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 received this for free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review~
This is such a confusing and difficult book to rate because on one hand, I really enjoyed it! I thought the entire premise was so unique and exciting, being bonded to animals and sharing their bodies and thoughts and souls? Sign me the hell up! I loved the variety of animals that were shown to be Bonded to humans — they were all tigers and lions and bears and that. There were smaller, less conspicuous animals and I thought that was entirely adorable and accurate.
I also adored Julia Ember’s writing. Let me tell you something, Ember’s writing is just so beautiful. I can lose myself in it — it is the kind of writing where I mean to read only a chapter but before you know it, I’m halfway through the book and can’t seem to stop. I adore her writing, which is definitely something I realised from reading THE SEAFARER’S KISS which was also released this year.
Honestly, kudos to Julia for getting two novels out in one year. I couldn’t cope with that!
I did enjoy the plot for this story, despite it being slow paced. I enjoy my fantasy to be slow burn, mostly. Hell, my favourite series is A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE so that is obvious. I wish that the book had been a little longer. In my opinion, instead of splitting the series into a trilogy, I would have preferred a hella long standalone, but that’s just me. I still plan on reading the rest of the series and seeing where our characters end up.
Which brings me to our characters. Which is where most of my problems lie.
The book is told through the prospective of Tashi. I have mixed feelings about Tashi. On one hand I enjoyed them because they’re so different from the typical hero we have in fantasy. They were overly brave, they often considered themselves a coward and wondered why their tiger, Katala, chose them. But on the same line, that is another reason I didn’t enjoy Tashi. They just didn’t seem real to me.
You should be able to get a good grip of the main character you’re reading about, right? By the end of the first book, you should understand what motivates them and who they are and what decisions they’ll make. I don’t know anything about Tashi. There were times they were making decisions and I just got whiplash because one minute they’ve given a pep talk and the next second, they’re whimpering again? I just couldn’t get a grasp on them and when I can’t grasp the characters I’m reading about… how am I supposed to root for them?
I did appreciate that they made wrong decisions for right reasons. I really do because we don’t see that enough. Not everyone is meant to save the world and I adore that. I just wish I knew Tashi more to root for them.
There is another character called Pharo who is Tashi’s best friend and is also the guy they’ve been in love with for ages. Pharo wasn’t really in the book much and we didn’t get to know him either, which was another problem. When the romance thing came out I was just like… what? They love him? Where the f*** did that come from? And it made me feel icky. Especially the thing that happens between them at the end. I felt icky with that.
But that just be my little demi heart showing itself again and because we didn’t get much development between them, it just didn’t sit well with me.
The only character I really enjoyed was Xian. No surprise there seeing as I saw Zuko from Avatar the second he was mentioned. I am Mrs. Fire Lord Zuko, okay? I love him so much and Xian gave me all the vibes of Zuko. I felt like he was the only character who felt truly three dimensional and developed. I can’t wait to see more of him in the next book!
And lastly, before this ends up a novel in itself, my final complaint is the world building. Overall, it was just generally lacking. I didn’t get a strong sense of where we were and the people who lived there. It’s very much like we’re thrown in the deep end with no prior swimming experience and our floaties have been locked away. Words are spouted and history talked of but never explained.
Perhaps this is because it’s told from first person and so Tashi won’t know every single detail. But when you’re creating a new world, I don’t think that works. That may just be a personal opinion but I couldn’t get a real sense of this world and so couldn’t understand what was at stake.
All in all, THE TIGER’S WATCH is a novel with an interesting premise that fell a little flat but I have high hopes for the next book in the series.