“Everyone is a puzzle, Tea, made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We all have them, even me.”
“The Bone Witch” by Rin Chupeco is a dark fantasy novel mixed with various asian cultures that gives it a different feel from popular Euro-centric novels. It felt unique and new. However, an attempt to be out of the norm made the novel lose its mystery and tensions.
Tea Pahlavi was 12 years old when she accidentally brought her older brother, Fox, back to life and learnt that she was a bone witch. Then, a veteran bone witch finds Tea and takes her away (and Fox) to be trained in the way of the asha — women who are proficient in magic.
Once she arrives to the Willows, Tea begins several years of training in the way of the asha — in magic, song, dance, craft and battle — as she unravels the mysterious of what it means to be an bone witch and the new world she lives in.
“The Bone Witch” promises magic and a new world, but instead it gave occasional magic and an inside to look to the geisha-like asha. The way of the asha was beautiful, and Chupeco stayed true to what many maikos (apprentice geisha) go through — their lessons, their life, their requirements — but it focused too long on it, making the pacing of the novel suffer.
“Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are, rather than in what they expect you to be.”
The story telling of the novel was new and unsuccessful. There was a future and a present storyline. At the start of each chapter we got a glimpse into the future — an older Tea. In this future she is exiled and telling her story to a young man as she brings to life the demon-like deava she was originally trained to destroy in her younger years.
This glimpse into the future took away from any mystery, shock, and excitement the novel could have produced. This dual storytelling is tricky and it either can ruin the reader’s adventure or enhance it. In this case it was the former.
Th diverse cast of characters were able to keep the story afloat after each chapter was essentially ruined by the future section at the start. There were characters of various ages, backgrounds and sexuality with different goals, motivation and interests that motivated them throughout the novel. Such as, Likhn — a young boy who wants to become a dancer asha more than anything in the world but cannot due to old traditions and Fox — a devoted and protective brother who is grateful at this new chance at life, but holds secrets and mysterious intentions.
The novel occasionally was thrilling and as a whole it was a bit underwhelming, but it still showed promise. There are still questions to be answered and we still don’t know how and why Tea was exiled from the asha life.
I look forward to see how Chupeco will continue the dual storyline and how she plans to end to bring them together.
“The first are performing asha, known for their dancing and their singing, though their magic may be weaker than others. The second are fighting asha, known for their magic and their prowess, though they may not be the most gracious of hosts. The third are Dark asha like us, the strongest of them all.”
My Rating 3/5