Thanks to Wyrd & Wonder this month for hosting a read along for The Bone Witch! This book has been on my TBR for a while since it was pretty popular on bookstagram. I was disappointed overall and all things considered don’t regret checking it out.
While the weekly discussion posts included spoilers, these are my spoiler free thoughts on the entire novel.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Bone Witch
- Series: The Bone Witch #1
- Author: Rin Chupeco
- Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Fire, 2017
- Length: 432 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of slow moving fantasy
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:
A story of scorned witches, sinister curses, and resurrection, The Bone Witch is the start of a dark fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Serpent & Dove and The Cruel Prince.
Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, 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.
I wanted to hit two stars for most of the book and came so close to DNFing.
The one thing I will truly give the book credit for is keeping all content age-advertised appropriate. There’s one use of the word ‘ass’ and nothing “physically romantic”, so I would let kids read this no problem.
There were a lot of potentially cool elements like resurrection, dark magic, undead familiar horses… I wanted to like this more but the second quarter of the book lost me irredeemably.
It was hard not having an antagonist or clear conflict throughout. I don’t come to necromancy to read about clothes and dancing. At the end, the antagonist that was presented felt tossed into the story with no clues or lead up or prior thought regarding the one responsible, which caused the ending to not be rewarding at all. She just revealed a bunch of new but apparently ongoing things and said ok, readers will accept this for sure since it has apparently been happening for weeks now.
The story is framed by Tea telling the events of the past to a bard. I kind of liked this because it gave a degree of separation from the teenage first person point of view. Something exciting is building up in the present as Tea bored me to tears with the past. I was expecting the time lines to meet up in book one, although the story that Tea is telling the bard at the end of The Bone Witch is still well behind the events happening in real time. I thought the frame would only frame one book but apparently not, and that’s what I found the most disappointing.
I also think that we wasted a lot of time learning about clothes and Asha customs and it felt essentially like reading Memoirs of a Geisha, to the point that I set it down for a week wondering if I should just go read that book again instead. Then there’s the random storyline of Likh wanting to cross dress and dance as an Asha, which isn’t inherently bad but it’s bad enough to read about women’s clothes for so long without adding men into it as well. Basically most of the “Asha Training” was boring as hell and the book left all actual plot and storyline with consequences to be damned until the last quarter or so.
There are a lot of cool things she could have done with an undead familiar. Fox could have been interesting but there were no consequences to his dead-ness until the third quarter when the author finally decided to characterize him. I also think Tea felt like a wet blanket. She didn’t really have an arc of growth or maturity, it was more about her excelling in “training” and coming through the novice Asha cough Geisha ranks. I can’t even say she’s more mature in present time yet, more powerful yes but the rest is to be determined.
Chupeco did bring out the action and make it all much more interesting in the last quarter but prior to that I hadn’t been compelled to continue reading at any point throughout.
Also I don’t think the author owes the copy editor and proofreader any favors. Some dialogue hinted at previous events that as far as I could tell never occurred. Kalen referred to himself as Kalen a few times in conversation like the author forgot who was talking while writing the conversation, or had originally intended a third person to be talking. This book had a LOT of those kinds of errors. One of my biggest issues was how much of this felt ripped off from other books, it wasn’t just Geisha.
My general lack of interest was the result of lots of small things.adding up. In the big picture, the snail slow pace and lack of clear conflict didn’t align with a typical YA novel at all. I’d expect this pace for a slow burning and very long adult fantasy. Speaking of time it was also very hard to tell how much time was passing as the story went. At one point Tea was “almost 15” but I thought she was much older already. Then I couldn’t even remember two years having passed 🤷♀️
There were a few funny parts and some witty dialogue and overall it’s a good idea, but I don’t personally feel like the book delivered. I did LOL at the cow and the horse part. Even at the end when things are heating up and I expected answers, we just got more questions pointing towards the next book.
The series may get better as it goes but I don’t have any immediate interest in continuing the trilogy. It has some redeeming qualities and obviously going forward there’s going to be more action than party training (hopefully) so….we’ll see.
3 replies on “The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Book Thoughts)”
This review shows what so much of my feelings were toward this book! (Though I went with 2 stars… the ending didn’t redeem it enough for me.) I completely agree with the frustration of the ending’s “here’s this thing that wasn’t telegraphed at all, but Tea said it’s been happening for ages so it must be true.” That bugged me even more than the framing device lasting past book one.
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I couldn’t believe the frame went past the book! I said oh yeah we are going to learn everything and it was just so lopsided! Two stars was my first instinct but /sigh
Right? Especially when it looked like the bard was going to leave there for a bit.