Book Review: the Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Note: This book was given to me as an advanced reading copy by Netgalley. You can read it in March 2017.

I really loved this book. It’s Asian influenced fantasy, but the Asian elements aren’t cloying – I barely even noticed them until a quarter of the way in. It’s the story of Tea (pronounced Tee-ah), who accidentally raises her brother from the dead and becomes a bone witch – equal parts revered and reviled. This story, the first of the series, deals with Tea’s training under the watchful eyes of the last remaining Bone Witch, Mykaela, and the owner of her training house, Mistress Parmina. Cue the usual coming of age stuff, Tea learns humility, hard work, the thrill of excellence, makes friends with various peeps, has a major crush on the most unavailable person she could possibly crush on, etc. It’s a fairly obvious story EXCEPT FOR THE BIT WHERE SHE KEEP RAISING THE DEAD. That’s kind of cool. And it’s woven so deftly into the story. Anyway, Tea’s training is cut short because there’s a monster that needs slaying, so off she goes.

There’s also another narrative thread, an older Tea, alone and angry on a beach surrounded by variations of said monster. She’s pissed off and she’s going to destroy the world and it’s a lovely contrast to slightly stiff, but mostly benevolent girl-child Tea, who does stuff like insist her male friend be allowed to be an Asha (an upto now wholly female calling), and make sure her exhausted, near-death mentor is safe from harm. This other thread is a bit overwrought, but still readable. Sometimes I just found it unnecessary, like the author just needed to shove an extra page of italics between chapters. The twist at the end I saw coming, but when I read it, I found myself being thrilled that I was right, rather than lamenting the obviousness – nothing about this book is obvious, even if you think it’s going to be at first.

Other reviews have lamented the long descriptions, but I totally get off on that. Remember the Bitterbynde Series, where six pages were often devoted to the description of a single plant? Yeah, I love that. So the long descriptive paragraphs here got me totally wrapped up in the world (y’all know I love good world building) and because the culture is extremely different to my own, I needed all that extra knowledge.

I really enjoyed the story, I really enjoyed the pace of the book, I really think that it will be good for adult readers and teens who are ok with dark stuff, and I hope the next one is as enjoyable.

4/5 stars.

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