This book is freaking gorgeous.
It’s the story of Tea (‘Tay-uh’, not ‘tee’), a young girl who accidently raises her brother from the dead and in doing so, reveals herself to be one of the feared Dark Asha- a Bone Witch. She is taken by another dark asha, Lady Mikaela, to a place where she will be trained in the arts and in magic. Much like the training underwent by geishas, she earns her place there by working as a maid at first, then moving up gradually.
However, before she reaches the normal benchmark, an accident involving a party, some older asha-in-training, and a dead king cause her to reveal more of the extent of her power and forces her superiors to begin training her, as to avoid any more incidents. She begins to learn the lifestyle of the asha, her power growing and becoming more dangerous even as darker powers begin to rise as well.
I love love love the style of this. It’s told beautifully, and I love the culture of the various kingdoms. I haven’t seen this interpretation of a magic school* before, and the melding of cultures was done wonderfully. I could see a lot of inspiration from various our-world countries, but I could never say, “oh, that’s China”, or “that’s Russia”, or “that’s England”- which is major points in my book. So to speak.
BUT, it was difficult to get into. And that might be the ebook I had (I really don’t like ebooks), but it took me a LONG time to read it when it really should have taken two days at most. I never found myself really really loving any of the characters, minus Fox, and some of them were really two-dimensional. I think there’s a lot of potential regarding many of them (there are so many loose ends- next book, maybe? I hope? I’m excited!!!), but a lot of that was touched on briefly- and then the plot kept going. I’m a big fan of subplots, so this might not be a problem for everyone.
Long story short (I’m sorry, I know…. bad pun), I did love this book! It was so unique and so beautiful that I was drawn in- and though I had my issues with it, they aren’t the biggest and they definitely don’t overshadow the good parts. I loved the plot, loved the setting- and it does strike me as a setting-driven book as opposed to plot-driven or character-driven- loved everything, really. So do I recommend it? Yes! It’s been a privilege to read this, and YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO.
*granted, they don’t only teach magic there- it’s not QUITE a magic school. But close. Sort of. It isn’t really even a school….