A Free Dreamer Release Day Review: The Tiger’s Watch (Ashes of Gold #1) by Julia Ember


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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.

It’s no secret that I love unusual fantasy stories. And “The Tiger’s Watch” is definitely unusual. We have Tashi, our genderfluid protagonist, who’s magically bonded to a tiger.

Tashi is a very sweet person. The story is told in first person POV and that worked really well here. I liked Tashi, though they did cry a bit much. Almost a little whiney, but still mostly alright.

Then there’s Xian. He’s the cruel enemy commander who Tashi needs to spy on. He was actually a really interesting person. At first I hated him, because he’s the enemy and he killed Tashi’s friends. But then we see another side of him and I slowly started to like and maybe even understand him. Only for him to once again remind me that he’s a cruel military commander. I was really conflicted about what to think about him.

The gender-fluidity was mostly implied. Tashi is in hiding, so they need to lay low and not draw attention. It’s mostly just them on insisting to be adressed as “they” and not “he”. And sometimes they wish they could wear a dress. It’s sort of implied that they faced some difficult times when they were younger, but now everybody is really very accepting.

The world was really interesting. Some chosen humans magically bond with animals. But the animals choose them, not the other way round. The catch: The humans die when their bonded animal dies. Since most animals have relatively short lifespans, their bonded humans tend to die young too.

The world building was sadly a little lacking. There’s a war between Tashi’s people and Xian’s people that’s been going for a long time apparently. But we never learn why these two peoples actually fight each other. The whole bonding process seemed a little odd too. Why would anybody actually choose to lower their life expectation so drastically?

There wasn’t all that much of a romance plot here. Tashi is very attracted to Xian, but love somebody else. I didn’t quite understand Tashi’s attraction, tbh. I mean, the man killed one of Tashi’s best friends in front of his eyes and he’s responsible for the deaths of many other people. It would have made more sense for Tashi to hate him. And I’m not too fond of love triangles on principle.

Overall, the story felt as if it was just getting started when it ended. The world and the plot are so complex, 180 pages just weren’t anywhere near enough to follow up on all those promising ideas. Which is a real shame, because the author seemed to have so many great ideas.

This is the first part in a new series and I definitely want to read the next instalment. I really hope some of the unanswered questions will be covered in the next part.

The cover by Meghan Moss is absolutely gorgeous. I absolutely love it!

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: August 22nd 2017 by Harmony Ink Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesAshes of Gold #1

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