ARC Review of The Bone Witch

ARC Review of The Bone WitchThe Bone Witch (The Bone Witch, #1) by Rin Chupeco
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Synopsis:  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.

My Review:

The Bone Witch follows the story of a young witch named Tea (pronounced Tay Uh).  Tea wants to train to become an asha.  There are several different kinds of asha, all of whom can weave spells to a certain degree using elemental magic, with the rarest of all ashas being the Dark Asha, or Bone Witches, who have the power to raise the dead.  When Tea accidentally raises her brother from the dead at his funeral, she realizes that she is one of those rare dark asha.  She is then removed from her home and sent to train with an older, more experienced dark asha because she must be trained how to wield the dark asha magic.


What I Enjoyed:

What I enjoyed the most about The Bone Witch was Chupeco’s writing and her world building.  – the way Chupeco describes these ashas with their elaborate costumes, their gorgeous jeweled hairpins, their graceful movements, and their painted faces had me envisioning magic-wielding geishas.  The descriptions were just so vivid and beautiful.

I was also really into the story early on because it had such a unique premise.  I loved the idea that there were so many different kinds of ashas, each with their own unique abilities, and I was also intrigued by the idea that the dark asha’s magic was often feared in the various kingdoms, which we witnessed throughout Tea’s training.  I loved the air of mystery it lent to the dark asha.

I was also especially into the story because Tea’s newly resurrected zombie brother now basically follows her around everywhere she goes and is considered her familiar.  It’s totally cute (in a creepy sort of way).

I think my favorite part about the story was how it was structured.  In between the chapters that take us with Tea through her early days of training to be a dark asha, we are given small teasers of Tea in the future.  In these teasers, what we see is that Tea has been exiled to a deserted island and is plotting revenge against those who sent her there.  As part of her revenge, she is also using her dark magic and skeletal remains that are on the island to build herself an army of undead beasts.  These teasers really help to build up the suspense as we’re left to wonder 1) what in the world Tea could have done that was bad enough to yield such a punishment for her and 2) wow, how powerful is her magic that she can build such a monstrous army to unleash on her enemies?  You just know as your reading those teasers that we’re in store for something huge as we continue reading about younger Tea’s training.

What I Didn’t Like:

My biggest issue with The Bone Witch is that even though I loved the descriptive writing, overall there was just too much description and not enough action.  Once Tea found out she was a bone witch and left to begin her training, it just didn’t feel like much else happened. Tea spends what feels like forever working as some kind of indentured servant before she actually even starts training. Then once it is determined she can finally start training, more time is spent describing a shopping spree to buy her the proper robes (referred to as hua) and jeweled hairpins than is spent describing what she’s learning.

Then once the story does start to focus more on the training, we have long descriptions of dance moves she is learning and instruments she is learning to play and we just breeze through other elements of the training, like fighting, that probably would be more interesting.  As much as I loved the descriptive passages early on, I really started to get bored with the lengthy descriptions of the patterns on asha’s hua.  This continued to be an issue for me throughout the book.  Every outfit that each asha wore was described in such great detail, but in comparison, a terrifying attack that kills 20 soldiers is just a blip on the radar. It seemed like, in so many cases, the main action of the story really took a backseat to descriptions of items that didn’t seem nearly as important.

Who Would I Recommend The Bone Witch to?

I think I would recommend The Bone Witch to readers who don’t mind a very slow build to what could perhaps end up being a truly phenomenal series.  Those teasers that we get of Tea on the deserted island hint that big things are going to happen and those big things are going to be pretty darn exciting.  Even though I was disappointed with the lack of action in this first book, I definitely see myself continuing with the series because I feel like the second book has the potential to be a great read.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and Rin Chupeco for providing me with an e-galley of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Rating:  2.5 stars



About Rin Chupeco

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.  She is represented by Rebecca Podos of the Helen Rees Agency.

14 replies
  1. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    I really enjoyed this review! I have been going back and forth on this book for what feels like ages. Some reviews seem to be glowing, but there are more than a few less-than-glowing reviews as well. I definitely think that this is one that I will read at some point, but I’m going to not let my expectations get too high. Too much description can get old sometimes if there is not enough plot/activity to match it. Great review! 🙂

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks Jordan. Yeah, I definitely think the series has potential in the long run, but I really wish more had actually happened in this first book.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I was definitely a bit disappointed with this first book. Still hopeful that the next book will be great though, so fingers crossed!

  2. Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!)
    Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!) says:

    Oh man, I’m sorry you didn’t totally enjoy this one, Suzanne. I’ve seen a lot of excitement surrounding the book, but I personally have not had a chance to read it or get a copy. I haven’t read a book involving witches in a while – to be honest, they’re not really my thing. Slow-moving and overly descriptive books can definitely be hard to enjoy! I just read Strange the Dreamer and while it was definitely slow-moving and descriptive, it was so, so good. The opposite of this one. Oh well, you tried! Excellent review, Suzanne!

    Have a great week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, sadly, it was a disappointing read overall. I’m really glad to hear how much you enjoyed Strange the Dreamer though. I’ve been wanting to read that one ever since I first heard about it. It sounds amazing!

  3. Greg
    Greg says:

    It has a very interesting premise and I think I would feel the same way- a slow build is okay sometimes but your descriptions I think would be an issue for me too. Sounds like it could have used a little more action and less clothing perhaps! I am curious though about what would cause her to be exiled, and she’s obviously bitter and very angry, so that’s a different kind of protagonist than the usual “good” heroines. The sense of mystery sounds neat too.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, I understand wanting to get the visual of the costumes across to the readers, but at a certain point, I would have almost preferred a few illustrations in place of the lengthy descriptions. Hopefully, now that it’s out of the way in the first book, the second book will get on with the more interesting aspects of the story.

  4. Kelly @ Here's to Happy Endings
    Kelly @ Here's to Happy Endings says:

    This has been on my list of books I want to pick up, but after reading a few reviews that seem to be a little more on the negative side of things, I’m not sure I want to read it as much as I did. I’m not really one for slow paced books, especially fantasy, because I have a short attention span and get bored kind of quickly, especially when reading something that doesn’t really have anything much happening. It seems as though a lot of people feel the same way. That cover is just drop dead gorgeous, though! Great review, thanks for sharing!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen a few positive reviews but unfortunately way more negative ones. I think it would appeal to someone who likes a ton of description, but I’m like you. I love plenty of fast-paced action to balance out the description and keep the plot moving and this just didn’t have that balance at all.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It was definitely a bit of a letdown for me. I’m hopeful the second book will have all of the action that was missing from the first. Fingers crossed anyway.

  5. verushka
    verushka says:

    As promising as this sounds, I don’t think the slow build would suit me. … no I lie, I think I’m more torn about this!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I think the slow build has turned off quite a few people based on other reviews I’ve read. I’m still hopeful that the action will really pick up with the second book. Fingers crossed that it will!

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