Books, Coffee, Fantasy, Reviews

[Book Review] The Bone Witch By Rin Chupeco & Summer Moon Coffee Glowing Ember

The Bone Witch By Rin ChupecoTitle: The Bone Witch
Series/Universe: The Bone Witch, #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, Sourcebooks Inc.
Publication date: March 7th 2017
Page Count: 416 pages
Age Rating: YA & Up (death, violence)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: The Bone Witch

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.

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

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.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

My Review

Set in a time and place where magic is real and a whole caste system is built around it, The Bone Witch is an absorbing dark folktale told in two interweaving perspectives, flashing forward and backwards in time. The book’s present day parts are from the perspective of a bard encountering a young, powerful bone witch exiled on a beach littered with skeletons, while the parts set in the past are told from the perspective of Tea, the bone witch herself, recounting her journey from a young ingénue ignorant of her own dark power to an initiate into the exclusive magic-wielding world of the elegant and much sought after asha, learning to navigate politics, patrons, and prejudices along the way.

There are three kinds of asha in the world of The Bone Witch: performing, fighting, and Dark – the third being the rarest and strongest, but most feared and mistrusted of the three, and the group to which Tea belongs. The asha are very much like elemental magic wielding geisha – educated to be intelligent and accomplished in the arts, expensively outfitted for proper presentation in fine fabrics, hair jewels, and spelled face paints, and in high demand by patrons of status and wealth willing to pay for their time and presence as entertainers and hostesses at social gatherings.

The world building in this book is somewhat complex, but the intricacies are introduced in an organic way that feels natural, avoiding the pitfall of being more tell then show, which can happen in books such as this where a new world and vocabulary is being introduced. There is a large cast of supporting characters, each important to the plot, and I will admit I got confused at some points – especially when it came to Prince Kance and his cousin Kalen, both of who play meaningful roles in Tea’s tale. Eight different kingdoms are introduced throughout the story, each with it’s own political intrigues and cultural differences, and it can get little hard to keep things straight at some points, but luckily this was anticipated and the book contains a handy dandy little reference in the back.

The book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, per say, but the past and the present don’t quite meet up, so we know there is more story to be told. We definitely get a foreshadowing of the darker path Tea is entering in the past, but it’s not at the level present day Tea is at, and I, for one, was left with some burning questions – what event triggers her to put her on the path she is currently on? Or was it an accumulation of a smaller events? And above all, what was she exiled for? (we aren’t really given a clear answer to this yet).

The Bone Witch was a fantastic, compelling read from beginning to end. Rin Chupeco paints such a vivid picture with her words that you can’t help but be drawn into the richly detailed world she builds and the intriguing story she weaves. Chupeco is a master storyteller and I’m a huge fan of hers. I highly recommend her The Girl from the Well series if you’re into YA horror (see my reviews for The Girl From The Well and The Suffering) and I eagerly await the next book in The Bone Witch series.

In The Bone Witch, we see two different sides to Tea, who comes to be known as Tea of the Embers, as the story alternates between the tale of Tea as a young ingénue learning her place and power in the world of the asha, and the story’s present day Tea, a cynical Dark asha who knows her power and wields it with confidence. I’m recommending Summer Moon Coffee Glowing Ember – a medium roast coffee with its own contrasting sides, subtly sweet and fruity flavors at the fore, cut through with the noticeable bite of warm bourbon undertones in the end.

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