The Bone Witch: A Great Expectations Review…

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GREAT (1)

Given that I adored Rin Chupeco’s first two novels, it was only natural that I would have massive expectations regarding her third.  We received The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco from the publisher via Netgalley for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

bone witch.jpg

What I Expected:

*an enchanting blend of magic and creepiness with a complex plot and plenty of action, as in the previous two novels from this author

*a memorable story in which the imagery created by the author sears itself into your brain as you read and leaves a lasting impression

What I Got:

*seemingly endless descriptions of the setting and the “rules” of the world in which the book is set

*a completely different narrative tone from the other books I had read by this author

*an extremely slow-placed story that resulted in my DNFing at 15%

The Bone Witch is such a massive shift in content and voice from Chupeco’s first two horror/supernatural novels that I felt all at sea from the very first chapter.  The story opens with an unnamed narrator searching for the girl who turns out to be the protagonist of the story, as the narrator tries to convince this girl to tell him the story of how she became a Bone Witch….or something like that.  I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t finish the whole book, but essentially, the bulk of the book is the story that is being told by the girl to the narrator of the first chapter…if that makes sense.

The story that is being told features Tea as the protagonist, a young girl who accidentally manages to raise her brother from the dead and in doing so, marks herself out as a Bone Witch.  Bone Witches are reviled by most good folk for….reasons that aren’t exactly clear…but Tea attaches herself to an experienced Bone Witch as an apprentice and together, the two, plus Tea’s undead brother set off to do…Bone Witchy things.

You may think that I don’t really know what’s going on because I gave up on the book so early – and you would probably be right – but there is so much description and “telling” about the setting going on that I found it really hard to keep the important bits of information – such as who the main characters are and what they’re meant to be doing – in my head while reading. Unfortunately, the interminable description of everything from architecture of certain towns to the particulars of Tea’s brothers ex-regiment in the army, is not balanced out by explanations of important aspects of the world, such as what heartglasses are and what purpose they serve.  This might come along later in the book, but heartglasses were mentioned so often in the first 15% of the book that I really needed a fuller explanation of what these were in order to get a grasp on the story.

The last few bits I read before putting the book down did seem to be picking up a bit and I began to enjoy the undead brother character’s interventions, but not to the extent that I felt like I could wade through more dry descriptions of the setting.

If you are a fan of Rin Chupeco’s work, you should probably know going into this that it is a departure from the style that readers will be familiar with from her earlier works.  This may not be a problem for you and I hope you enjoy this book much better than I did…for me though, this was a miss.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Unmissable Sequel Alert (and Giveaway!): Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering…

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Sound the alarm! I have a sequel today that you really shouldn’t miss, particularly if you’ve read the first book in the series and even more especially if you haven’t! Today’s book, The Suffering by Rin Chupeco is the follow-up to her 2014 debut The Girl From the Well, which I described (rather enthusiastically) at the time as “a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read”. The Suffering is a satisfyingly terrifying instalment and as I am now a confirmed, card-carrying fan of Ms Chupeco’s work, I have jumped in on the blog tour giveaway for the book, allowing YOU the chance to win a copy of The Suffering. Thank me later!

But let’s get on with it. Here’s the blurb:

Breathtaking and haunting, Rin Chupeco’s second novel is a chilling companion to her debut, The Girl from the Well.

The darkness will find you.

Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she’s groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan’s suicide forest, Okiku’s justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price…

the suffering

The most interesting thing about this sequel from my point of view is that it has a completely different feel to the first book, but retains that sense of mind-numbing IT’S BEHIND YOU! terror with which the first book was replete. While The Girl from the Well was stomach-churningly intense from the very first pages, The Suffering is more of a slow burn, with the early chapters seeing Tark living a relatively normal teenage life, albeit with an invisible dead girl for company.

The first part of The Suffering felt suspiciously like your standard YA with a bit of paranormal chucked in, but once Tark and Callie arrive in Japan, things quickly take a shuddersome turn. Aokigahara, Japan’s famed “suicide forest” seems to be having a bit of a day in the dappled sun in fiction at the moment – I’ve already reviewed another fiction book featuring it as the setting this year, and have noted a few others about – but Chupeco has done something clever here by twinning the acknowledged fear of the forest with a hitherto undiscovered village of the damned, you might say, within the forest’s clutches.

I won’t say too much about it here, because it would be a bit spoilerific, but by the time Tark and Okiku discover the village of Aitou, that familiar sense of ghoulish eeriness will have settled in the base of your brain, preparing you nicely to jump at the slightest noise or shadow. (Is that a bony finger stroking the back of your neck?). This book focuses on a centuries old curse that affected the young people of the village and the pace during most of this part is break-neck (literally, for some characters) as Tark and Okiku try to stay alive (well, Tark does, anyway) in a ghost-town that clearly wishes them otherwise.

