For fans of Naomi Novik and Katharine Arden, a dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter.
Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.
A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.
Title: All the Murmuring Bones | Author: A.G. Slatter | Publisher: Titan Books | Pub. Date: 9 March 2021 | Pages: 368 | ISBN: 9781789094343 | Genre: Dark Fantasy | Language: English | Source: Self-purchased | Starred Review |
All the Murmuring Bones Review
I have had a streak of amazing reads so far in 2021. So when I say that All the Murmuring Bones is absolutely, without a doubt, my favourite read of the year so far, know that this means this is truly a special read.
All the Murmuring Bones follows Miren, last of the true O’Malleys. The O’Malleys are an old, mysterious family, unafraid of making dark deals to ensure their line’s prosperity. When one of these dealings sees Miren’s freedom at stake, she takes her future into her own hands, even if it means leaving all that she knows behind.
This is exactly the kind of fantasy novel I love best. Dark and rich, the writing here is the literary equivalent of velvet. The worldbuilding is also absolutely beautiful and so well-balanced; the author never resorts to info-dumps in order to immerse the reader in her world. Instead, the novel’s universe unfurls piece by piece as Miren’s journey unfolds. At first, in fact, there’s very little to suggest this novel isn’t set within our own world at some unspecified point in the past, but as the story wears on, it becomes clear that we are very much in a fantasy world, filled with witches, assassins, mermaids, and every manner of creature in between.
While I adored the atmosphere of this novel, the heart of All the Murmuring Bones is Miren. While not without her flaws, Miren is a strong young woman, not afraid to fight for what she wants and her values. Her journey made for extremely compelling reading for me, and I loved watching her grapple with her identity outside of just being an O’Malley.
Another really interesting element to both the plot and the worldbuilding here in this novel were the short stories interspersed throughout the main plot. Part folktale, part O’Malley family history, these stories made for fascinating building blocks to explain Miren’s family’s past, as well as the universe she exists in. The author mentions in her author’s note that these stories are versions of some of her own earlier short stories, which just further compounded that I definitely need to get my hands on more of her works!
I have nothing but glowing words for this wonderful modern gothic tale. Anyone who enjoys dark fantasy with hints of horror and plently of folkloric elements would be doing themselves a disservice by not picking up All the Murmuring Bones.