Review: The Tiger's Watch by Julia Ember

The Tiger's Watch
Author: Julia Ember
Series: Ashes of Gold
Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT
Release Date: August 22nd 2017
Book Length: 180
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
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 was so excited to hear Julia was writing a YA fantasy series with a gender fluid main character, something that is sorely lacking in literature today. The fact that The Tiger’s Watch was also going to have human-animal bonding, magic and a badass heroine going behind enemy lies to spy was just the icing on the cake! It instantly became a must read. However as much as I wanted to love it, I’m sorry to say that I had a few issues with The Tiger’s Watch.

I had a slight issue with Tashi, well more with some of the actions they made but apart from that Tashi was an incredibly likeable character. What was great about the world Tashi lived in was the acceptance of gender fluidity. Yes there was a instance with another character who didn’t get why Tashi needed to be address as ‘they’ instead of ‘she/he’ but overall it was easily accepted and didn’t have to be explained during every one of Tashi’s interactions.

Tashi is bonded to a golden tiger called Katana and I was fascinated by the relationship they had. I love books with animals in and this was no exception. Julie created a complex relationship between humans and animals and the communication between them. Also I would totally want to be bonded to a tiger, Katana is an absolute badass, when Tashi was in a tough spot you just knew Katana was close by stalking her prey and ready to save the day.

So from the synopsis it’s easy to see than Tashi is on the run and then ends up becoming a servant/spy for the Xian commander. What wasn’t easy to see was the world building? I’m still not sure what was happening and ultimately why. The same goes for the plot, it just wasn’t there, I spent the majority of the book feeling like I’d missed some essential chapter and was left with more questions than answers.

My other issue was the romance. There was a large dose on insta-love on one hand and a complete mystery infatuation on the other. Tashi watched the Xian commander slaughter and torture people, their own people and yet still ends up with feelings for him. Not even the slow hate to love just an instant sexual attraction. And then we have love interest #2 who Tashi has shown no interest in whatsoever for the majority of the book but suddenly when his life is at stake Tashi is in love with him. Now that’s not to say it’s couldn’t work, I’m sure under certain circumstances such as life and death people will come to realise their true feelings BUT there was just no chemistry, or buildup or feelings for me to truly believe in it.

Overall I really wanted to love The Tiger’s Watch but due to the lack of world building and plot I wasn’t able to fully connect with the book. Tashi was a great character although her decisions at the end kiiiind of made me want to pull my hair out, I’m still looking forward to see what happens next as Julie has created a good foundation there, I just needed a little more substance.

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