ARC Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Series: The Bone Witch,, #1
Pages: 400
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 7th 2017
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, which does not influence my review*

      “Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.
      Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

swirl (2)

Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch is a unique story of one girl’s rise through the ranking of the asha, a order of women whose responsibilities range from entertainment to battling daeva, the deadly creatures set loose by the False Prince. The story shifts between past and present storylines, as we’re given a glimpse of who Tea will become and what made her into an asha in exile. When Tea is far too young to understand her own power, she accidentally resurrects her brother. This show of power does not go unnoticed and Tea is given the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of the bone witch Lady Mykaela. But bone witches are not as highly revered as other kinds of asha. Many fear them as their power more closely resembles that of the Faceless, those who serve the False Prince. Tea learns that becoming an asha will not be easy, but she may not have a choice when those battling daeva are failing and she may be the only one who can stop them.

Chupeco’s world is well-developed and often times lush. As Tea learns what it means to be an asha, so we learn alongside her. While I enjoyed the various aspects of the asha life, there were times when this really slowed down the narrative and I got impatient for something to happen. One part of being an asha that was really intriguing was the importance of one’s attire. The wardrobe of an asha is unique and significant to her. Chupeco’s writing shines the most when she is describing these traditional ensembles. I found it really unique that each person had a heartglass that they wore around their necks that they could exchange with the person they loved as a sign of commitment. With the right kind of skill, you could learn to discern a person’s feelings from the color of their heartglass.

Readers are given two simultaneous portraits of Tea. Her younger self is bright-eyed and untested. She is only beginning to understand the power she yields and to many, she is an easy target. She is infatuated with Prince Kance as he is kind to Tea in a way that not many are. The most important figure in her life is her older brother Fox. He is forever tied to her because how she brought him back to life. Only a few years older, the exiled Tea we are introduced to is wise beyond her years. She yields her magic in a controlled and graceful fashion. She also holds close the loss of people dear her, one who died for her and another that chose to turn away from her. I’m really interested in learning more about this older Tea and what transpires in the couple of years between the close of this first installment and the future Tea.

You probably won’t read another book like Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch. Her world is both dark and enchanting. Chupeco pays particular attention to detail in a way that many other fantasy books don’t. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Tea’s journey and transformation, and I’m also hoping we get to explore her abilities more.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini-Reviews: How to Hang a Witch

MiniI love the month of October. I love when the colors of the leaves change and the promise of cooler weather (the promise of, where I live it doesn’t start to cool down until November), but above all I enjoy October because of Halloween. I usually like to include two mini reviews in the same post but after I started writing one of my mini reviews it turned into a full one, so I’ve only got one for you this time around. If you’re still looking for a Halloween read, this might be the one for you. Cover below is linked to Goodreads.

Title: How to Hang a Witch
Author: Adriana Mather
Series:
How to Hang a Witch, #1
Pages:
368
Publisher: 
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 
July 26th 2016

      “Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous Witch Trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam is not exactly welcomed with open arms. She is a descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those Trials—and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?
      If dealing with that wasn’t enough, Sam finds herself face to face with a real, live (well, technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff.
      Soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries-old curse affecting everyone with ties to the Trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first alleged witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

swirl (2)

“There’s a light creaking of old wood as I approach the burgundy bedroom. I peek inside and flip on the light. The rocking chair moves back and forth. I grab the arm and it stops. I scan the room, but everything’s still.

Adrian Mather’s debut novel How to Hang a Witch has a rich setting that works really well at bringing the story to life, but at times the novel felt like it dragged. After an accident that leaves her father in a coma, Sam and her stepmother move back to his childhood home of Salem, Massachusetts. It’s hard enough to adjust to this new life without her father, but Sam soon discovers that her family’s history makes her an outcast in this town. Then she discovers that her family may be caught up in a deadly curse and she must find a way to break it before it takes the life of her father. How to Hang a Witch draws a lot of parallels between Sam’s situation and the Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century, sometimes this works to enhance the novel and sometimes the comparison falls flat. Sam herself was a character that I sometimes found frustrating, her bad attitude grated on my nervous. I really liked some of the minor characters, but we only get tiny glimpses of who they are. There is a love triangle of sorts in this novel and one side really didn’t resonate with me, but hopefully this is cleaned up in the next novel.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


ARC Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, #1
Pages: 336
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: September 6th 2016
**I received a copy of this ARC through a giveaway hosted by Armchair BEA, which does not influence my review** 

      “Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
      Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.
      The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

swirl (2)

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova is an imaginative witch novel with family ties at its heart. Alejandra “Alex” Mortiz was born into a family of witches, known as brujas and brujos. From dream walking to healing, every member of her family is full of talent. As Alex’s Deathday approaches, a coming of age ceremony, she’d like to convince herself that there is no magic in her. But Alex is special in a way that she never expected and doesn’t want. Despite knowing there may be consequences, she makes a decision to undo the growing power burning inside her. Then the unthinkable happens and Alex must learn to embrace who she is if she has any chance of rescuing her family from the limbo-like world of Los Lagos.

