Release Date: March 2017
#1 of 3
Synopsis from Goodreads
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.
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.
Why I was interested
I was initially interested in The Bone Witch because it featured necromancy and was set in an Asia-inspired world.
So. I tried to read The Bone Witch last year. Three times. I ended up DNF-ing it every time. The problems I had last year still remain, but I’m just not as agro about it. I think this might be partially because this time I went into it with lower expectations, and I already knew the things I disliked about it.
I ended up actually really enjoying The Bone Witch. Apparently I needed a year to calm down. I still think this book was heavily influenced by Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, but I chose to think of it as a retelling/reimagining of that story, and that made me less belligerent this time.
The Bone Witch is definitely the setup book of the series. It lays out the major characters, sets up the plot, and really immerses the reader in the world. The book is told from two perspectives: Tea of the past narrates in the first person as she learns to be an asha; and a bard in the future/present narrates his interactions with an older, darker, more powerful Tea who is telling him her story.
What I liked
Future/Present Tea: She’s mysterious and full of vengeance. I am so excited to see how the sweet little girl becomes so dark.
Magic system: There are a few different kinds of magic that exist alongside each other in this world. magic is largely the province of women. The more powerful ones can be gifted in elemental magic or necromancy. The less powerful can sense magic and perform simple spells and rituals. Those with powerful magical abilities go to a neighbourhood in Ankyo, the capital of Kion, called The Willows to learn to harness their magic, which is activated by runic symbols. They also learn the arts of music, dancing, conversation, history, politics, martial arts and meditation. The men with magical abilities are drafted into the army to be trained in battle/combat magic.
The other part of the magic system relates to Hearts Glass. They are objects that everyone wears around their necks. Asha are able to read the colours like mood rings. Different colours mean different things. Green means sickness, blue means worry, red is the standard colour of health and happiness. A silver Hearts Glass also indicates that the owner/wearer has magical abilities.
World building: The world is really detailed and beautifully crafted. Chupeco clearly spent a lot of time building the setting, the mythology, the magic system, the political systems and the history of the nations in The Bone Witch.
Themes: While not completely resolved in this instalment, Tea and her friends begin to challenge the accepted gender roles in Kion society. Likh, a boy who works in a jewellery store in The Willows, has magical abilities, but he doesn’t want to join the army. He wants to become an asha, and train in the traditional female arts.
What I disliked
Pacing: It was a bit slow, especially during the first half of the book.
Descriptions: Frankly, they are a bit excessive, but once you know what everyone, in any given situation, is wearing they ease off a bit.
Characters: In general I didn’t think any of the other characters besides Tea were given much complexity or growth in this book. There are hints that lead me to believe this may be rectified in book two, The Heart Forger, so I remain hopeful.
Have you read The Bone Witch? Do you like stories about necromancy? Have you ever gone back to a book you previously hated and DNFed? Let me know in the comments below!