The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

I really wanted this book to work, and here’s the main reason why it didn’t, at least for me: 17 year-old Tea is just so full of herself that there isn’t room for anything interesting to be on display. The narrative is split into two, as with Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. There’s a first-person narrative of the hero growing up, and there’s a first-person narrative that intersperses those more interesting bits with the pov of an accomplished storyteller who is somehow drawn to the hero years on, after said interesting bits and, hopefully, before more interesting bits to come. Rothfuss’ series has the advantage of the interspersing sections featuring an intriguing cast who surround our hero, whereas Tea is all alone but for the entities she summons. Present-day Kvothe gets away with being elusive and uninterested because he is surrounded by the mild conflicts raised by his supporting cast. Present-day Tea is just… melodramatic and affected and deeply uninteresting in the way of all self-important teenagers.

Which is a shame because when the book is showing us Tea’s pov, growing up to discover she’s a bone witch and all that, she’s actually quite delightful. The relationship between her and her brother is one of the most convincing depictions of sibling loyalty I’ve ever encountered, and I really enjoyed the plot beats as they came up. But here’s the secondary problem: there’s a surprising lack of tension in this book. I thought the mystery of who was sabotaging Tea was quite elegantly plotted but poorly written, with virtually all the drama happening in the closing scenes. And even though I’m averse to love triangles in general, I thought that it was quite odd to have it alluded to only at the beginning and end of the book, and then for the characters involved to display very little attraction, much less affection, for one another over the course of the book.

I do like the world and viewpoint that Rin Chupeco has created, but I really do think that The Bone Witch would benefit greatly from more storyshowing in its storytelling. It’s very unlikely that I’ll pick up the sequels unless someone whose opinion I trust reads them, loves them and recommends them, but I am hoping that happens.

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  1. It sounds like Chupeco should have trusted her characters enough to just tell the main story. I wonder why she thought the framing narrative was necessary?

    1. I think she wanted to make the juxtaposition between the delightful young Tea with the dramatic jaded Tea look far more pronounced. It just… doesn’t work when the difference is a mere two years. Every time present-day Tea intoned something “meaningful”, I rolled my eyes and thought “Ugh, wait till you’re older and have actually lived.” I think the storyteller POV was also supposed to lend older Tea gravitas but older Tea is just so self-absorbed that it’s hard to take her at all seriously, even when she’s writhing around in pain. But I agree, the book would have been better without the framing narrative. Perhaps less dramatic (several plot twists, including the love triangle snooze, come out in it,) but certainly less “dramatic”.

      1. Just give us young Tea, eh?

        By the by, I am about a third of the way through Revenant Gun, and I am again finding that I am not nearly as interested in Jedao as the author is. In Raven Stratagem, he pulled it off, but there’s even more Jedao this time, and I am wondering whether he can do it again. I’m wandering into other books because I can actually wait to find out. Sigh.

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