Unlike the other members of her family, Alex doesn’t view magic as an essential part of who she is. Haunted by an horrific experience, Alex has only viewed magic through the lenses of a very scared girl. She scared of her family’s legacy, one not just of magic but of death. While her sisters embrace their gifts, Alex is full of apprehension because all she sees is the consequences of magic. In this world, all magic comes with a price, even the simple act of healing. In her desperation to rid herself of her family gift, Alex is reckless, despite being warned by the strange brujo boy Nova. But Alex is also brave and knowing her own life could be forfeit, she dives headfirst into a land brimming with dangerous creatures and a power hungry entity determined to suck the land dry.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Alex and her family. She doesn’t always get along with her sisters and after suffering a loss, her mother has never been the same. As a family of witches, Alex’s extended family also plays a key role in her life. I do wish more time had been spent on these relationships, but most of the story focuses on Alex’s journey through Los Lagos. Alex isn’t alone on her quest, with two companions at her side, and while there is potential for a romantic relationship, it never overshadows her ultimate goal of saving her family. I do think these relationships could have been flushed out more. Most of the time, I felt I was being told how these relationships had developed rather than being shown.

Labyrinth Lost has a magical system unique to Alex’s Latin American culture and the author provides plenty of detail to really bring this world to life. There are a couple of loose storylines introduced that I’m sure will be explored in later installments as this first shows a lot of potential.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

ARC Review: The Graces by Laure Eve

The Graces by Laure Eve

Title: The Graces
Author: Laure Eve
Series: The Graces, #1
Pages: 352
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: September 6th 2016
*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, which does not influence my review* 

      “In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.
      Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

swirl (2)

Laure Eve’s The Graces had its ups and downs, but ultimately ended up being more intriguing than I thought it would be. The protagonist of the novel is a character hard to like. From the beginning I didn’t quite understand River. She keeps a lot of who she is and what’s she’s been through guarded from outside eyes. As a reader, I found this frustrating, especially when the story is told in first person. And while this does seem like a deliberate choice on the author’s part, for a large portion of the novel, I found it difficult to connect with her, especially when it came to her reaction to the Graces.

When we first meet River, she is fascinated by the Graces, a family rumored to be witches. I was initially wary of the three Grace teenagers because of the way other people reacted to them. Everyone, including River, puts them on a pedestal. When Summer, Thalia, and Fenrin walk by, people stop to watch them. Everyone wants to be their friend or date them. These three Graces understand this and if River’s narrative is to be believed, they take advantage of this adulation bestowed upon them by others. What I didn’t expect is that by the end, I really started to like these characters. Yes, there are moments when they seem to look down on those who aren’t Graces and they have a tendency to cut people off when they no longer feel they are worth their time, but there was something very tragic about them as well. As the story unfolds, the Graces become more than the idolized version we’re first presented with.

River’s motivates are suspect from the beginning. She wants an in with the Graces and seems obsessed with getting Fenrin to notice her. She declares herself in love with him and despite knowing every girl at school is also in love with him, is convinced that she offers him something different. River schools her behavior in order to draw their attention, pretending not to care when she very clearly cares too much. It took a long time for me to figure out if the author was deliberately presenting River in this unflattering way or not, which affected the way I read her character and the story.

Laure Eve’s writing has a lot of potential. There were moments where her descriptions were really beautiful, but there were also very cliché and cringe-worthy language that worked against the narrative. The ending of the novel really surprised me and left me wondering if I’d have rated it higher if given all the answers from the beginning.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #1
Pages: 416
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 5th 2016

       “In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
       Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.
       Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.
       Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.”

swirl (2)

“Safi unfurled from her flip and withdrew her sword just as Iseult’s moon scythes clinked free. Far behind them, more explosions thundered out. Shouts rose up, the horses kicked and whinnied.”

Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch is action-packed fantasy with a strong friendship at its center. Dennard’s world is full of magic and mayhem, but is in need of a lot of exposition by its characters which often feels like readers are forced to play catch up. The novel is full of a lot of unfamiliar terms and a complicated system of witchery that made me wish I had a glossary to reference back to while reading. There are political games between leaders who we learn little about, prejudices against people that we are asked to accept without proper historical context, and different Empires all with different needs that we aren’t privy to as the characters spend most of the novel on a ship. While I will say some of the elements in the story were not fully explained, by the time I finished the novel, I felt that I had a much better grasp on the Witchlands world and cannot wait to explore it more.

