by Hal Patnott
This week, our featured title is the first installment in a new series to watch out for. Among ALSC’s Core Values, Chupeco’s writing demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader copy of The Bone Witch.
Tea grew up reading stories of the heroic and magical asha. She pretended to wield their war-ending, artistic powers. Although her sisters are witches with enough skills to make remedies and cast auguries, dark power like necromancy doesn’t flow in her bloodline. Her sister Lilac saw a marriage to a prince in her future. Instead, Tea’s life takes an unexpected turn when she raises her brother from the dead. Of all the asha, bone witches like Tea are the most feared and despised. For her own safety, Tea leaves her small town with a mysterious woman named Mykaela who promises to train her. Among the many lessons ahead of her, Tea learns first “that the dead hide truths as well as the living.”
The chapters alternate between two first-person narrators, a man in exile seeking the truth and Tea, who tells him her story. Between the time she begins her training as an asha and when she meets the exile at the ends of the earth, almost everyone Tea loves betrays her. The book opens in the midst of action with a seventeen-year-old Tea preparing to unleash her revenge on the world. Chupeco’s bewitching prose enhances the suspenseful plot. While the social customs in Tea’s world rely heavily on a binary gender division, she and her friends question and challenge the rules. A wide variety of cultures converge in the city where Tea begins her training as an asha. The asha themselves are inspired by East Asian cultures. Prejudice and distrust of cultural differences is a central theme throughout the book. A cliff-hanger ending suggests that more awaits of Tea’s adventure. Overall, The Bone Witch is a riveting fantasy and perfect for a teen reader who loves intrigue.