The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Series: The Bone Witch #1
Publication: March 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format: eBook Pages: 400
‘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!’ – Goodreads
Highlight the sections marked with spoiler tags to read the text.
COVER LOVE. Beautiful, beautiful cover.
The Bone Witch is a paranormal fantasy novel narrated in the first person perspective. The story switches between two points of view. Each chapter features an italicised snippet from the protagonist, Tea’s, older self and the rest of the chapter unravels her past from the perspective of a young Tea. The snippets featuring older Tea are narrated from the perspective of a bard who is working on writing her story. I liked the narrative style.
I was mostly attracted to The Bone Witch because of the fantasy elements described in the blurb (and because of the cover). And the fantasy elements are very interesting and creative. The people in the story wear heartglasses. Heartglasses are glass pendant-like objects that everyone wears around their necks like a necklace. They can give away how the wearer is feeling (to people who can read heartglasses) and people sometimes exchange heartglasses with the person they love – I thought that was cute. There’s also a darker side to heartglasses, the person who you give your heartglass to can use it to control you, so giving it away carelessly isn’t a great idea.
The people in Tea’s world have abilities, like being able to control elements (fire, earth, water, and air). Or, on a rare occasion, some people like Tea are born and they have the power of necromancy (but they’re treated like rubbish for having this power even though it saves everyone’s butts). I was drawn in by the Daeva – I think they were like demons? – I would have liked to learn a lot more about them.
The writing was descriptive, which sometimes helped me get to grips with the setting. But overall, I’m still confused about what kind of world this story is set in. Tea is taken into training to become an Asha, which basically sounds like a Geisha. Tea is taken into a house to which she is loyal and an ambassador for (her actions reflect and affect the reputation of the house she belongs to), she is put through training where she learns to sing, dance, fight etc., she is hired for events, and the money she makes is used to pay off any debts she owes the house she stays at and for her purchases around town (they’re put on a tab).
The female characters wear huas, and Tea describes these in elaborate detail because they’re important garments that give away information about who the wearer is. I visualised huas as kimonos, I’m not sure if ‘hua’ is a term used for an actual style of dress – and my Google searches didn’t come with anything. Based on the descriptions of the attire and lifestyle, I visualised a setting like Japan, but the cuisine is Middle Eastern! E.g. sabzi polo and āsh (Iranian dishes). I was confused by how I’m supposed to be imagining a place that very obviously resembles Japan, but with Middle Eastern food. I didn’t pick up on any other Middle Eastern influences in the book so it was kind of weird to just throw something like sabzi polo in there, this made the setting a little jarring so I thought the world building was weak.
Some readers liked the relationship between Tea and her brother Fox, but I found Fox’s presence in the story annoying. Chupeco pays so much attention to the bond between the two and how well they get along and love each other that Fox’s character development is left weak. The whole ‘bond’ thing overshadows his character, making him flat and pointless, he’s annoying because, despite his pointlessness, he has a frequent presence in the story. Fox also doesn’t serve any purpose other than to be protective and brotherly towards Tea, it’s pretty much all he thinks and cares about doing.
Kalen was another character who irritated the hell out of me. He acts like an absolute bucket the whole time and tells Tea it’s because he thinks she’s a threat to Prince Kance – his cousin who he’s hell bent on protecting like a baby. He treats her like rubbish and has a salty attitude. *spoiler* The reason Kalen thinks Tea is dangerous for his Prince is because they like each other and there are hints to suggest the two are dating (I don’t recall it ever being made explicit). */spoiler* Prince Kance’s character was another letdown. I didn’t like the idea that Kance needs protecting like he’s a delicate little thing, and we hardly get to know him, *spoiler* which is a bummer considering he’s in cahoots with the protagonist so you’d expect to learn enough about him to either ship the pair or throw a truck at that thing. What hurt me the most was that right at the end WE FIND OUT THAT KALEN ENDS UP WITH TEA. LIKE WHAT?! No explanation given at all. */spoiler* Urgh, why did there have to be a love triangle, why?
I didn’t think any of the characters were particularly memorable or noteworthy, I didn’t care if Tea lived or died by the end either.
The thing that dropped The Bone Witch down from 2 stars to 1 was that I felt like the story was missing a plot. By the time I finished reading, I wasn’t sure what the actual story was because nothing substantial happened. In addition to that, the pacing was messy. Initially, the story moved along too fast, but then it slowed down too much and almost came to a halt by the last 70 pages or so. I was so disappointed by The Bone Witch because I went in with high hopes, the blurb sounded amazing, and the hourglasses, abilities and Daeva were great elements for a kickass fantasy story. However, the characters were bland, the pacing was off, there was no discernible plot, and the love triangle was cliché. The Bone Witch gets a thumbs down from me.