The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1)
by Rin Chupeco.
Tea finds out her magic isn’t like the other witches in her family in a decisive and unexpected way: she inadvertently raises her brother from the dead. This marks her as a bone witch, with power over death rather than one of the more common elements. She’s apprenticed to an older bone witch and moves to a training house in the city, to learn control over her powers and the duties of an asha (a powerful warrior witch that also functions something like a geisha). Her brother (her familiar) accompanies her. There is the usual training montage and house politics, and the setup of a love triangle. The world-building is well-done. The role of the ashas, the bone witches in relation to demons, and the heartglasses that everyone carries are all interesting and nuanced. It’s a great setting for the adventure and intrigue that ensue.
The story unfolds in two alternating parts. The first part is Tea in the present, banished to an isolated beach where a bard visits her to learn her tale. The second part is Tea’s telling to that bard, of her past and her journey as a bone witch. Along the way we get hints (and later some big ol’ give-aways) at how those two storylines meet up. Tellingly, her brother is not with her on the beach, though she mentions a dead boy she mourns. She also demonstrates a surprising new power in relation to the demons.
I’m a bit annoyed with the end of this first book. Instead of keeping the mystery of Tea’s lost love going for book 2, it gets revealed, and to me, that really ruined the momentum of the story. It gave away too much about how certain relationships are going to go. Along similar lines, the launch of her ultimate mission at the end had the same effect- it was too definitive, too demonstrative. The author sped right past foreshadowing into just telling you what happens later, without all of the good lead-up stuff in the middle. It ruins the ending, and likely subsequent books. I get what she was going for (a kind of present and past dichotomy like in The Name of the Wind) but she doesn’t pull it off as well.
I may still pick up book 2, despite this, because it is an interesting world the author has built. And aside from having given away key points of how Tea gets to her present, I am still interested to see how her new mission goes and what comes of that. If you like fantasy tales with a bit of a dark shading, give this a try.