Format: E-Galley, 432 pages
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Wizards & Witches
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.
The Bone Witch is the first installment in author Ren Chupeco's The Bone Witch series. To really get into the story, you must first understand Tea's beginnings. For that, author Chupeco flips the script back in time to when 12-year old Tea (Tey-uh) Pahlavi shockingly raises her own brother Fox from the dead and binds him to her with his consent. This shocking turn of events throws her entire village and family into turmoil. After all, Tea is from a family of fairly mundane and respected witches, one a Forest witch, the other a Water witch.
But, no one could have guessed that Tea would be a necromancer (asha/bone witch). In raising Fox, Tea faces a difficult challenge in being accepted for being what she is. Her journey starts in earnest after the arrival to her village of Mykaela. Mykaela becomes her mentor, and her sister. During the journey from the Kingdom of Odalis to the Kingdom of Kion where she is forced to start at the bottom of the ladder, Tea learns about monsters called Daeva and the Faceless and the Fake Prince who apparently controls them.
"I followed her, my heartsglass heavy with questions. Of everything I had heard, I had not expected her to be so young. Seventeen did not explain why she stood on that strange graying beach, alone, with monsters' corpses for company."
In the present, we meet the mysterious bard who will tell Tea's story from start to finish. He has traveled far from home in order to find to the girl named Tea of the Embers. The girl who has been exiled to the ends of the world. Banished for reasons we do not yet understand, but hopefully we will in the next installment. Tea recounts her beginnings and her rise in a society of spellbinders called asha. As a bone witch, her powers of necromancy make her feared and shunned by the populace, but tolerated for her abilities to slay daeva – fearsome beasts that plague the kingdoms. But there is more to the girl than she first appears. Soon the bard begins to suspect that there is more to her tale than what she claims, and that he has a far greater role to play in her story than even he realizes.
One of the more curious aspects of this story is the use of
Heartglasses which can be forged by heartforgers using memories. Younger Tea volunteers to give away some of her memories in order to help make heartglasses for those who either don't have them, or need them replaced. Tea, like Mykaela, can read other people's heartglasses which also comes in handy. Tea's friend Likh is also an important cog in her life. He has a silver heartglass but, in this world, he can't become an asha. Only women can become Asha's. He, like other men are forced to serve the army as Deathseekers.
I dare say that the ending of this book damn near killed me. We get through a bunch of trials and tribulations, and then we are hit upside the head with a two ton heavy brick. Is Tea really a good person, or has she really become that what she has been charged with? Where did the innocent and positive Tea disappear to? The one at the end of the book is ready for a bloody war and has created her own army of dangerous creatures. Who is this Tea who once had lots of potential and may be even stronger than her own mentor?
This book definitely catches the imagination with a very creative world, and secondary characters who key to events that play out. There are similarities between this book and Memoirs of a Geisha. After all, each asha is trained in various studies from fighting, to dancing & singing, to dining with famous and influential men. I do look forward to the sequel. I am steadfast in learning what pushed Tea into becoming the person at the end of this story.