Monday, January 9, 2017

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

From the publisher: When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from other witches. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older 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, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

The Bone Witch is beautifully written, with lovely passages and good world building. I was able to clearly visualize the world and its inhabitants. The narrative alternates between two points in time. In the first, Tea (pronounced Tey-uh), surrounded by teachers, fellow students, and her asha family, is learning what she needs to know to be a powerful and effective wielder of magic. In the second, she is alone and in a dark place, telling her story to an interested bard and preparing for action. The novel opens strong and the cover is gorgeous.

However, the pace of The Bone Witch is glacial. Glaaacial. And the slow pace is not spent developing character. Despite the slow pace, I never felt I got to know Tea; her dead brother Fox was the most interesting part of the book. We also don't see any action to explain how Tea went from the first place, surrounded by friends and family, to that place of solitude until late in the book. We do see her undergo training in dance, voice, martial arts, how to wear her special asha clothing and jewelry, etc. Oh, and a little bit about raising the dead.

The narrative is relentlessly joyless, yet I was compelled to keep reading.  Big questions are left unanswered, and I am intrigued enough that I will plan to read the sequel.

Although much in this book feels original, sometimes the author does wander into cliché territory (from p. 202 of the advance reader copy: "Don't worry your pretty head over it, my dear," the old man said kindly”).

I give The Bone Witch points for a transgender character, a boy who knows he won't survive as a soldier and dreams of being the first male asha instead.

This book will find its reader, but many others will stop reading long before the end. You might be that reader however, so watch for the book at the Galesburg Public Library in March if you are intrigued.

I read an advance reader copy of The Bone Witch.

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