Having loved The Seafarer’s Kiss, I had such high hopes for The Tiger’s Watch and they did not disappoint. The Tiger’s Watch is a compelling plot, paired with animal companions, and great representation. Furthermore, it is a wonderful start to, what I’m sure will be, one of my favorites in diverse fantasy. (PLUS read to the bottom for the Giveaway!)
Tashi has spent her life honing her skills as an inhabitor – a mixture of spy and soldier who kills and gathers information with the help of a bonded animal. However, the world they know is falling and soon they’re on the run from a burning capital and hiding in a monastery. But if they thought they were in danger before, Tashi gets into even more danger as they catch the attention of Xian, the commander of the enemy army. Finally in a position to gather enemy information and fulfill their training, Tashi learns more about Xian than they ever thought – including his more vulnerable side. And Tashi is going to come up against some hard truths about Xian (and the darkness in his heart), Tashi’s own training, and the future of the country. It will be a decision that will have long lasting consequences, but boils down to saving the country or the boy Tashi loves.
I absolutely loved the representation here. Tashi’s non-binary and Ember says that the series as a whole features bisexual and pansexual characters. It isn’t seen as abnormal for Tashi to express their gender differently and once Tashi correct their pronoun use, the characters respect it. Additionally, Tashi goes through some interesting explorations of their gender in the story – ranging from having to cut their hair to the flexibility of their gender expression. While this was not the main focus of the story, it just demonstrates the ability for fantasy to incorporate diverse characters in a way that is seamless and respectful.
The World Building
I was so intrigued by the concepts of the inhabitors and still am! Imagine being able to swap minds essentially with a bonded animal, to hunt in their body, and for them to help you. It sounds like a dream come true. It comes with consequences that your life is tied to the animal’s life span, but they say that an inhabitor lives twice the life. And Ember even questions this magical aspect. One of my miniscule quirks relates to this, in that I wanted to know more about this magic and their training. I greatly appreciated that information wasn’t dumped on us about the magic, the world, and the history, but I was just craving a little more – something to dunk my head into this world, immersive, and complex.
Not a personal fan of love triangles, I appreciated that Tashi’s character goes through a really difficult dilemma. Both of the sides, or conflicts, are laid out. Tashi feels like a real person to me – oscillating between both choices and unsure of their decision. And there’s no right answer. Sometimes I had a hard time understanding Tashi and their choices, I didn’t agree with some of them. But that only seems to make Tashi seem more lifelike. We all know the same feelings associated with our own family and friends. Is there truly anyone who we really understand all the time? Speaking of characters, I am beyond excited for the sequel from a different character’s perspective – one that I really loved from this story.
While the ending was abrupt (I thought there would be like five percent more of it), I am so primed for the second book. It’s made me low key sad that I have to wait another year for the next one. This one ends with so many open questions and the entire world seems to be on the precipice of change. I cannot wait to see how the characters and world adapt when they fall off the cliff into the unknown abyss.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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- Two (2) winners will receive a signed paperback of The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Embers (INT)
Originally from Chicago, Julia Ember now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. She spends her days working in the book trade and her nights writing teen fantasy novels. Her hobbies include riding horses, starting far too many craft projects, PokemonGo and looking after her city-based menagerie of pets with names from Harry Potter. Luna Lovegood and Sirius Black the cats currently run her life.
Julia is a polyamorous, bisexual writer. She regularly takes part in events for queer teens, including those organised by the Scottish Booktrust and LGBT Youth Scotland. A world traveler since childhood, she has now visited more than sixty countries. Her travels inspire the fantasy worlds she creates, though she populates them with magic and monsters.
Julia began her writing career at the age of nine, when her short story about two princesses and their horses won a contest in Touch magazine. In 2016, she published her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, which also focused on two girls and their equines, albeit those with horns. Her second novel, The Seafarer’s Kiss will be released by Interlude Press in May 2017. The book was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval Literature at The University of St. Andrews. It is now responsible for her total obsession with beluga whales.
In August 2017, her third novel and the start of her first series, Tiger’s Watch, will come out with Harmony Ink Press. In writing Tiger’s Watch, Julia has taken her love of cats to a new level.
What animal would you want to bond with?
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See my Seafarer’s Kiss review.