Title: The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1)
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, 2017 (March 7)
Genre: YA Fantasy
**I received a copy of this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
I have had this book on my TBR for a looooooong time. I was an “Asha Apprentice” for the book and entered all sorts of giveaways for the book and Asha swag. I have a poster someone gave me that is ripped but I don’t care – the art is gorgeous. This cover is probably one of my all-time favorite covers. Ever. It. Is. Stunning.
So why did it take me so long to read it?
It received some lackluster reviews, and that worried me. I didn’t want this book that I loved for its outside beauty to be one I hated. But what I think happened is a typical case of “overhype” – the book is pushed so hard that it can’t possibly live up to expectation. So I waited. I bided my time. And now that the sequel, The Heart Forger, is coming out soon, I felt it was time to read it for me.
I’m glad I waited.
Because I loved it.
Not only is the writing spot-on, but it borrows the Geisha structure from Memoirs of a Geisha for the Asha structure in the book. The amazing quotes are plentiful.
It is an excellent read. Lots more to be learned from the story world, but that’s probably why there is another book coming out. I’m glad I finally got a chance to read this without the hype to influence me one way or the other.
The book starts with one of the strongest quotes I’ve read:
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise.
If that line doesn’t just suck you into the story, the writing will. Chupeco knows how to write poetic lines.
It was true that I was born at the height of an eclipse, when the sky closed its only moon eye to wink back at the world, like my arrival was a private joke between old friends. Or perhaps the moon read my fate in the stars and hid, unwilling to bear witness to my birth.
The story starts similar to Memoirs of a Geisha – if you haven’t read it, I’ll explain. In Memoirs, a man interviews an old Geisha about her life. In Bone Witch, a man hears of the woman’s notorious past and interviews her about her life. We learn about Tea, a Dark asha, from her own story, and we flash back from her childhood and training to her present-day exile. We know she has obviously either done something wrong or has been framed for it because she lives in exile on the beach.
We read that Tea raises her brother from the dead, an act that is accidental but also enlightening: this is what marks her as a dark asha. Like Memoirs, we read about her acceptance into an asha-ka, a unit similar to a Geisha house. There is a hierarchy and they must learn how to entertain (just like Geisha) for wealthy patrons. Essentially asha seem to be magical Geisha.
Like Geisha, asha are schooled in arts: dancing, singing, flower arranging, and entertaining.
Sometimes the similarities were a little too on the nose. The head of the house is a lot like the head of the Geisha house in Memoirs…she is a disgusting old lady who only cares for profits and smokes incessantly. Her character is torn directly from Golden’s book. Also, Tea is tricked into ruining another apprentice’s hua, an outfit that sounds a lot like the gowns and wraps that Geisha wear.
Despite the similarities, be it intentional or not, the book is a delightful read. As we flash back and forth from Tea’s present circumstance as an exiled asha to her novice days, we gain an appreciation for the plucky young girl with too much power. And we have Rin’s writing to bring us along the way.
“This is an everflowing, and this is a tamarisk.” She touched first one flower and then another. “This one is colchicum. Amaryllis. Burdock. The language of flowers might seem a frivolous concept to most who live outside of our little part of Ankyo, but it’s an important part of our lives. We asha are always expected to be on our most proper behavior, to never have so much as a hair out of turn. Asha do not cry or scream or make threats. When people cut us, we are expected to do only two things: smile and bleed.”
I wanted to know more about asha and I was left hanging at the end, but I will say that I never regretted a single moment. And I’m dying to know where Rin will take us next.
The next book in the series releases March 2018
Is it Classroom-Appropriate?
I think this would be a great book if a class is learning about Geisha or Japanese history – it would be fascinating for the students to compare what they know of the Geisha customs and try to match up the similarities. Since Memoirs of a Geisha is such a prevalent read in schools, it might be a nice way to pair the curriculum or to find something newer to replace Golden’s book.
The terminology and language are influenced by Indian and Middle East practices/words as well. It’s almost as if Chupeco put the multiple cultures in a blender and mixed them up. There are some definite pluses to using this book in the classroom.
However, as Golden’s Memoirs is more historical fiction and Chupeco’s Bone Witch is fantasy, there would need to be emphasis on the difference. Otherwise, I find The Bone Witch to be a pleasant addition to a school’s reading choices.
I give The Bone Witch ★★★★☆ for class use.
I didn’t find anything questionable in my reading. It has a Lexile of 900L and is recommended for ages 14 – 17. I agree with the assessment and suggest it be offered as reading material for readers in 8th grade and above.
I’m happy to find this one listed on Lexile. It can be frustrating when trying to pair a book with a reading level and not finding one. The site says they are currently trying to update their selections and that some previous scores may change. Publishers are including Lexile scores on their websites and with supplemental materials. This will help match the reader to the book with greater ease.
I give The Bone Witch ★★★★★. Though it appears that it shadows some of Golden’s book, many new books are retellings of classic stories and authors are putting their own spin on the material. I don’t know for sure, but someone on Goodreads told me the book was inspired by Memoirs, so it makes sense for there to be some similarities.
I am looking forward to the next installment to see what happens next: if you have personally read The Bone Witch, then you yourself know that it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. I plan on immediately requesting The Heart Forger now that I know that hype is the killer of most books I tend to love: I enjoyed Flame in the Mist and Frostblood even though many people told me that they didn’t live up to their “hype.” Maybe we all need to wait until hype dies down for us to read a book – I know my feelings are my own now that I waited to read it.
What do you guys think? Do you find that hype impacts your reading experience? Especially with overly hyped books? I’m curious! And did you like The Bone Witch? Did I convince you to give this one a chance?
Happy reading! I’ll be out of “school” for the Christmas Break so I’ll be upping my reading over that time! I hope to end the year with some more reviews – I have been sick with a Darth Vader cough and now I’m fighting a Mr. Snuffleupagus cold. At least my illnesses reflect to pop culture! 😂