I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember
Release date: August 22nd, 2017
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, young adult
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.
Julia Ember has blown me away yet again! Her books are always unique and interesting. The Tiger’s Watch is the second book she’ll release this year but I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Last September I hosted a cover reveal but then had to wait what felt like ages to finally read it. Well, the wait was well worth it because I devoured this book in one night. It was honestly that good!
Here’s why you really NEED to read it:
- It features magical people called inhabitors. These people have their souls bonded with animals and use this connection to become warriors and spies. The connections are deep and allow both sides to experience situations that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Tashi’s connection with Katala, a rare golden tiger, is was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. Tashi’s bond with Katala pushes them to become better, to stand up for what they believe in and protect those that they love. It’s not a bond of abuse or power, it truly improves the lives of both sides and wasn’t made by force but free will.
- Free will and choice are also major themes of this book. Tashi’s life has pretty much been planned out for them. They were given over to the monastery at such a young age that they don’t remember their family. Tashi really didn’t have a choice in becoming an inhibitor. Their story in this book is all about making their own decisions. What is best for them and the people that they love? Tashi faces some difficult choices and while I didn’t always agree with what they did, I appreciated how they followed their heart.
- None of the characters are really what they seem. Nothing is black or white but various shades of grey. The story’s villain, Xian, kept my on my toes the whole time! I felt just as confused as Tashi did when he appeared on the page. At times Xian comes across as kind and caring, just trying to do his best under difficult circumstances. Other times he was just cruel and angry. My heart flip-flopped so many times…I just don’t know I feel about him! I character I did absolutely adore was Pharo. Loyal, wonderful, big-hearted Pharo. He’s one of those characters that just wiggle their way into your heart. You just have to love him!
- The world is so rich and wonderfully written. I’m always amazed by the author’s ability to create fully formed fantasy worlds in under 200 pages. The Tiger’s Watch was inspired by Ember’s trip to Bhutan. Much of the story happens in an isolated monastery. This in a way limits the amount of characters and creates a simple plot. The world isn’t complicated but is a reflection of our own with people fighting over resources.
- It’s fast paced and relentless. From the first page the reader is thrown into the action. The first chapter has a lot going on in it and I found this a bit disorienting. Too many new names and too much information! It was a bit of a shock but everything calms down by the second chapter. At first I was confused but looking back I can see why the author chose to do this. It matches what’s going on and really helps you understand how the characters must feel.
- It features a genderfluid protagonist. Now, I can’t speak for the representation, but what I did enjoy was how Tashi’s genderfluidity was not what the book was about. It was who they were and never used as a plot device to create drama or generate interest. There were also scenes where Tashi was misgendered but this was always corrected by other characters.
- The ending was quite abrupt, which could be a negative thing, but not here! It was a perfect cliffhanger. I could have used more though. That’s always my complaint with books by Ember. They are always so short and I’m a greedy reader. I always want more and more.
- The cover artwork is beautiful! My heart is so happy whenever I see it. I can’t wait for what this series has in store.
I can’t recommend this book enough! It has so many amazing things happening for it — a diverse cast of characters, drama, battle scenes, romance! YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! And also pick up Ember’s other books because once your done with this one you’ll fall in love with her gorgeous writing, loveable characters and lush worlds.
About the Author
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 was 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.
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