The cover got me – how could it not? Gold filigree and mysterious skulls work (in my opinion). Much like the cover, the tone of this novel is filled with beautiful detail but feels somewhat removed from the reader.
The Bone Witch starts with, you guessed it, a Bone Witch named Tea. Tea’s story is foretold in contrasting chapters, alternating between the Tea of today and the memories that made her who she is. Within the first chapter, the reader understands Tea’s strong character, amazing powers, and unique situation for which she finds herself. When she single-handedly controls a monster with a mere thought, you begin to grasp the full immensity of her capabilities.
The chapters that follow weave her past and present together, detailing at her upbringing in a Geisha inspired culture and training to become the skilled power she is today. I enjoyed the Geisha-esque world – the customs and rules she must abide, the dresses and formalities, and the powers woven into the tradition. As Tea navigates her new circumstances, she finds herself embracing her fate as Bone Witch and aspiring to reframe her necromancer powers most fear and loathe.
My main qualm with The Bone Witch is perhaps derived from the time hops and scale of events – as I read the novel, I felt more like a third-party observer and less connected with the protagonist. Many times, Tea felt like a third-party observer to her own life. Throughout the book there is a distance between the reader and the characters and the characters and the characters that is only reinforced by Rin’s writing style.
Romance: There are touches and hints of a romance but nothing substantial. Again, there is a distance between past Tea and her romantic interest as well as present day Tea and her feelings of love.
World Building: My favorite part of the book is the world building! The Geisha culture, training to become a powerful (yet cultured) influence on the world, and the monsters sprinkled throughout shape a beautiful, well thought-out setting.
Writing: The writing is poetic in places and thoughtful from beginning to end. The sheer detail in describing even just the robes Tea wears creates stunning imagery for the reader.
Overall: I very much enjoyed the book but the connection just wasn’t there (geez, this sounds like a bad breakup!). Everything about this book from plot to writing to characters made for a five-star review, but the web between characters and between the reader weren’t strong enough.