Saturday, March 11, 2017

the bone witch: stardust arc reviews

The Bone Witch
by Rin Chupeco



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.

full review under the cut!
Things that drew me to this book: gorgeous and haunting cover, necromancy, witches, beasts, girls with really awesome powers
Things that I didn't know to be excited about until I read it: POWERFUL WOMEN, a diverse high-fantasy world, a younger sister/older brother relationship, really intricate and detailed worldbuilding

I was a little bit scared to start this book, because I had seen quite a few low ratings and DNFs from people that I respect as reviewers. And I do agree with some of them in that I thought this book started out a little bit slow, I did not share their negative views about this one. I thought this world was absolutely fascinating, and I found myself actually thinking in depth about the things that were going on in it. I think there is great diverse rep in these characters, and the place where the main action takes place is sort of like a fusion between eastern European and Asian elements. I didn't mind the parts that were mostly just explaining the world, because I was eager to find out more about it. I think, if you're looking for something that is 100% action, you might find this a little bit slow. But I loved the feeling that I was getting totally immersed in the world, and I thought that all of the world-building really paid off when the action did pick up.

This is the story of Tea. When she was only around 12-13 years old, she accidentally raises her brother, a soldier who had died in battle, from the dead. Though this type of witch, called a Dark Asha or more colloquially a Bone Witch, is not unheard of, they are often reviled and mistrusted. So when Tea's powers manifest, she leaves her home in a small village and sets off for the capital of the neighboring kingdom with another Bone Witch, Lady Mykaela, and her brother Fox, who is now bonded to her through her raising of him. When Tea gets to the capital, she begins training as a novice in a house of Asha, or witches. Bone Witches are used primarily for slaying beasts called Daeva that terrorize the eight kingdoms, and Tea is scared but eager to learn. She meets tons of interesting people and learns all about the way of life of an asha.

Most of this book takes place in Tea's perspective, from the time she raises her brother to the time she becomes a full asha at around age 15. But there are also interchapters that are from the POV of a traveling bard. These chapters take place at some time in the future, when Tea has been exiled for a mysterious reason, and is living alone. She tells the Bard her story. I liked this dual POV structure, because the Bard "chapters" weren't really distracting, they were just short and revealed some important information. I also liked that we knew were Tea ends up, but there's still so much we don't know as well.

I liked being in Tea's head. She was smart and interesting, and always looking to learn more. She is also incredibly brave and selfless, while also having a temper and being quick to leap into situations that she doesn't know anything about. In other words, she isn't perfect, but she's easy to empathize with. There are a lot of complicated things to say about being an Asha, which the book does a great job at outlining, but here's the basics. Asha (all female) are witches. They can draw and control runes that have to do with the four elements, except Tea, who can only control dark runes. Asha also have very specific clothes that they wear, are focused on the beauty of their garments, and are educated in combat and history and bodyguarding, as well as dancing, singing, flower arranging and court life. Their vocations are wide and varied, from court ladies to fighters. I really liked that there were Asha who were super girly and loved dancing and parties, and Asha that couldn't care less and were more into politics and fighting, but neither one was portrayed as better than the other, and both were important to the Asha's survival. There is also some subtle trans rep in here (at least that is how I perceived it) one of Tea's friends is a young boy, Likh, who wants nothing more than to be an Asha, he says he has never felt like the other boys, etc. It wasn't a huge plot point, but I think it will become more important, because Tea really stands up for Likh and wants him to be able to become an Asha, but he can't because he is not a girl. Anyways, that was something small that I liked, because Likh wasn't judged or teased because he acted more like a girl.

I really loved the cast of characters. Fox, Tea's brother, was really great. I liked that he and Tea had a great relationship and they were always taking care of each other. Lady Mykaela was a great mentor to Tea, as well as Lady Polaire and Lady Althy. I loved the friendship between these three, as well as the way they loved and took care of Tea. I liked Lady Shadi and Lady Zoya as well. Rahim, Prince Kance, Kalen, Parmina, etc. There were a ton of characters, and each one of them was super distinct.

The main conflict in this book is that there are eight kingdoms, but there is a rebel group called the Faceless that is always threatening the peace of the kingdoms. The daeva, monsters that only Bone Witches can take care of, don't help matters either. Tea is directly tied to both of these conflicts, and there is a really good plot twist with the faceless that I did not see coming! There is a lot about these conflicts in the Bard POV chapters, and I honestly liked that these conflicts, as well as the mystery of Tea's exile, were left unresolved. I definitely want more from this world, because I'm super curious about these mysteries.

Definitely a fresh and different high fantasy with a fascinating world and tons of complex characters. I will definitely read the second one!


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