THE TIGER’S WATCH
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: YA, FANTASY, GENDERFLUID MC, NOVELLA
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 another great novella from Julia Ember. I’ve loved all of her stories — there’s always something new and original.
The plot and premise of The Tiger’s Watch is really different and the isolated monastery setting really adds something to the story. My absolute favourite thing was the characters. Pharo is brave and kind and I completely saw why Tashi loved him. Xian was more complicated. He’s charming but unpredictable, vicious and vulnerable. He’s not as obvious a love-interest but the love-hate chemistry between him and Tashi was really interesting.
I loved Tashi as a character. They’re trying to do the right thing, but they’re definitely not perfect. I loved that there’s an acceptance that not all protagonists, or characters, need to be ‘strong’ to be well-rounded. Tashi realises that Katala chose to bond with them not because they have some secret inner strength or ability, but because they’re weak. Katala’s strength and nerve balance Tashi out, letting them develop their own type of strength. I also really enjoyed that, in the end, there were pros and cons to Tashi’s decision. Although their choice was partially motivated by helping all inhabitors, it was also a largely selfish choice and I liked that this didn’t paint them as some kind of villain.
Note: Tashi is genderqueer and the rep seemed really good. It wasn’t treated as something that unusual and once Tashi’s preferred pronouns were brought up, all the characters used them properly.
Another great and original story from Ember, with an ending that makes me hungry for the sequel.