The Bone Witch

The Bone Witch - Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch, Rin Chupeco's latest novel is striking. I haven't read anything quite like it, and found it wonderful.


Tea can raise the dead. But raising her brother was an accident. Many women are asha, those who can control elemental magic, but very few can practice necromancy. Fortunately though, Mykaela, the current Bone Witch was near and took Tea under her protection.


Tea trains in the ways of an asha, which is quite similar to the training of a geisha. They learn history, music, performance, current events, and how to control their elemental magic. And when they finish training, they are able to wear their ceremonial hua, which is different for every asha, designed strictly for her based on her abilities, her training, and her personality.


The story is told in two points of view, from the bard who found Tea in the desert, and from Tea herself. And it's very obvious who is speaking at each time, which makes it easier to follow. There isn't lots of flip flopping between POV's, and it helps contribute to the flow of the story.


There are some very pertinent topics discussed in The Bone Witch, including that of toxic masculinity. Only women can become asha, men who have the potential must become soldiers. This is addressed well in the book, with one of Tea's friends proving that just because he is male, doesn't mean that asha training is for the weak.


There is a ton of world building, and it does get bogged down in details. There is so much description and page time dedicated to Tea's asha training, and not nearly as much fighting daeva as teased. That being said, and me being a costuming/history/sociology nerd, I liked the slow parts. The details will probably come in handy in the rest of the series, and was worth the slog.


The ending left me wanting much more. I wanted to know more about what happened to Tea in those unmentioned years. Why she became hard, what happened to her brother, and what her new determined plan is. Rin Chupeco has set a very ambitious bar, with the foreshadowing of what is to come.


If you're a fan of (implied) Asian history, geisha training, necromancy, coming-of-age stories all with a bit of supernatural demon-ish critters thrown in, you may well like it. But be forewarned, there is a lot of worldbuilding and description, and this may turn off some readers. But give it a chance, you may wind up liking it.