Published: August 22nd, 2017 by Harmony Ink Press | Series: Ashes of Gold #1 | Length: 180 pages | Genre: YA fantasy | Source: Received from the author | Content Warning: sexual assault mentioned, use of animals in war, graphic violence
Summary from Goodreads:
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’ve heard a lot of good things about Julia Ember’s books, Unicorn Tracks and The Seafarer’s Kiss. So when I had the opportunity to review The Tiger’s Watch, I eagerly took the chance and let me tell you, it was a great decision. Although I initially had a hard time getting into the story, once I did, it became hard for me to put it down.
One of the biggest reasons I was interested in The Tiger’s Watch is that it’s a YA fantasy with a genderfluid protagonist. After having heard some criticisms about the genderfluid representation in Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss, I was a little hesitant, but I didn’t notice any big problems with the representation in this book. Of course, I’m not genderfluid so it’s highly possible that I missed things that other readers will pick up on. I haven’t been able to find any reviews by any nonbinary or genderfluid reviewers yet though, so I’m not sure. (As always, if you know of any reviews by nonbinary or genderfluid reviewers, please let me know!)
I can say what I really, really loved about Tashi and the genderfluid representation is that every single time they are misgendered by someone, another character corrects the person. It happens a handful of times when they meet someone new and that person assumes they are a guy and every time either Pharo or Xian corrects the person. I loved it, especially since it would’ve been easy to make Xian, who is a bit of a villain, misgender them as part of his “evil” character. I was really happy that Ember didn’t throw Tashi (and by extension, genderfluid readers) under the bus by doing something like that.
As I already mentioned, I did have a little bit of a hard time getting into the story, but this isn’t because it’s boring or poorly written. It just took me awhile to connect with Ember’s writing style. It wasn’t until about 50 pages in that I really became interested in what was happening (which, for a book that’s only 180 pages, is quite awhile), but at that point, it quickly became hard to put down and I ended up finishing the rest of the book that day.
I really liked the inhabitors, these warriors that bond with an animal and can use that animal to help them spy and kill. Tashi is an inhabitor and has spent their whole life learning how to connect with their tiger and use that power. I thought it was really unique and I definitely found it intriguing to learn and read about. I particularly liked seeing Tashi struggle with thinking that their tiger chose poorly (the animals choose which inhabitor they bond with), as they don’t think they’re worthy of such a strong animal, but they still care immensely about the tiger and always try to think of what’s in their tiger’s best interest.
After reading The Tiger’s Watch, I can definitely understand why so many bloggers seem to love Julia Ember’s books so much. Although it took me awhile to connect with her writing, the story was captivating and unique. I especially loved that Ember included a genderfluid protagonist and never showed other characters’ villainy by having them misgender Tashi. If you’re looking for a refreshing, diverse fantasy, The Tiger’s Watch won’t disappoint. I know I will definitely be looking forward to continuing the series.
Thank you to the author and publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.