know from the prologue (available as a free sample on Amazon–just click here) whether this is a tale they’ll love or not love.
For ages 11 and up. This novel contains mild violence and language, and some romance, but no sex. The adrenaline, “edge-of-the-seat” factor is low, and readers who like a fast pace may find themselves skimming much of this book. Still, this book would no doubt appeal to fans of high fantasy who enjoy beautiful writing in a slow-paced, lyrical tale, told in alternating chapters of flashback and present time.
I wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, I’m an adrenaline junkie, and this book put my brain to sleep.
THE BONE WITCH earns 2 North of Normal stars.