The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco Review




If you love high fantasy, this book is definitely for you. The Bone Witch is a refreshing novel as far as YA fantasy goes. A fascinating world, an interesting and unique premise, and a not fully generic plot made me immediately excited to have received an ARC of it (plus that gorgeous cover! I hate I was not able to get a hard copy of it). Throw in a protagonist who is special, without being full blown special snowflake status and you have a happy reader. While witches are not exactly a new concept, interweaving it with a unique world and necromancy really refreshes the concept. The over-all tone of the novel is pretty dark, but I appreciated it. I personally enjoy a MC that is not all sunshine and rainbows, which Tea was anything but. I particularly enjoyed the "current" Tea, who is dark and you never quite figure out if she is a villain or not. Having a MC that is complex and maybe not 100% an innocent "white hat" is awesome in my opinion. 


The writing itself is split, one part (which is clearly identified in italics) features a bard speaking with a 17 year old Tea regarding her life. That area is from his point of view. The other half is from Tea's point of view and encompasses from ages 12 to 15. This was an interesting way to do split POV. It also was easy to follow due to the italicized font. Tea is taken from her family at a young age due to exhibiting powers as a bone witch, one able to utilize the Dark to basically perform necromancy. From there she is plunged into the world of the asha - an group of witches who exhibit an array of powers. She is taught to not only wield her powers (to some extent) but to dance, dress beautifully, and service the powerful. It definitely reminded me of geisha, just with a deadly side. The plot is slow to develop, since Tea's first years of training hold 0 training, it is just her doing chores and sneaking out. It was very tough to make it through that area, and I am a fan of world building. Once she is actually made an apprentice, the narrative speeds up considerably. I began devouring the novel at this point and wanted so much more when I reached the end. The ending was definitely a cliff hanger of sorts, with who is in the mysterious grave finally being revealed.

Characters

Tea
As far as YA main character's go, she is better than the rest. She struggles with understanding her powers, has appropriate emotions for her age, and tries hard to make friends. She is insecure, and even afraid, of herself and the draw to her power's. I found that a refreshing thing, since most that just happen to be super powerful immediately accept it and master it. Tea had to work for things, and was not automatically amazing. When her power's did do something amazing, it drained her completely. There was a check and balance there which I enjoyed. Tea's character was dynamic, and grew as she aged. However, I felt like her personality was a little flat. It definitely could have been developed further, particularly with knowing she was going to turn darker. There were small hints of it, but not enough for me to see her turning almost into a villain.
"This is my new family. This is my new identity. I will be the bone witch the kingdom fears, and I will make them pay." The Bone Witch, p. 323

Fox
I will say, having a sentient resurrected character (not really a spoiler, find it out nearly immediately in the novel) is fascinating to me. He was a multidimensional character, and honestly one of the most thought out in the entire novel. He was bold, brash, and loved his sister unconditionally. He was also stubborn (must be a familial trait) and had a strong sense of right and wrong. I enjoyed him as a character, and wished there were more of him, particularly what he was doing when he was not with Tea.

Prince Kance
While he was hinted at being the love interest and a MC, it never really came to fruitation. People primarily talked ABOUT him, not with him. He was a flat, generic character. He is seemingly perfect, being perfectly attractive, perfectly kind, and perfectly understanding. I am hoping his character is expanded on in the next novel, because as is there really is no reason for Tea to be attracted to him beyond his looks and the fact he is kind.

Kalen
Oh my brooding, angry, snarky Deathseeker, your character was infinitely more dynamic than others in the novel. He was multidimensional and exhibited an array of personality traits and emotions in a way that felt organic. There were times where he was cruel, where he was sarcastic, and even brief moments of kindness. That being said, there could have been so much more character development. My guess is there will be in subsequent novels, but it would have been nice to see more in this novel.

MyKaela/Polaire/Altaecia
None of these characters were developed. With the exception of MyKaela's powers they all could have been interchangeable with one another. We were told of distinguishing personality traits, but they never were actually shown, particularly with Polaire and Altaecia. I kept forgetting which one was which frequently. MyKaela's character began with so much promise. She was seen as badass and capable initially. I understand what happened to her diminished her a lot, but her personality also dissolved with it.

Other Minor Characters
There was definitely a plethora of characters in this novel, but the majority were not thought out. Even friendships, like with Likh, Rahim, and Chesh fell flat. Even Zoya, who was introduced as a sort of antagonist was just bratty and that is it. If the author expects people to care about these characters, they need to be rounded out some.

World Building

While descriptions of the people in the world, the different groups, was excellent, the actual scenery was not well described. Often times I was not able to picture a particular area they were located in due to the description lacking so much. More time should have been placed on that, and less on Tea doing chores.

The Good
  • Friendships: There were quite a few friendships presented in the novel, including several with other women. They were strong and showed actual caring. That was nice to see. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Tea and Fox. While siblings, they were also friends.
  • Premise: The entire concept of the novel is unique. It absolutely stands out in a sea of generic YA novels
  • Culture: I enjoyed that the novel included a multitude of different cultures and all were well described.
The Bad
  • Grammar: There were quite a few grammar errors, all of which should have been caught during editing (for example, the incorrect "to" was used at one point). While able to ignore it for the most part, it did detract from the experience.
  • Foreshadowing: All novels should include foreshadowing. There should be moments where the reader did not exactly catch it at that time, but upon the event happening make them go, "Ah ha!". In this instance, the readers were explicitly told a certain quote or event was foreshadowing something in the future. It drove me insane. Example, when having a conversation with Khalad, Tea stated:
“Apology accepted, Sir Khalad,” I assured him, smiling, unaware then of the irony of my next words. “If there is one thing I have learned from both our trades, it is that we must always be in the business of forgiveness, lest we become consumed by our anger.” The Bone Witch, p. 312
  •  Pacing: The pace of the novel was off. The beginning started off on a high note, then it slowed down considerably when Tea entered the asha-ka. Then the end of the novel, full of so much action, zipped by. It was so off that I had to reread the end to catch everything.
*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Relationships

From the beginning a love triangle was hinted at. Now, I absolutely abhor love triangles. I feel like they detract from the story and do not add to it. However, what we end up with in this novel, is an infatuation and a hatred. By the end of the novel, we know who Tea picks (Kalen) but there was no true hint of development between them. They have possibly a grudging working relationship. It can't really be called a friendship, since Kalen is pretty hostile still at the end. The sequel will have to do a ton of work to prove it a good relationship. As for Kance, she is infatuated with him. A school girl's crush of sorts. There is no chemistry there, just her stating repetitively how attractive he is. I will admit, he does seem nice and understanding, but it is in the fake YA love interest way. There is no substance or reasoning behind it. I would love to see those two develop a friendship, but only the author develops Kance's character further.


Conclusion


Over-all this was an enjoyable first novel. There is serious promise with this series, and I eagerly await the sequel.






*I received a free copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


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1 comments

  1. This sounds so good! I'd been a little curious about it. Your review makes me want to pick it up asap!

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