★★★★☆ (4.5 actual)
The Bone Witch is a slow burn of a novel reminiscent of the storytelling format of The Name of the Wind and the fantasy world of Uprooted. I've been wanting to read this one ever since a friend of mine told me about it, and I was ecstatic to see a copy come into the bookstore that I work in.
The story is told between two alternating narratives. The Bard, a man who has sought out the now infamous Tea to hear her story, and Tea herself, reliving her past. We learn of Tea's history from age 11 onward, from the point in which she accidentally resurrected her dead brother. Tea is a dark asha, one of two remaining in the world, with the ability to raise the dead and send the daeva (or demons who terrorize the land) back to their graves. Tea and her mentor Lady Mykaela are feared by most people and treated with disrespect, but they are also vital to the survival of the people.
The world building in this book is rich and well crafted, although at times it is a touch confusing. There is some info dumping toward the beginning that gave me pause. I feel I'd understand it a bit more in the finished copy, with a finished map. Additionally, much of the story is told secondhand. Tea attends lessons but we don't get to see her in the lessons, we are just told about it later. This style of storytelling is the only reason this book didn't get a full 5 stars from me. The story is told slowly, but it's possible that it only feels that way because reading the scenes with the Bard's perspective makes you impatient for the past to catch up with the present.
The characters in this book shine brightly. Zoya, Rahim, Fox, Mykaela, and even Mistress Parmina are all fully developed, but my favorite character of them all is Likh, a young man whose only wish is to be made in to an asha, an occupation held only by women. Men who have the ability to draw runes are typically automatically drafted into the army, but Likh identifies more with the beauty and grace of the asha than the brute force of the Deathseekers.
I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot, but just know that I finished this book with more questions than answers. The book ends before we find out what events sent Tea to the graveyard beach that she resides, and the ending is rather alarming.
Thanks for reading! The Bone Witch will be available from Sourcebooks Fire in March of 2017.