4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
Okay, this one is about magical fighting Geisha?
It took me longer than usual to get the tone of this book nailed down. It vacillates between the present day journey of the bone witch as she goes around as a mysterious figure, raising monsters from the dead to join her army (Her only interaction is with a bard who is interested in her story so it is a sparse look where we do not learn much) and her life story as she is being trained as a witch. The sections set in the present really don’t give us much information about the world and culture, so you have to glean it from the flashbacks. The first section of the book was really devoid of any details that would give the world any flavour but it does come up later.
Not everyone in this book has magical powers, and those that are are taken and trained, not just in magic but in culture and combat. They are very comparable to Geisha, with the clothing and instruments resembling Japanese items, a mentor/sister relationship with another practitioner, and an emphasis on grace and poise. Tea, our witch, learns dancing, singing, magic and combat. I really enjoyed the combination of arts and magic that the witches in this book had to master. Most other magic systems will either have training just in magic or magic and normal schoolwork (see Harry Potter). This is the first time I have seen cultural refinements and kick-ass magic blended together in magical training.
Tea is a unique type of witch, a bone witch. She can raise the dead, as she discovers when she brings back her dead brother. Unlike most other witches, she is an object of more fear than respect, but since the dead regularly rise and wreak havoc, she is still a necessity to have around.
This book, in terms of pacing, reads a lot like Patrick Rothfuss. Most of the content is describing Tea’s day to day life as she learns magic as a student. You get the feeling there is something important coming that will be more of your classical fantasy saving-the-day-in-an-awesome-showdown, but for now, the majority of what you are reading is daily minutae. I really enjoy this style, but some might find it tedious.