First – I received this book for free through Netgalley, it will be published on March 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire.
I don’t write this lightly, but I truly enjoyed this book. The prose, the style, the world – and not least the story.
Tea is a special girl. She is a dark Asha, a Bone Witch. Much like Harry Potter, Kvothe, Vaelin al Sorna and many other fictional heroes, she is trained by adult Asha (that could just as easily have been Wizards, Professors or Masters). Basically, at first glance, it is a coming of age story. I’ll make no excuses; I love a good coming of age story. The story-telling is reminiscent of Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind. A bard visits the main character, and asks her to tell him her story. Among Tea’s memories are brief interludes of the real time happenings between Tea and the Bard.
As indicated above, I have read many a story relating the humble or less humble beginnings of an extraordinary fictional hero. But very few of these are women (I did not say none of them were, just very few). But the world Tea enters is one of female Asha – a kind of hostess – wearing very elaborate dresses, jewellery and make up, all interwoven with magic. Magic to make one appear more beautiful, more diplomatic or less clumsy or anything else you can think of. But these Asha are not just hostesses to the rich and powerful. They are also proficient fighters, and have shaped the history of the world they inhabit. Magically inclined men are Deathseekers, and their only path is to fight for their countries. They seem to be less powerful than the women.
Tea is however no ordinary Asha. She is a dark Asha, a Bone Witch. She can raise the dead, and unsurprisingly, Bone Witches are not everyone’s favourite Asha.
Now, I wish I didn’t have to wait – not just until March 2017 for publication of The Bone Witch – but even longer for the actual sequel. I cannot help but look forward to the next leg of Tea’s journey. But you’ll have to read the book to discover how this particular coming of age story distinguishes itself from other books of the same genre. I would love to flesh out all the reasons I find it different – good different. But in doing so, I would have to reveal parts I should really keep to myself.
What I would say however is this; Rin Chupeco writes beautifully. I could almost smell the blossoms; feel the breeze from the dancing Asha and see their silk hua (apparently a dress that looks much like Mulan’s – if my google search of “hua dress” is anything to go by).
Don’t discard this book because of the beautiful women, their dresses and make up, their dancing and singing. Trust me when I say, there is grit. Well, maybe not grit in the Raven’s Shadow. Tea is not Vaelin al Sorna, but if I can read – and truly enjoy Vaelin al Sorna’s story as well as Tea’s, then why shouldn’t you?