Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: 7 March 2017
I didn’t know what to expect before reading The Bone Witch other than a story about witches by a poc author. The book grabbed me with its haunting atmosphere and Chupeco’s beautiful words.
The Bone Witch centres on Tea who isn’t like any magic user. She can raise and manipulate the dead and beasts that come under a bone witch’s control. Because of this, she is feared and hated by society but has a promising future. She is forced to leave her family to be trained while a war approaches.
Even though I was hooked, I became only invested in the latter half of the book when things started to get interesting and a plot was formed as I felt that the story was aimless. Every now and then, I got lost because I wasn’t sure what was happening or there was no explanation to the characters’ actions or thinking. There were terms and occupations that weren’t clear and quickly brushed away.
I got the impression that the asha are like geiko or geishas and they are interesting. I wish that them using their magic had more page time. Because the book is in first person (Tea’s pov), there’s a lot of summarising/telling and not a lot of action, so it was hard to stay engaged or be in the moment. When it comes to the characters, I did form a connection to them but later I felt detached. They were good but they weren’t as solid as Tea and her brother Fox and there wasn’t much character development for them.
I love the relationship between Tea and Fox which has a dark twist to it. They’re bonded by blood but also magic and that makes things intense.
I didn’t buy into the romance between Tea and Prince Kance. There wasn’t even a build up to it or a build up of feelings that Tea experiences and Kance didn’t do anything to grab my attention – he also felt like a minor character. Tea had more of a rapport with Kalen. Despite that, along with her interactions with rival Zoya and Khalad, who threatened her in the past, I found Tea smoothing things out with the three not believable. Like how can you go from hating to instantly “oh my god, I was wrong, I’m sorry, let’s be friends”?
Despite the negatives, I did find The Bone Witch unique. Tea is an anti-heroine and I love the alternating chapters showing her as a naïve girl and an asha-in-training and her as a powerful witch, isolated and on the road to battle an enemy. The book explores her struggle with expectations and how she fails and succeeds and falls again, but she learns and ends up taking charge of her life.
I love the culture, a multicultural world, which burns brightly and seems to be inspired by India, Japan, the Middle East and to an extent, Russia? If the characters don’t connect you to the book, the setting and culture will. The only thing that bothered me was a tribe being typically portrayed as brutal, unnerving, associated with nature and speaking a harsh-sounding language. And they only appear in one scene to give a gift to the protagonist. That’s it?
I understand that this is a first book, so there are things that aren’t tied up at the end and I’m still confused and disappointed that the stakes weren’t as high as I expected from a fantasy. I guess this is a stepping stone to a much bigger plot and I’m waiting for it 🙂