The Tiger’s Watch (Ashes of Gold #1), by Julia Ember

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.

The Tiger’s Watch is a very unique and very interesting book. I have to begin by mentioning the thing that first drew me into the book: It has a genderfluid protagonist. This is, sadly, my first time encountering a genderfluid protagonist in a book; and I was ecstatic when I found out. I loved how the author handled Tashi’s gender identity; how accepting everyone was of it, and how quick they were to correct other characters that used the wrong pronouns. That’s fantasy done right: choosing what is and what is accepted in your world and acting accordingly.

On top of that I felt like Tashi was a very realistic character. Sure, they were not very original – personality wise. They were not the bravest, nor the strongest, they were a bit of the underdog/the chosen one. Nothing that we haven’t seen before in YA fantasy, but it didn’t really bother me, because I could understand Tashi. Their decisions, their thoughts, their fears, their feelings, they all made sense and resonated with me. Did I disagree with some of their decisions? Sure, but I could still see where they were coming from.

I also enjoyed the magical elements of the book, but I wish they were explored a bit more. In fact, a lot more. Perhaps it is because the book is only 180 pages long, but I felt like the world and the magic system were a bit underdeveloped. I would like some additional history on the regions, some extra pieces of information, just so that I can see the entire picture and better understand the characters, their motives, and allegiances. Also, there was a love triangle, one that I found completely unnecessary, but -thankfully- the storyline didn’t focus too much on that.

Overall, The Tiger’s Watch is a fairly enjoyable, albeit short, book and I can’t wait to read its sequel!

**An ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**


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