This is an ARC, but I received it from Sam (not the publisher)!
CW: violent scenes, corrupt government, gore, chronic pain, and loss of family
This is a lush, imaginative, Welsh-inspired fantasy and I was so here for it.
Aderyn, or Ryn, is the daughter of a gravedigger. After her parents die, she becomes the sole provider for herself and her two siblings, Gareth and Ceri, at their village Colbren that’s at the border of a forest.
But this isn’t any town. Those who aren’t buried properly come back to life. They’re called bone houses. And it’s part of Ryn’s job to make sure that they don’t harm Colbren. That’s all at stake when the lord of the town starts trying to kick Ryn and her family out for not paying their rent.
Ellis is a mapmaker with no family and chronic pain. He comes to Colbren to make an accurate map of the area, but finds more than he bargains for when he runs into Ryn and ends up being sucked in to a centuries old legend.
God, this book was amazing.
I’ve always thought that Wales is the perfect place to set stories. And Lloyd-Jones really captures the scenery, language (and she does use the language in it), and made me feel like I was in the mystic Welsh past. I felt completely transported into this legend. I’m a huge history nerd, especially with medieval British history, and the worldbuilding was breathtaking.
And, I mean it. This world is amazing. The lore behind this is so developed. As the story kept going, the world kept going. I loved how gradually it unfolded. One of my biggest pet peeves with fantasy is when the whole world is info-dumped on me. Lots of terms all at once and some overexplaining (or lack of explaining). The Bone Houses didn’t suffer from that problem at all. Time was taken throughout the whole book to let you explore the expanding world, which was such a joy because it’s a hard thing to balance.
In addition to the lush world, I loved the characters. Ryn and Ellis were such great characters to follow. I found them incredibly fleshed out. Ryn with her grief and trying to provide for her family in the absence of her family. Ellis by dealing with the feeling of loss he has of being a boy with no family and how he handles having chronic pain from an old injury.
The side characters were also great. I loved reading about Ceri and Gareth (and Goat — an actual goat, who was the true hero of all this). The villagers in Colbren were also such fun to read. It really felt like I was in a small, medieval town where people were close out of necessity to survive and because they liked each other.
While I enjoyed all of these aspects, I also felt like the story stalled out periodically. Things just stopped and I was reading for a while, not really seeing anything new, then all of a sudden the story picked back up. It was still interesting and I finished the book, but the pacing could use some work.
Overall, this was a fantastic stand-alone YA fantasy. I can’t wait to read it again when it’s finished!
What setting do you wish was used more?
Have you read this? Are you going to?