Truthwitch‘s strength is its two leads, Safi and Iseult, and the powerful relationship between these two independent young women. Safi is ruled by her emotions, which often makes her impetuous and temperamental. At the beginning of the novel, Safi is a girl running away from a life she doesn’t want with a powerful witchery that can enslave her to anyone who gets their hands on her. She finds a companion in Iseult, a Threadwitch, running away from her own life. Iseult grew up in a strict upbringing that taught her to value control over emotion. Her people, the Nomatsi, are reviled throughout the Witchlands, but Iseult’s inability to perform all the magic a Threadwitch is called to has ostracized her from her own people. Her friendship with Safi is a saving grace for both of them; they compliment one another and are at their best when fighting for each other.

Truthwitch has some great secondary characters. While I consider Safi and Iseult to be the two main leads, Prince Merik of Nubrevna and the Bloodwitch Aeduan play important roles. Merik’s actions are motivated by his desire to save his people. He is uncompromising in his ethics despite having people in his life like his sister, who would rather take the easy route. He becomes an example of what Safi could be if she chooses to accept the role she was born to. Aeduan is ruthless, powerful, and truly ambiguous. I’m still unsure if he can be considered a villain or an antihero as his actions are those of both, but I’m very interested in finding out more regardless.

While hype initially scared me off from reading Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch right away, it’s a highly enjoyable fantasy novel with great characters and an inspiring female friendship.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

October Fright: Bewitching Reads

AKernelOctober

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite Halloween “monsters” are witches. I think I spent most Halloweens as a child dressed up as a witch. I remember one year I did the full green face make-up…it was very messy. From Hocus Pocus to Charmed to The Craft (a movie I probably shouldn’t have watched when I was a kid), witches have always been so fascinating to me. So put on your witch hat (I literally have one), here are some of my favorite books featuring witches. Covers linked to Goodreads.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

First and foremost, I must mention HP. Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Nymphadora Tonks, and Minerva McGonagall, the HP series is filled with amazing witches who kick butt with their magic, bravery, intelligence, and goodness. Though I’ll admit, some of the evil witches in the series are a whole lot of fun too.

“Professor McGonagall moved faster than Harry could have believed: Her wand slashed through the air…”

2. Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

This book, this book! I love this book, it deserves so much more praise than it’s gotten. Avery Roe comes from a long line of witches and all her life she’s wanted nothing more than to take over for her grandmother, but her mother, who has forsaken the same calling, will do everything in her power to keep Avery from magic.

“For the first time in my life I thought I might not become a witch. I might not ever have the chance. Because I could read dreams and I knew what it meant to dream I was a whale, to dream of men trapping me, hunting me, piercing me with harpoons and leaving me to drown in my own blood.”

3. Chime by Franny Billingsley

This book is at the top of my underrated list. Briony promised her stepmother long ago that she would take care of her sister and never speak of the strange gift she has. In a time where witches are hanged for existing, Briony must hide her own witchiness or be condemned.

“I felt rather than saw the witches circling, then rising, now above the trees, out of sight. But their shrills and shrieks of amusement blew to us on that unnatural wind.”

4. Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Amy Goodnight comes from a very talented family full of witches and psychics alike. And no matter how much she’d rather not be a part of the crazy world of ghosts and spells, they always find a way to disrupt her life.

“This was why I’d been reluctant to come to the farm. It was part of the figurative bubble where my family lived, where magic was reasonable and tangible. It messed with my thinking and blurred the lines I’d carefully drawn between my private, family world and my determined public normalcy.”

5. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

This was my first Victoria Schwab book and is highly underrated in my opinion. Missing children, the appearance of a stranger, and the legend of the Near Witch makes this a great read.

“Long, long ago, the Near Witch lived in a small house on the farthest edge of the village, and she used to sing the hills to sleep…She was very old and very young, depending on which way she turned her head, for no one knows the age of witches.”

6. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Though Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series focuses more on Fae, it does feature quite an abundance of witches. Though featured in only the last two books in the series, Manon Blackbeak has quickly become one of my favorite characters. The Thirteen, a team of elite witches, are vicious, powerful, and so much fun to read about. Let’s hope Maas decides to write a witch-oriented series next.

Manon didn’t bother wiping away the blood slipping down her chin as she gave the remaining farmer a head sart intot he field of towering winter grass, so high that it was well over their heads.

She counted to ten, because she wanted to hunt, and had been that way since she tore through her mother’s womb and came roaring and bloody into this world.”

Other witchy reads I haven’t read, but plan to:

 alt=

What are some of your favorite witchy reads? I’m always on the lookout for books featuring witches, so I’d appreciate any of your recommendations!