The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
The Bone Witch was not what I expected, but turned out to be so much more. Much of the story is still unclear as there are two more books in the series. I was enchanted by the magic that Tea and Lady Mykaela use. Dark magic used for good. Nothing about Tea is normal. She is powerful, feared, suspicious. She is also more than a commodity to be controlled as those in the Willows, where the asha, members of a Geisha-like group of women, are trained, honed, and used as pawns both in politics and for income. The idea that they are both possessions and protectors is strong and doesn’t sit well with Tea (or me).
When danger dares infiltrate the heart of the Willows, Tea must choose where her loyalty lies and what to do about it. That she chooses against the mighty will of the Elder Council is evident in that she is in exile throughout the story, telling it to a bard who seeks her out–a bard with secrets and trouble all his own.
I enjoyed this imaginative tale and the glimpse into a Geisha-like society. I pulled for Tea to succeed, sympathized with the difficulty of her decisions, and cheered her intense loyalty to a sense of right, truth, and honor that extended beyond the boundaries of empire, wealth, or tradition to the humanity and life itself.
Many reviewers lament the slow, meandering plot, but personally, I had no trouble with it. I enjoyed the glimpses into this nearly secret society and into Tea’s mind and heart. The emotional journey is worth the lack of major plot points. There are many things not resolved at the end, as I mentioned in paragraph one of this review, but I’m ready to read book 2 in hopes of finding out.
Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King
As an author I appreciated the craft Kerry Anne King uses to weave the many deep story threads together into a cohesive and triumphant whole. She could never be accused of going too easy on her characters. Indeed, she takes them to the darkest parts of their souls – to places even they do not go willingly. It takes multiple tragedies to open the festering, gangrenous wounds Braden, and by proxy, Allie carry.
Music binds Braden, his daughter Allie, and Ophelia “Phee” McPhee who is the granddaughter and heir to the man who sold Braden his cello. According to Phee’s grandfather, there is a curse built into the contract between the cello and Braden. If he doesn’t play, strange and potentially awful events may occur. But awful events have already happened and Braden can’t play. Phee must convince him to begin again, but blocked memories and new tragedies pull Braden, Phee, and Allie through a gauntlet that both binds and tears them apart. Through it all is the cello and the music.
Trigger warnings: this story includes alcoholism, albeit with a most interesting and inventive way of dealing with sobriety and intervention, suicide, some foul language and unwed sex. Nothing is too graphic and the scenes add to the understanding, empathy, and healing power of the novel. The ugliness illuminates the beauty as night illustrates the desire for dawn, and this story takes the reader on an adventure from darkness to light and all shades of twilight in between. The emotions are raw and real. The experiences and reactions ring true and within the darkest moments there is always a thread of hope, an open window, the sound of a perfectly-tuned note.
If you’ve read these books or have similar ones to recommend, please drop a comment. Also, If you’re interested in receiving quarterly updates on my writing news, life updates, and more recommended reading/listening, please sign up for my newsletter, Rebecca’s Reflections. You’ll get a free download of a short story, “Pay it Forward” and my thanks as I build toward publication of my YA contemporary fantasy novel set in Scotland. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day!