The Bone Witch: Book Discussion and Themed Recipe
Tea is young, yet still a mightily powerful bone witch, feared by her family and village for accidentally raising her brother from the dead at his funeral. As she stated, it wasn't intentional. She just didn't want to live without him. And so Lady Mykaela, an asha and an instructor in Dark magic comes to bring her to the house of Valerian in the city of Odalia, where she will learn to control her abilities, and become a full asha: to fight, learn history, dance, music, and the important art of entertaining—much like a geisha combined with an ancient warrior who can weave compelling magic over death.
But a legendary threat has been hiding, biding its time—the Faceless, an unconquerable and still undetectable group of three powerful daeva have been seeking to conquer their world, causing horrors that the Deathseekers, the military force, cannot prevent.
And even the system of life for the asha is not without room for improvement, especially the way that they are feared and hated by many of the people, despite draining their own power and life in order to save their world from abominable creatures whose bezoars must be collected every few years.
is exceptionally well contrived, with elaborate magical forms and limitations, fictional history, class systems, geography, cultures, new creatures, and costumes like kimonos and hairpins bound with spells—all the things you would wish to explore through the eyes of a young, powerful apprentice, even in dark, death magic. The Bone Witch is an intelligent, consuming fantasy with an intricate world to unfold that upends its own status quo in order to save their world and its asha. The Bone Witch
What are the different types of witches? What is the difference between a bone witch and an asha?
The first rule of the Dark is that there are only two types of people who cannot be raised from the dead. What are they? Can the raised dead tell lies?
Why couldn’t Tea or Mykaela channel fire or water or earth runes?
What is a heartsglass, and what can it do? What color is Tea’s usually, as compared to others’? What happened to Lady Mykaela’s? What can a Heartforger do about it, and what is the cost?
What is the difference between performing asha, fighting asha, and Dark asha? Which are most accepted by society, which least, and why?
What are the daeva, and what cycle must be repeated by the Dark asha to contain them? What is the consequence of this on Lady Mykaela?
What is a hua, how is each one different, and how are they and hair pins used to create Glamour magic, among others? Why is “choosing which spells to wear like playing a game”?
If you were wealthy enough and had the magic to forget certain memories, would you? What might the danger in that be?
What can a seeking stone do? How can it be it dangerous and even fatal? Where was one found that Tea unknowingly used, or was used by?
What were the various lessons Tea received in order to become an asha?
What traditions was Tea willing to change and why?
What was Likh’s secret, and the reason why his heartsglass never changed color?
What happened with Kalen’s older brother, Khalad? How did he find a new way of helping people since he couldn’t be king?
Why is it important for a person to “interact with others in such a way as to enhance their shaxsiat while still maintaining their ehteram” and what are those things? Why is it that “Many actions that elevate people’s opinion of you are not necessarily what you truly wish to do”? Is it possible to always balance “both faces so that you can do what is expected of you and at the same time pursue your personal goals”?
What happened at the darashi oyun that proved to Tea that there was more to her than she or anyone else first thought?
How did Tea pass her last rune test “at the highest level” when she refused to do the task?
Who was the Faceless who killed many Deathseekers and very nearly killed Tea? How did that person hide so well without arousing suspicion?
When Tea wielded the magic to raise her brother from the dead, she had liked its flavor, “like sweet peaches, like silken honey that had burst underneath my tongue.”
The runeberries that grew in the “desolate region” where Mistress Tea was on the beach with the Bard were like brown peaches. Runeberries were eaten by Mykaela and Tea at nearly every meal, and by all asha.
One of the errands Tea had to go on as an apprentice was to pick up sugar cakes from the sweetshop.
Tea was told at the apothecary that “she must look after her lungs and stomach, for she is weaker to poisons taken through the air.” and she was prescribed gingerroot tea, to be “taken every morning for as long as she is able to.”
