What: The Tiger’s Watch (Ashes of Gold #1) by Julia Ember
Who: Harmony Ink Press
When: August 22nd 2017
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Harmony Ink Press for review via Net Galley.
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.
I really enjoyed The Tiger’s Watch. And here are four thoughts I had when reading it:
1) I wish it had been longer.
I actually enjoyed the tightness of the plot and storyline, but if it had been a little longer I feel like some of the characters, relationships, and world building would have been more fleshed out.
In regards to Tashi and Pharo’s relationship I think length would have benefitted that a lot, because I didn’t really feel the connection that Tashi said they had towards Pharo because Pharo wasn’t actually in the book that much.
2) Tashi is genderfluid.
That’s not really a thought, but I had to mention it because GENDERFLUID PROTAGONIST IN A YA FANTASY NOVEL OMG YES. There wasn’t a lot of exploration of Tashi’s gender, but in a way I kind of liked that? To try and explain: it was a story about Tashi, who was going through these intense things because of the war between their country and another, and they were also genderfluid. I’m definitely not saying that stories that focus on genderfluidity aren’t needed because they are, but the way The Tiger’s Watch didn’t solely revolve around Tashi’s queer identity is an equally important story to tell.
Also, the fact that almost everyone (except an asshole character) used Tashi’s they/them/their pronouns made my soul happy.
3) The magic was awesome.
These people mentally and physically link with animals when they’re eight years old and I love it. Like, it’s kind of sad because when the person or animal dies then the other pretty much does, too (after a long coma-type thing), but also ANIMAL SOULMATES.
I really liked the relationship between Tashi and their golden tiger, Katala. Again going back to my first point, a little more length to this book would have benefitted their relationship but it was definitely strong enough to have me invested throughout.
4) The love triangle was interesting.
It’s actually been a while since I read a book with a love triangle so it wasn’t as abhorrent as it could have been. Tashi kind of falls for their master, Xian, who is pretty darn evil. Sure, there were moments of kindness and vulnerability but I don’t think there was enough of him not being a torturous asshole for me to like him. I just needed Xian to be kind to someone other than Tashi because the fact that he was only kind to them didn’t tip the scales for me.
Pharo, who I mentioned in my first point, is Tashi’s other love interest. Even though I didn’t get to read about him as much as Xian I think I liked him better. He cared about Tashi and the other magic students, and wasn’t a torturous asshole so huge bonus point to him.
5) I really want to read the sequel.
I know I enjoyed the first book in a series when I want to read the sequel immediately, and I definitely felt that way about The Tiger’s Watch! I’m incredibly keen for the sequel, and I’ll be excited to see where the story goes after that big ending.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: war themes, murder, torture, friend in coma, absent parents, death via animal attack, animal death, physical assault, attempted murder, use of ableist language, misgendering, reference to severely ill mother, and depictions of gore in this novel