The final chapters of the book are quite touching and unexpected and I gained a renewed respect for Chupeco’s ability to cap off a horror tale by refocusing on the important relationships in the book.

Take it from me, if you haven’t read Chupeco’s work yet and if you like horror even a tiny bit, then you really should try these out. You will be surprised at the quality of the storytelling that can come out of what could easily be branded just another YA horror tale.

That’s all from me, but keep reading for an excerpt from The Suffering and your chance to win! Many thanks to Sourcebooks for sponsoring the giveaway and for providing a copy of the book for review!

The Suffering

By Rin Chupeco

September 1, 2015; Hardcover ISBN 9781492629832; Trade Paper ISBN 9781492629849

Book Info:

Title: The Suffering

Author: Rin Chupeco

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Rafflecopter Giveaway:

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Excerpt from The Suffering:

It’s still early morning when our group is given clearance to enter. Aokigahara is a deceptive forest. It has all the hallmarks of a popular tourist destination: narrow but well-­maintained hiking trails with a surprising amount of litter, not to mention strips of tape and ribbon wrapped around tree trunks. The leader explains that hikers use them as markers to maintain their bearings. Later on, one of the other volunteers whispers to us that some of the tapes were left by those who came here to kill themselves, in case they decided to change their minds. The revelation horrifies Callie.

A few miles into our hike, anything resembling civilization disappears. Roots crawl across the hard forest floor, and it’s easy to trip if you’re not constantly looking down. We’re outside, but the trees make it feel claustrophobic. They reach hungrily toward the sun, fighting each other for drops of light, and this selfishness grows with the darkness as we move deeper into the woods.

It’s quiet. The silence is broken by the scuffling of feet or snapping of dry twigs as we walk. Every so often, volunteers call back and forth to each other, and rescue dogs exploring the same vicinity that we are will bark. But there are no bird calls, no sounds of scampering squirrels. We’re told that there is very little wildlife in Jukai. Nothing seems to flourish here but trees.

This deep into the woods, any roads and cleared paths are gone. At times, we’re forced to climb to a higher ledge or slide down steep slopes to proceed, and there’s always some root or rock hiding to twist an ankle.

And yet—­the forest is beautiful. I like myself too much to seriously think about suicide, even during my old bouts of depression, but I can understand why people would choose to die here. There is something noble and enduring and magnificent about the forest.

That sense of wonder disappears though, the instant I see them. There are spirits here. And the ghosts mar the peacefulness for me. They hang from branches and loiter at the base of tree trunks. Their eyes are open and their skin is gray, and they watch me as I pass. I don’t know what kind of people they were in life, but they seem faded and insignificant in death.

Okiku watches them but takes no action. These are not the people she hunts. They don’t attack us because they’re not that kind of ghosts. Most of them, I intuit, aren’t violent. The only lives they had ever been capable of taking were their own.

I’m not afraid, despite their bloated faces, contorted from the ropes they use to hang themselves or the overdose of sleeping pills they’ve taken. If anything, I feel lingering sadness. I can sympathize with their helpless anguish. These people took their own lives, hoping to find some meaning in death when they couldn’t find it in life. But there’s nothing here but regret and longing.

And there’s that tickle again, so light it is nearly imperceptible. Something in this forest attracts these deaths. It lures its unhappy victims with its strange siren’s call and then, having taken what it needs, leaves their spirits to rot. A Venus flytrap for human souls.

Something is wrong here, and suddenly, the forest no longer looks as enticing or majestic as when we arrived.

 

Praise for the Suffering:

 

“Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering is a horror lover’s dream: murders, possessed dolls, and desiccated corpses. I cringed. I grimaced. You won’t soon forget this exorcist and his vengeful water ghost.”

–Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood

 

“Chupeco deftly combines ancient mysticism with contemporary dilemmas that teens face, immersing readers in horrors both supernatural and manmade. The Suffering is a chilling swim through the murky waters of morality.”

–Carly Anne West, author of The Bargaining and The Murmuring

Summary:

 

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24789796-the-suffering?from_search=true&search_version=service_impr

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrKxL

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrKLh

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrL7j

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrLCI

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrLOZ

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrLXu

 

About the Author:

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

Social Networking Links:

Website: http://www.rinchupeco.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RinChupeco

 

 

New in Paperback from this Author: The Girl From The Well

Praise for The Girl From The Well:

“[A] Stephen King-like horror story.” -Kirkus Reviews

 

“Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion.”  -Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

 

“This gorgeously written story reads like poetry.” -Brazos Bookstore

 

“Darkly mesmerizing.” -The Boston Globe

 

“A superior creep factor that is pervasive in every lyrical word.” -Booklis

Summary:

The Ring  meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25263927-the-girl-from-the-well

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrQwE

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrQFa

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrQQU

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrR6c

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrRlE

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrQp2

Until next time,

Bruce