Review: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

Alexis holds a paperback copy of The Bone Maker in front of the beach: sand and a wave crashing on shore.

Alexis:

Despite copious amounts of rain, our beach trip ended up being a successful reading trip! While The Bone Maker isn’t the usual kind of beach read, I’m always in the mood for a spooky read.

The Bone Maker follows Kreya, a hermit living in a tower with no one for company but her constructs, little creatures and dolls she created from pieces of bone. Oh, and her dead husband, Jentt, who she raises from the dead as often as she can.

Twenty-five years ago, Kreya and her group of heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. The heroes reunite to help Kreya on her journey.

The story is primarily told from Kreya’s POV, though we dive into each of the character’s heads at one point or another. I thought the world was super interesting. There are bone makers, who created constructs from bones; bone wizards, who create talismans with powers (think playing an action card in a card game); and bone readers, who predict the future by reading bones. The characters’ successful backstory was great fuel for the plot, and I almost wish I could read a prologue book!

While I liked the plot, I really enjoyed getting to know the cast of characters. This book has the perfect balance of darkness (lots of bones, dead people, war, and death) and lightness (witty dialogue, funny characters). I love when I can find an adult fantasy that also has humor and great dialogue. But what kept this book from being 5 stars is that I wanted to get to know the characters even more! That, and the plot didn’t feel as urgent as it probably should have. 

If you’re looking for a fun book with necromancy, defeating evil, and a journey with loveable characters, then I think you’ll enjoy this.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Alexis:

The Bone Houses is a historical fantasy novel, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite subgenres. It’s set in medieval Wales, and follows two main characters: Ryn, a gravedigger, and Ellis, a mapmaker.

Due to remnants of lost magic, the dead are rising in the forest neighboring Ryn’s small village of Colbren. She and Ellis, each for their own reasons, team together on a journey to eradicate the undead, known as bone houses.

I loved every page of this book. It was dark and gritty and full of death, but the characters were a joy to read, and the dialogue was great. I love dark books that take small scenes, small moments, to let the characters relax, enjoy themselves, and crack jokes.

This story is about home, family, and loss. I loved learning the stories and Welsh-inspired folklore of the world. I loved that Ryn’s sister’s pet goat became a main character; I’m a sucker for an animal sidekick!

Lately, it’s been a little rare for me to find two characters that I’ve enjoyed reading about and rooting for, but this book was it. And I haven’t read a lot of books lately with a cringeless romance, either. I appreciated the slow-burn romance in this book, and the fact that the characters actually took the time to become close friends first. It was a subplot, and it didn’t get in the way of the main story. It didn’t feel forced in the least!

And, finally, I loved that this story was well-written. Lloyd-Jones’ prose feels almost effortless to read, while also being lush and evocative.

“She was half a wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel. She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.”

VERDICT: ☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️/5

Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Alexis:

I’ll be honest: this book wasn’t my favorite.

Synopsis: In the Lands of South Galle, Bone Criers are a myth, except to Bastien, whose father was killed by a beautiful woman in white when he was a kid. Bone Criers are young women who must lure their soulmates to them, only to kill them as a sacrifice. This rite of passage allows Bone Criers (or Leuress, as they call themselves) to become Ferriers. Ferriers ferry dead souls to the afterlife. 

Bastien vows to take revenge on the Bone Criers, only for him to end up as the soulmate to the same Bone Crier he’s trying to kill. Ailesse is trying to complete her rite of passage in order to one day become the matriarch when she becomes entangled with Bastien, even though she knows she’s destined to kill him.

The plot becomes more complicated from there, but the story is told from three different points of view: Bastien, Ailesse, and Sabine, Ailesse’s best friend.

I found the overall world and the fantasy worldbuilding really intriguing, and the idea of the Bone Criers— and their rites of passage, and the idea of grace bones (bones that the Bone Criers take from wild animals, which grant them certain abilities)—was awesome. The mythology, the lore, and the history, all based off of France, was interesting, and I appreciated the originality. 

Normally, I’m not a fan of more than two POV shifts, but I actually think Purdie did a great job.

There were three main aspects of this book that put me off. 

One: I had a hard time rooting for the characters. Bastien and Ailesse just weren’t interesting to me, and even though I knew their backstories and motivations, I didn’t really click with either character. They felt a little flat, and a lot of the secondary characters also fell flat.

That being said, Sabine was my favorite character. She had the most emotion, and she had the best character arc. 

Two: The romance felt forced. Obviously with the doomed soulmate storyline there was going to be some sort of forced romance, but my point is, there weren’t any real reasons for Bastien and Aliesse to fall for each other outside of: Oh, I think she’s hot. Oh, I think he’s hot. I didn’t think the chemistry was there.

Three: Even with the mythology and the in-depth look at the Bone Criers, I still found myself a little confused hundreds of pages in. I felt like some aspects of the Bone Criers were left unexplained, and so a lot of Ailesse’s solutions to problems felt like they came out of nowhere to me. I often found myself thinking: How does she know that will work? Overall, I thought the plot was good, but Ailesse and Marcel’s deductions just felt off to me. 

On top of that, Purdie’s writing wasn’t my favorite. Sometimes the dialogue felt a little too cheesy and predictable, and it took me about 100 pages in for me to start caring about the story.

Overall, this was just an okay read for me. 

VERDICT: 🌙🌙 and ½ moons /5 

 

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Alexis:

The Bone Season is packed with worldbuilding information. From the first page, Shannon slams you into a futuristic London where clairvoyants have to hide in order to survive and avoid persecution. The main character, Paige, works for an underground crime gang of voyants, each with a varying forms of power. But when Paige is drugged and kidnapped, she’s forced into slavery by an alien race called the Rephaim.

I tried to read this book sometime late last year but I wasn’t in the mood. This time around, the beginning of the book was just as hard to get through. Shannon wastes no time trying to explain Paige’s world. She introduces a plethora of jargon that I had to slog through until I figured it out, or until Shannon gave an explanation. And once I got used to that, Paige was thrown into the Rephaim’s space, and then I had to learn a whole new set of jargon.

Shannon certainly understands the world she’s created. I do wish the beginning of the book wasn’t so much of a chore to get through. I never fully understood all of the terms or all that was happening, and maybe that’s partly my fault for being a fast reader and not letting the information properly sink in.  

On the plus side, the first half of this book felt wholly original, despite the dystopian world and the aliens. I enjoyed learning about the world once I understood it a little more. The voyants and Paige’s abilities surrounding dreamscapes were fascinating and well-written by Shannon. I also really enjoyed the plot.

My favorite part of the book was Paige. Sometimes I struggle with liking main characters, and oftentimes strong female characters are strong and impulsive for the sake of it. But I really connected with her character. I found her actions and feelings true to her character and her surroundings. I think her flashback scenes and memories could’ve happened earlier on, though.

My biggest issues with the book happened in the second half. I wanted to understand Nashira more, so that I could understand her better as the villian. I also wanted to get to know Warden better. I liked his character, but by the end, Shannon never fully explained his motives.

I’m interested to see how Shannon will create a seven book long series. She definitely teased a lot of information for the next book.

VERDICT: 4 stars

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SPOILERS BELOW:

 I had a feeling that romance was coming, but I didn’t want to believe it. Romance doesn’t fit in The Bone Season. It’s about survival and Paige finding herself and developing her powers.

It would’ve been better if it had grown over more time. But Paige didn’t trust Warden and then all of a sudden she was having feelings for him. It just doesn’t help that was a huge part of her being kept as a slave: beaten, broken, and even branded. His true intentions don’t really matter, because he was still involved in it. So it made the romance problematic for me.