Author: Rin Chupeco
Series: The Bone Witch #1
Published: expected March 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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.
Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!
If you were a fan of the two titles mentioned in the blurb, you're going to find the comparisons to The Bone Witch very accurate and intriguing. There is a lot of similarity between Rin Chupeco's new fantasy and the published works of Arthur Golden and Patrick Rothfuss; The Bone Witch blends themes and ideas from both novels fairly well. There's also death-magic and undead brothers and plenty of betrayal and mystery to keep things moving. Using a narrative frame of a story-within-a-story, the author tackles the past and the present of Tea, the eponymous bone witch.
When I say that The Bone Witch reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha while reading its 400 pages, I mean that at times, it was very, very like the latter. There are more than a few instances of it, but in particular there's a scene in Memoirs where an older, rival geisha tricks the naive main character into wearing someone else's kimono at a party she shouldn't be attending -- in attempt to harm the girl, or even get her cast out for the shame and stealing. The exact same scenario plays out in The Bone Witch for Tea -- just in the clothes and terms of Chupeco's world. It was a bit too similar for me and jolted me right out of the newer story.
Moving along from the similarities to other books, The Bone Witch takes place in a fantasy world where various women, called ashas, work elemental magic of all kinds. I loved the variety of ideas and the imagination that went into crafting this fantasy and its supernatural possibilities, but a tendency to overdescription can kill the plot's momentum. Switching between the third-person narration of Tea's story when she was young and her current status (dictating to a bard, a la The Name of the Wind's Kvothe and Chronicler), where Tea converses in a 2nd-person narration, Chupeco creates a real sense of history and personality. I liked the complexity that the author brought to her story; there are layers to uncover and piece together as the story deepens and Tea's past catches up to her future.
Though not without issues, there was more that I enjoyed about this book than I disliked. Tea's personal evolution as she grows up is believable and natural; her authentic relationship with her brother anchors the story; the magic is unique and interesting (heartglass! ashas! monsters!); the social commentary on patriarchy and masculinity, etc. The Bone Witch is a detailed fantasy story and interesting launchpoint for the rest of the series.