Review : The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

“Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are rather than in what they expect you to be.”

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price.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.

Characters :

Tea Pahlavi : she is a young girl (thirteen years old) when she first uses her powers. When her brother dies because of a daeva (a creature), she succeeds in bringing him back from the dead, a feat not so simple from what we learn. The village residents begin to fear her as she finds that she is a dark asha (a necromancer if you would) and a few days later appear Lady Mykaela who was drawn to the magic. Then, she is taken away from her village Knightcross to Ankyo situated in the kingdom of Kion. There, she begins her training as a servant then an apprentice asha then an asha (girls who master magic, combat, dance, singing, floral arrangement and so on). She is sceptical because she doesn’t believe that she will make a good dark asha. But it turns out that there’s more to her than meets the eye. She becomes an asha in record time as Lady Parmina (the leader of House Valerian) said « you are the strongest asha I have ever seen in recent times« .

This is death magic, complicated and exclusive and implacable, and from the start, I wielded it with ease.

As for her personality, I have really liked her. She is bold, eager to be better and she questions herself. Moreover she is strong and she does not shy away from her life. I loved it when she stood up to people in order to defend what seemed right to her,she doesn’t let people walk all over her. She also develops feelings for someone high up in the hierarchy but the romance was not really a central part of the book. It might be detailed in book two. During her studies, she is shown to be gifted at almost everything and especially because she works hard. Except singing which is not her forte.

The secondary characters were also interesting. Whether it be her dead brother Fox, Lady Mykaela and Parmina, Polaire, Kalen and Likh and so on. Each character has a role to play and neither of them was useless. I quite loved Polaire who has a habit of speaking French (profanities especially) and who speaks her mind. Fox is a great brother who is comforting, protective, a good fighter, and rather quick-witted. Likh is a clerk who sells jewellery but his dream is to be an asha. He hides the colour of his heartsglass because grey means that you have to become part of the Dethseakers (soldiers with magic powers) but his frail build means certain death to him. We learn that he has been practising dancing for some years and that he is talented. However, men cannot become ashas. That’s why Tea says : « then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are rather than in what they expect you to be. »

The story :

The story is told from two points of view : one from a bard in the future (one to a few pages at a time) and one in the present from Tea. I really liked her older version. Her way of speaking also changes quite a lot, I had the impression that she had seen and experienced a lot of things. She is driven by a desire to kill the ones who took away her loved ones but also because something worse was coming.

A large part of the book is focused on Tea’s training from a thirteen-year-old girl living in a small village to being a fully fledged asha. Training as an asha means that one’s has to learn a variety of skills : from dancing, singing, history, politics, combat, how to entertain wealthy clients during parties. One House takes them in and money is spent on them for their formation (if you can succeed in being an asha apprentice) and you have to pay them back when you become an asha. Then there are the strange attacks on her and the population orchestrated by a group called the Faceless. Why are they trying to bring the ashas down ? Why are they so focused on Tea ? What secrets have the asha leaders been hiding ?

We are also introduced to some mythology. From that mythology, we can understand what the deavas are, who created them and why.

What was on point was the world-building. From clothes, to buildings, to monsters, the descriptions were really vivid and most of the time, I could almost picture what I was reading. We are introduced to what is called a hua. A fully-fledged asha owns a lot of personalised huas with different patterns-matching one’s hair, eyes or what she likes (but always matching them). They own as many huas because during their tea parties, they have to entertain people from different cultures and the dress code is not the same everywhere.

She wore a beautiful hua of a deep coral that made an elegant contrast against her dark skin. Blue-green bamboo swayed against swirling, silver cloud patterns on the rich cloth, and she had on a gray waist wrap with embroidered sparrows set in gold.

As for the monsters, we have the Akvan, the Indar, the Nanghait, the Azi, the Taurvi and some others. You wouldn’t want to meet them as they are very impressive and one of them is enough to wreak havoc throughout the continent.

Rin Chupeco has also implemented a system called the Heartsglass which, essentially, is a part of your heart. And it was a great idea ! They show one’s feelings and powers. It can be red, blue, silver, black and so on. When they are thirteen, a ceremony is held for boys and girls and each one of them receives one. For instance, those whose Heartsglass shines purple will be an artisan, If it is silver, then you will be a Deathseeker or an Asha depending on if you are a boy or a girl.

The last few pages indicate that the second book will have much more action and I was gaping at the ending because I was not expecting this.

Note : 5 sur 5.

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