I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The book will be released on March 7, 2017.
Hmmm… where to start. Let me start with the good. The premise of the book is interesting. Various forms of magic are very common in the kingdom of Odalia and the surrounding kingdoms. The main character, Tea, is a young girl that discovers she can wield dark magic, which includes killing horrible beasts called daeva that destroy villages and kill people, and raising people and animals from the dead. People that wield this type of magic are very rare, and are called “bone witches”.
When Tea’s brother, Fox, is killed by a daeva while serving in the military, Tea causes a commotion at the funeral and unexpectedly raises him from the dead. He becomes her “familiar” and they have a psychic bond. This is the first time she has shown any aptitude for magic. An asha arrives to care for Tea as she recovers from raising her brother from the dead and convinces her to travel with her to the capital city for training as an asha.
The author never really explains what an asha is. The best explanation I have is that they are a kind of geisha. They belong to different houses and after they complete their training, they perform magic, dance, sing and entertain patrons for money. They are also used as personal bodyguards by royalty and rich people. The story follows Tea’s training as an asha, where she interacts with various other asha and royalty, including the two princes of the reigning King. The kingdoms are constantly in danger from attacks by daevas, as well as dark witches bent on evil called the Faceless. Tea must assist with these dangers before she’s finished her training due to dire circumstances.
Now the bad. The book starts as if it’s in the middle of the story, which is disconcerting. I spent several chapters just trying to figure out what the heck was going on. This is particularly annoying when you are trying to figure out if you even like the book and want to continue reading it. I understand other reviewer’s frustration with the book and their decision to not finish it. I stuck with it, however, and was glad I did.
Another problem with the book is the worldbuilding. In every first book in a series, there must be some amount of worldbuiding that can be rather tedious to read, but necessary. Here, however, the author’s choices in what was written about in great detail, and what wasn’t, was frustrating. For example, the author goes into minute detail describing what all of the asha’s hua looks like, and yet never bothers to explain what an asha is or why they wear the huas, which appear to be some kind of kimono. She explains in great detail all of the different small magical elements people use to enhance their appearance, but doesn’t adequately explain the different types of magic, if everyone has magic, what they are all used for, etc. There is no explanation as to why the government is set up as it is, or why the kingdoms seem to always be at war. There are a lot of holes in the worldbuilding and not enough explanations as to why certain things happen.
The story is told in two timelines. The first timeline is present day. Tea is 17 years old, a dark witch, and hell-bent on getting revenge and destroying the entire kingdom. She spends her days raising dead daeva’s and telling her story in flashbacks to an unknown storyteller. While this can be an effective method of storytelling, it doesn’t work well here. One of the biggest problems with the story is that nothing seems to really happen. I kept waiting for the story to take off and the adventures to begin, but they just….didn’t. There are a couple action scenes that take place near the end of the book, but they are over very quickly and told without much detail. The ending wraps up very quickly and leaves far too many questions unanswered. I’m all for a nice, juicy cliffhanger, but the ending of this book made me more mad that excited to see what happened next.
Overall, I give the book a “meh”. I didn’t love it. I wasn’t dying to read through the night to finish it. But, I was interested enough that I may read the next book in the series, if only to see why this book ended the way it did. Hopefully the next book will be organized better and have more action in it.