Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1), by Rin Chupeco (author), Emily Woo Zeller (narrator), Will Damron (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, March 2017

Tea is growing up in a small village, with several sisters and brothers. Her older sisters are witches, with useful and unalarming powers related to water, or to plants, for instance. Everyone expects that Tea will also be a witch, and she expects that her powers will be similarly domestic and useful.

However, when her brother, Fox, is killed in a battle, and his body returned to his family for burial, Tea, in her grief, accidentally resurrects him. She's not a nice, normal, domestic sort of witch; she's a bone witch--a necromancer.

Bone witches serve a vital role in the eight kingdoms, keeping daeva, monsters created long ago by the False Prince, safely dead. Despite their importance, they are mostly feared, even hated, and shunned. Tea is suddenly very unwelcome in her village.

Fortunately, there's an older bone witch, Lady Mykala, nearby currently, and she takes Tea, and her brother, Fox, away with her. She takes them to another kingdom, and a city where powerful witches, called ashas, are trained. What Tea didn't know before this is that a bone witch is an asha--a "dark asha."

There are two intertwined stories here, in alternating sections. One is Tea's story of her introduction to and education in the world of the ashas, which eventually includes learning to dance, and fight, and sing, and provide cultured company to nobles and other wealthy patrons. There are some significant parallels to geishas, here. And, of course, there is also magic

The other story is that of a bard, exiled from his own land, who, a few years after the major events in the story Tea is telling, finds Tea living alone on a beach. She's surrounded by bones--bones of daeva, and she can raise and control these daeva. As may be obvious, Tea is also in exile, as well as quite notorious. It's in the intertwining of the bard's story, and Tea's own story, that we begin to get hints of the darker aspects of what is happening.

The worldbuilding and the magic system here are quite interesting, and the characters are interesting and well-developed, also. Tea is smart, talented, motivated--and a quite believable willful, impulsive, young teen. The friendships and rivalries among the young asha novices and apprentices also feel real and believable. As for the intrigue that Tea finds herself involved in, well, there are a few instances where I find myself asking, really, what happened there? What did I miss? Overall, though, it's quite good.

I borrowed this audiobook via Prime Reading, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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