Fantasy (Teen), YA Fiction

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the premise of this novel, I was a little hesitant to read it. It sounded like every other teen fantasy story and I wanted to try something different than the norm. After reading this novel, I’m so glad that I was given the chance to read it because it was definitely unique and intriguing!

Tea never meant to resurrect her brother from the dead, but when she does, it becomes quite obvious that she has a different set of magical skills than the other witches in her family. Her gift of necromancy is not happily accepted by many in her community – or for that matter, anywhere. However, she soon finds solace and guidance in the company of a wiser and older bone witch, who takes Tea and her resurrected brother to a new land for training as a bone witch. Tea must now put all of her energy into becoming an asha, someone who can wield elemental magic using runes. She must also learn to accept her new life as a bone witch, with all its prejudices and difficulties. But dark forces are approaching and Tea doesn’t have much time to master her skills. In this new life, Tea must overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice, one that will change the future for her – and everyone around her – forever.

Before I read this story, I looked on Goodreads for what others thought about it and I was quite surprised by the amount of negative reviews. Most of them cited that the story was slow and not much happened in it, thus causing readers to lose interest. Bearing that in mind, I started to read.

What I discovered was a story with beautiful prose, rich in detail and character development. The book has been branded as a fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, and I would have to agree with this description. The asha are very much like geisha in terms of the obligations they have to tea houses, and in the manner in which they dress. What makes the asha different, however, is there power and magical abilities. While I found the concept to be interesting and well-executed for the most part, I wish the asha had been given a more powerful or stronger image; it’s great to hear about their singing and dancing abilities but I’d much rather have the asha also be admired for their fighting skills by their guests.

I really liked Tea’s character. Her voice (not referring to her singing or anything, by the way) for this story was beautiful and spellbinding and I loved to hear all of the descriptions of different aspects of her life. I enjoyed reading about her internal struggles to keep the darkness at bay, and I liked that the love interest angle was not overdone. It was also really cool to have the story told from her present self’s reflections of her past behaviour; it kept me wanting to know more about how she ended up in her present condition. I think the author did a fabulous job on that front!

The magical elements of this novel were fantastic. I loved everything from the runes to the undead demonic beasts to the mind control to the heartglasses. Everything was unique and important and it would always intrigue me enough to keep me wanting more!

Overall, I was quite impressed with this novel. It had a mature and lyrical tone and while it may have plied the readers with a great deal of detail, it allowed for the building of an intricate world and an intriguing story line. I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of Memoirs of a Geisha (which I adored!) but with a teen fantasy angle. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series!

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