Hello happy readers! I had this review typed up for last Friday but after being up for 36 hours helping my mom and running her to her appointments I was a bit forgetful. The delayed review is for The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco which is the first book in a planned series. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher and was thrilled to start this new series. I mean come on first, this cover is beautiful and the title makes you wonder.
The Bone Witch is town from two different perspectives in two different times. One where we have Tea, she is young and learns she is a bone witch in a rather explosive way. She is both feared and praised depending on where you look, though many fear what they don’t understand. She leaves her homeland to train under an older and wiser bone witch and learns to be an asha. We follow her training and get to know her and her struggles in the world plagued by daeva, beasts who bring destruction. As a bone witch much is expected of her as there are so few of them left. The other POV is that of a bard, someone who has sought her out at a time much later on and is seeking to learn her story.
I had a bit of trouble finally putting a rating on this book as I was on the fence about it. I enjoyed the story overall but I felt the book focuses less on the story and more on description. I understand we are building a whole new world and a magical system and that takes time but it felt at many points like a set up book. I was interested to see how Tea from the start became Tea telling her story. I liked when things were happening and there was some type of action to move the plot along. At the same time I think the last quarter of the book really picked up and improved for me. This makes me even more interested to read book two and see what happens with Tea, Fox, Kalen, Kance, Zoya, Likh, Lady Mykaela and some of the other characters.
The story itself though if it had been condensed a bit was pretty interesting; raising the dead, the life of the asha and a bone witch none the less. The political struggles. While reading it I kept imagining a Geisha (from my limited knowledge of them anyways) with the parties and formality of the asha life in the asha-ka. Only if they also trained in magic runes and in combat. But things like the musical instruments and dancing for sure. I wanted to know more about the daeva, we got good descriptions of most of them but the azi I felt was covered the most. I did love how the author managed to bleed some small things in that when reading you see one part of the “future story teller” Tea more sense. I liked the tale it told and I even liked the way it was told from the past and present sides.
I liked the battle between what is expected and what she desires. She is expected to train and earn money and then when ready do what is expected of her. Even as the way things are, sitting on tradition, how they cause harm to those she has come to care for. I loved the questioning of gender policies and why only one gender can do certain things not those that they excel at. I also loved the buildup of expected romance to happen, though we didn’t get much of any real romance, just the promise of it to come and wow in a very interesting way I imagine. A slow build is nice and it lets you get to know the characters and really develop connections without any insta-love.
Now while I liked the story itself I had some struggles here and there where it would lose me in the pacing with over exaggerated detail of certain things. On one side I loved the description of the world and getting into the magic system and the culture, on the other side it did sometimes drag after the first several in detail descriptions of the different hua. At one point the character even makes a comment about going into so much detail each time and explaining the reasoning which I liked but it didn’t make reading about it each time after any better.
Overall I enjoyed the story but this one was a bit of a struggle at times. I think I’ll be checking out book two for sure and hoping with all the world building being done in this one the next may have less of that and much more on the story and plot.
Until next time…