Rin Chupeco: The Bone Witch

Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Fantasy, 21st Century Young Adult Fiction
Source: Publisher in exchange for a review (I also bought a copy)
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: March 7, 2016
Format: Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1-49263-582-6
Pages: 400
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ x10000000000000000

Summary: The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves. (official summary via Goodreads)

Review: THIS BOOK IS MY FAVORITE OF THE YEAR SO FAR. OH. MY. GOD. This was amazing. *hyperventilates*

I got an ARC of The Bone Witch earlier this year through NetGalley and finally got the time in my busy schedule to sit down with it–and I ended up getting a print copy because my local Barnes & Noble broke the release date. How lucky was I? So, I sat down with my shiny new copy and blazed through the first half in a day. I was up in my reading chair till late at night with it; I was up in bed after that reading it. I couldn’t put it down.

Chupeco has a rare talent for creating interesting, vivid, and immersive worlds, and The Bone Witch is one of the best I’ve seen since Sarah J. Maas. The world and its cultures in this book are incredibly unique. Both are a mixture of what we would recognize as Middle-Eastern and East-Asian. Particularly, the world of the Asha–the wielders of magic–are reminiscent of traditional Geisha culture from Japan. Asha wear elaborate and expensive silk “hua” that are given to them by the “mother” or mistress of their house in which they live and that provides for them when they become novices in the art of magic. These hua are unique to each Asha, and the debt that incurs from the cost of these items plus any instruction and so forth must be paid back by the Asha. This is on par with traditional Geisha culture–Geisha, when they have debuted and are earning money, must pay back the debt incurred for their care and instruction to their house and its “mother.” And again, the Asha’s “hua” described are very similar in appearance to kimono. This cultural detail added a unique dimension to this story, and I haven’t really seen this done elsewhere.

What further adds to the immersive and colorful world within The Bone Witch, is its mixing of Middle-Eastern culture into the Japanese-inspired elements. There are cultures that cover their heads (the women do anyway), observe social customs regarding the separation of the sexes–we see this with a maid working in the Velarian where Tea (our main character) lives and is apprenticing as an Asha. The maid does not view being around Tea’s brother as appropriate because he is not family, so she separates herself. A lot of the otherworldly creatures that readers will encounter in this book are also reminiscent of demons and other mythical beasts found in Middle-Eastern and Asian mysticism. In a nutshell, I appreciate and love that this novel didn’t take the usual route with building a fantasy world that is reminiscent of the English middle-ages. That gets so boring–not so with The Bone Witch. And can I just say that the atmosphere in this novel is so dark it is scintillating? I love dark stories.

I also really like the plotting and structure of Chupeco’s novel. Sections alternate between brief narratives happening “now” in which Tea and a bard discuss her past, and then the actual chapter that follows will dive into the actual story. When taken holistically, this shows how Tea grows and develops as a person and Asha, and it allows readers an interesting to see just how much she changes through her triumphs and struggles. Tea is very three-dimensional, interesting, and sympathetic. She walks a moral grey area because she is a Bone Witch–a necromancer–and is dark in personality in her world, and this makes her unique in comparison with other characters from the same genre. She is not the usual goodie-goodie-witch or wizard of most stories. She raises dead things and connects to dark magic. HELL YES.

Finally, Chupeco’s writing style overall is beautiful, descriptive, and lyrical. Descriptions are vivid, colorful, and the pacing of this story will suck readers in from the first chapters. Before I knew it, I was turning the final pages. I want to go back and read this book all over again–I can’t express enough how fantastic and well-done this book is. Five out of five stars is just not good enough!

This novel IS the first in a series, and you can be damn sure I’m going to continue reading it. I need the second volume NOW.

If you’re a fan of fantasy fiction, magic, NECROMANCY, and immersive, well-developed characters and worlds that you could live in, pick The Bone Witch up. It deserves all the buzz it’s getting and more. This is my #1 pick of the year.

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