The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco is a beautiful, fantastical story. Framed as a flashback, it tells the story of Tea, a young asha (read: witch) in training. Her power? Necromancy, which is alternately loved and feared in her society. Her power is discovered when she is young, and accidentally raises her brother Fox from the dead, leading her to leave everything she knows behind (except Fox) and embark upon her training. I don’t want to give too much away, but the world she enters is terrifying and overwhelming. The flashback intrigues you and sets up Tea’s future in a way that keeps you reading to know how she got there, which is obviously still left to be discovered fully in future installments of the series, so be prepared to not have as much of a conclusion as you would like.
At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the story. The world you enter is full of new words and new concepts and quite overwhelming at first. For me, having to learn and understand the world was my chief drawback. Once I got the hang of it, I found the world well built and fascinating. While parts of the story are slightly mundane, mostly Tea’s work up until actually becoming an apprentice, it is reminiscent of Memoir of a Geisha at times during her preparation. A lot of this book is spent leading up to bigger things, but such a set-up it is. Tea is an intriguing character, especially given information about her future that is slowly divulged. I found myself wondering frequently if she is going to wind up being the character I love the most, or the character I hate the most, as the series plays out. The other ashas and apprentices are also interesting, though not all are as fully fleshed out as Tea and her brother. I love the relationship between Tea and Fox, and am interested to see how it continues to grow.
Tea’s new life is dangerous and intriguing, with lots of half-truths and misinformation floating around. There is also joy, though. She’s falling in love with a prince, even though his bodyguard is afraid of her. There’s also mystery, in the form of the mysterious heartsglass maker, the history of the world, and the monsters Tea is being groomed to fight. I also really loved the concept in this world of the heart glass. Every person wears their heart in a glass vial around their neck. Ashas can read and interpret them to help others, with different colors pertaining to different emotions and illnesses. It’s bad news bears if you give your heart away to the wrong person, though, and it can lead to much worse than a broken heart. The brilliant colors of this world, including the heartsglass, really are truly painted in your mind as you read.
Overall, I really ended up loving this story, even though it took me some doing to get there. If you start reading and find yourself overwhelmed by the world, then just keep going, it gets easier. I admit the story also drags at some points, though I found reading about how asha dress and all their various accoutrements interesting, since it deepened the world building. If you like fantasy with a little bit of a dark edge, this is definitely for you.
I received this book from Netgalley and Sourcebooks FIRE in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars