The Tiger’s Watch

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The Tiger’s Watch 

by Julia Ember

Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.
When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.

We follow Tashi, a young inhabitor as they flee from a sudden outbreak of war, leaving their country in ruins. But Tashi and their friend Pharo must hide so that they aren’t caught and found out what they are by the invading army, inhabitor’s possessing a magic that the other country desperately wants. So they hide in among monks as one of the commanders takes a post at that monastery, taking Tashi as a servant. Tashi risks themselves as a very reluctant spy in hopes of finding information that might find out information they can use against them.

Not my best little summary, I admit, but this book is all levels of complicated that I didn’t really stand a chance to describe it without giving away too much or leaving out important elements. I will say of the books I’ve read by Julia Ember, this has to be my favourite one so far. This book has roots in Asian culture and reminds me strangely of Avatar the Last Airbender. Though there’s no bending of elements, the magic in this book and the idea of those who posses it giving up their lives to keep a balance in the world reminds me hands down of Avatar. Fans of the show would probably enjoy this book.

Tashi as a main character is really interesting. Their genderfluid (which made this my first full novel I’ve read with someone genderfluid and I seriously freaked out). They are brave in their own way, but sensitive, which makes some characters look down on them. That doesn’t change the fact their strong. They just aren’t the normal pig headed, rush into danger type of protagonist. They’re one of the few that put themselves and the ones they love first, not just the greater good. They’re forced to make a hard choice, but one that will help some but possibly hurt more. And it’s something they grapple with in a thoughtful manner. If I was in their position, I honestly don’t know what I would have done. It’s also diverse and gives us an interesting cast of characters next to Tashi. Every character is complicated and has a story that is just as gripping and leaves you desperately wanting to know more.

The plot of this book is beautiful. There wasn’t a slow moment in the whole book. You know someone is wrapped up in a story that the sun sets and they don’t notice their reading in the dark until someone points it out to them. Which happened to me with the last half of the book. I was just completely wrapped up in this story. I honestly can’t wait for the second book and need to know what happens. I’ve read good books this year, but not one that wraps me up so completely as this book had without me feeling bored at least in one or two parts of it.

The writing itself was well done. I saw everything clearly in my mind and it was simply beautifully done. The only thing I had a small problem with was the fact a queer character died to advance the plot and the character of Tashi. I don’t know if it can be considered a ‘bury your gays’ situation because its complicated from the start because as soon as we start the book we know this character will die. All of the inhabitors know they will die young. It’s part of the balance I mentioned before.

The world building in this book is well done. The conflict itself is part of what reminds me of Avatar along with the use of magic. I honestly love how much thought went into each place and each of their cultures. It’s been a while since I read a fantasy novel that gives us a world so completely thought out like this. And that just adds to awesome quality of this book.

Do I recommend this? H*ck yes. Go get this book as soon as you can. If you love magic and the feeling that Avatar gave you, pick this up, enjoy it, and come gush with me because I need to gush about this book with you.

Rating: 5 stars

The Traitor’s Tunnel

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The Traitor’s Tunnel (A Trident Chronicles Novella)

by C.M. Spivey

Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.
Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.
Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

I was lucky enough to get this novella from the author a few months ago. But as you guys know, I sort of hit a wall when it came fantasy for a while, putting this book on the back burner, despite the fact I’d been dying to read it. Thanks to help of The Adventure Zone podcast, I found my fantasy love again and was finally able to pick this book up.

We follow both Bridget and Theodor through this novella, estranged siblings who meet once more when Teddy takes up his apprenticeship. The two of them plus both of their partners become entangled with a plot happening in the city that involves human trafficking, people like Bridget with no real home and who live on the streets.

I did enjoy this read. Unlike most fantasy books that insist on being old fashion and against things like LGBTQA+ rights, this book turns that idea on its head. The book is filled with diversity and tells a story accepting of everyone, which has been one of my issues with fantasy of late. Bridget has dated men and women, Theodor is asexual with a male partner, who choose to be male. Without knowing genders, the characters go to gender neutral pronouns, never assuming. All of which is a breath of fresh air.

As for the world itself, part of me wishes I had read ‘Under The Mountain’ first to better understand this world, but you don’t need to to read this novella. It’s able to stand on it’s own well and did cover the basics of this well thought out and well written world that makes you want more of it. That on it’s own makes me want to read the original series to learn more and grasp more. I loved the mixed of fantasy and witchcraft, all an original idea that isn’t like the typical witch books you see out.

I enjoyed this story. With it being a novella, I felt the plot was a bit rushed at the end, the whole time looking at how much I had left and wondering how it would pull it all off. I felt like it could have been a little smother, that it could have been a little longer to make it that way, but at the same time, I can see and understand why it wasn’t. I personally would love to see more of these characters and what happens next with their lives, but also knowing that the excitement they experiences probably wouldn’t happen again. The only thing I would change was maybe introduce the plot a little sooner in the story so it’s less rushed, but honestly, it didn’t bother me all that much because it felt like it was happening right.

I highly recommend this read if you want a quick read that involves a well rounded cast of characters that is diverse and a story that keeps you guessing.

Rating: 4 stars