The Heart Forger: The Bone Witch, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Heart Forger: The Bone Witch, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Complex monster/kingdom fantasy amps up gore.

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Educational Value

Intricate world-building with multiple kingdoms to keep track of will get readers thinking about favorite fantasy worlds in books. Kingdoms are compared here, with one emperor having multiple wives, and a king with one wife. Readers can think about what real-life countries followed these practices, how long ago, and how things have changed. Can also compare the style of magic they see here with those in other series, especially ones where witches and others deal with the dead: the Old Kingdom, the Last Apprentice series, the Lockwood & Co. series, and more.

Positive Messages

Expose corruption and evil at all costs. The truth can be ugly and many will hide from it in a state of complacency. Power corrupts most of all. Shows the difference between compelling a creature by force and compelling by offering respect and compassion.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tea was a dutiful student in Book 1, but not here. She's determined to sacrifice everything to weed out evil and corruption, even her closest relationships and her life. She tries to avoid bloodshed when possible, but still kills many in her pursuit of justice. She worries that she's being consumed by dark forces when she wields her power, but continues anyway. An array of LGBTQ representation here: One character is transgender, one is gay and persecuted for it by his father but eventually sticks up for himself, and two characters are lesbian.


Bloody battles with giant monsters called daeva and the undead. Some gory descriptions: a dead familiar (human companion of a witch) impaled by a giant daeva claw who rips himself free with a "wet, tearing sound." A few characters eaten by daeva. Description of man's guts ripped out. Viewed from afar, an army of undead eat soldiers. People transform into evil monsters, fight to the death. One character death mourned heavily. Familiar pulls off arm after injury, zombie style. Sleeping sickness and talk of murders. Talk of a witch consumed by dark forces that was executed. Lashes on someone's back after an interrogation.


Kissing. Talk of a long affair, the only details being pulling off pants. Another affair, only implied through a shared bedroom. Much talk of concubines that are offered to an emperor, per tradition. A joke about the emperor wanting to choose a transgender concubine without knowing it.


"Bastard," "damn," "ass," "bitch," and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Heart Forger is the second in a series by Rin Chupeco, author of the ghost story The Girl from the Well. Here, main character Tea is a witch who can raise the dead. She can also control large monsters called daeva. Book 1, The Bone Witch, dealt more with Tea's training. In this sequel, she's out there in bloody battles with daeva and the undead and with some gore. People get eaten by monsters and the dead, get impaled, and literally spill their guts. There's a bit more swearing than the first book, but it doesn't go beyond "bitch" and "ass." And the sexual content goes far beyond flirting, with kissing and talk of affairs and an emperor's concubines. A diverse array of LGBTQ characters are represented here, including a transgender character who gets much support from friends. The messages in this story are also more mature. Tea works to expose corruption and evil, and most of those faced with the truth still want to hide from it.

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What's the story?

In THE HEART FORGER, Tea comes out of her exile early, with large daeva monsters at her command and Kalen and the heartforger Khalad at her side. They head for the kingdom of Daanoris to find the evil source of corruption only a dark asha like Tea can uncover. Tea wastes no time taking over the kingdom from the emperor but keeps him alive, forcing him to reveal his evil secrets and lies. The story flashes back and forth between this struggle and the months leading to Tea's exile. It begins in Odalia right after her formal asha (witch) training. Tea's friend Prince Kance suddenly collapses at his engagement with a sleeping sickness. Tea and her dark powers are easy to blame, and she must flee the castle before she's arrested. She escapes with Kalen, her brother Fox, other asha, the princess betrothed to Kance, and Khalad. They seek the other heartforger who went missing in the Daanorian capital, across the sea. He may know a cure for the sleeping sickness. To get to the heartforger quickly, Tea must reveal a big secret. She summons her three-headed flying daeva from the forest and off they go.

Is it any good?

Fans of complex fantasy, witches, zombies, and palace intrigue will be excited to dig into this more mature sequel. The format stays the same as the last book, with flashes forward and back every other chapter. (With unnecessary italics used for the forward flashes.) The struggles are vastly different, with Tea's dark raising-the-dead witch training mostly complete. She's ready to cause some real trouble now, flirting with the power of a forbidden book of runes and getting booted from a kingdom, with the prince's handsome bodyguard -- who swears he hates her -- in tow.

Sometimes it's hard to keep all the kingdoms and characters straight. And sometimes the writing goes overboard with the mystery -- it's OK to cut out some of the complexity sometimes in favor of clarity, even in a story trying to sound epic. But it's well worth immersing yourself into this rich world where so much is at stake at all times: Tea's sanity, her brother's existence, whole kingdoms under corrupt rule, a magical tradition that heals and protects vs. one steeped in evil and darkness. Readers will be eager to see what happens to Tea and this troubled world next.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the gore in The Heart Forger. Is it easier to see monsters fighting and getting bloody than the other characters? Does it change if the main character cares for the monster?

  • Tea is bent on exposing dark forces, even if others don't want to acknowledge they exist. What consequences does she face? Is exposing truth worth any price? 

  • Will you read the next book in the Bone Witch series? What do you think will happen to Tea next?

Book details

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