While waiting for tea to finish her dancing lessons, Lady Shadi and Mistress Parmina enjoyed tea and scones, served by Lady Yasmin’s assistants.
To combine these ingredients, I created a simple recipe for Peach Ginger Scones. They can be eaten alone, or with butter, honey, or fig or quince jam, like Tea took with her lavash bread and gooseberry tea.
Peach Ginger Scones
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2-1 cup more for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cold
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling, if desired
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream, (not skim milk)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 cup fresh peaches or canned, peeled, diced, and cooked until soft (for fresh)
- reheat your oven to 400°F. In a sturdy bowl, stir together flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder. Cut in butter (using a pastry cutter or clean or gloved hands) until mealy in texture and there are no visible pieces of butter, but the mix clumps in your hand. Add vanilla, milk (use 1/4 cup less if using canned peaches), and the egg. Stir together with a big spoon. Fold in ground ginger and peaches gently by hand or with a rubber spatula.
- Roll out onto a floured surface and coat all sides in flour. If the dough is very wet, fold in extra flour; if not, use flour sparingly. Cut dough into 3 balls. Flatten/spread each one gently with a rolling pin. Cut into 8 triangles, like a pizza. Place them about half an inch apart on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle each scone with extra sugar, if desired.
- Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes (14-15 for a full pan of scones, 12-13 for less than half a pan). You want the edges to be just turning golden. If they turn dark brown around all the edges, the scones might be dry. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before eating. You can also top them with extra butter, honey, or jam, if you'd like.
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Peach Ginger Scones
Other consuming, elaborate, suspenseful dark fantasy series are the Throne of Glass series or the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. Glamour magic is also used in A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova is another book about witches, dark magic, and a young girl who upends her world.
Od Magic by Patricia McKillip and Uprooted by Naomi Novik are two poetically descriptive fantasy worlds about young apprentices learning magic in order to save their worlds from great evil, and each feature complex hierarchies and class systems.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone also begins with a young child in a new, complex world of magic, a child who has powers of his own that no one else has before. He defeated the greatest dark lord of all time, as a baby, and no one knows how.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is similar with its class systems, societal obligations and traditions, and the expectations placed on women.
“You think in the same way men drink, Tea, far too much—under the delusion that it is far too little.”
“Only then did I see how terribly old the woman was. Not old from the passage of years but from seeing too much of what most would rather see little of.”
“Daeva were created by the False Prince with death magic so complicated that not even asha today know how to recreate them. They were born dead, and even dormant, the Dark constantly replenishes their bones.”
“It will always feel good...But the more you draw in such a short time, the harder it will be to put up barriers in your mind, until all you will concern yourself with is drawing more power until you die from the darkrot. It is an addiction that many bone witches could not overcome.”
“Give your heart to the wrong person and they can abuse that trust, and there are spells to prevent you from drawing one anew...the strongest spells require memories. There are many people who wish to forget, and there are many rich enough to pay for the privilege.”
“Defeat them in war and beguile them in peacetime—Vernasha believed both to be the way to stability.”
“You can be the most powerful witch in the land, but you will always have a weakness, and that will always make you believe you have no power when someone exploits it. There is no greater strength than the ability to understand and accept your own flaws.”
“Being a noble didn’t exempt you from being fool born. Some of my favorite guests came from humble beginnings. Some of my worst guests came from the highest of positions. Breeding isn’t what you were born as; breeding is what you grow to be.”
“True fear is harder to find than you might think.”
“Everyone is believed to have two faces—one they show to the public and one they wear in private. The first face is their shaxsiat, or their honor. The second face is their ehteram, their dignity...Many actions that elevate people’s opinion of you are not necessarily what you truly wish to do It is a matter of balancing both faces so that you can do what is expected of you and at the same time pursue your personal goals.”
“Everyone is a puzzle, made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We all have them.”
“We must always be in the business of forgiveness, lest we become consumed by our anger.”
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Amanda Leitch