The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco is a captivating start to a new, dark fantasy series for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, set to release on March 7th, 2017. (Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco from SOURCEBOOKS Fire on Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review).
Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price. 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 (Chapters.Indigo.ca).
The Bone Witch had a slow, somewhat confusing start, but quickly picked up and drew the reader in as Tea’s adventure continued.
What I Liked:
- The storytelling vibe Chupeco infused into The Bone Witch was very intriguing and made for a refreshing read. Quite frequently, Chupeco switched to a different first person perspective, in the future (signified by italics), wherein Tea had grown up quite a bit, and undergone several clearly traumatic (undisclosed) events. These smaller passages occurred over a limited period of time, and served to show the reader where the story was going. In the main timeline, the story was told by Tea herself, but when mixed with the future timeline, the reader was made to feel as though they were listening to Tea tell a story, rather than reading a typical narrative.
- Tea’s character. She began confused and scared, but strong in her spirit and with her morals. Too often, authors have characters change personalities, mistaking this extreme shift as “character development”. Throughout The Bone Witch Tea remained confused, sometimes scared by her power, and unwavering in her motivations, but Chupeco still grew Tea as a character, having her slowly work her way to confidence.
What I Didn’t Like:
- While I enjoyed the storytelling vibe Chupeco infused into The Bone Witch (the reasons for which I outlined above), I also found that the structure lent itself to making the book feel like an exceptionally long prologue to another story. Nothing much really happened in The Bone Witch – yes, there were several very exciting segments, with Tea raising the dead and clandestine politics and even a dash of romance – but there was no one instance I would identify as a major climax. At the end of the book, I felt like I was still waiting for the ball to drop.
- The very, very sexist asha society, that almost nobody seems to have a problem with (Tea and some of her friends excepted). Only women can be asha’s; men either do not have powers, or join the army as Deathseekers. Women, once inducted into the society of the asha’s, live in a cloistered community, where they must learn not only how to control their magic, but must entertain powerful men with their beauty, grace and refined knowledge of society. Therefore, instead of creating an empowering role for women, Chupeco launched the asha’s into a wholly subservient role, wherein their beauty, charms and manners are almost, if not more, important than their abilities.
- Chupeco slightly undermines her own sexist society through Tea’s rebellion, and some other, mostly underhand, comments regarding the asha and the structure of the society she has been launched into. Tea, as a strong female character, challenges the role of women, and I hope to see more of this aspect of her crusade as the series progresses.
The Bone Witch was an engaging story that certainly lived up to its potential. The storytelling was absolutely breath-taking and enthralling, drawing the reader in almost immediately, and keeping them hanging on until the last word. Unfortunately, a lack of a true climax detracted from the tale, as did the overtly sexist portrayal of women. Despite these negatives, the positives – Tea, the prowess of Chupeco’s storytelling, and the vibrancy of the world she built – far outdid the negatives, and I will be eagerly awaiting most of this tale! (4/5)