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All The Murmuring Bones by Angela Slatter

A review by Nalini Haynes

Miren O’Malley’s home is set in a fantasy world evoking Ireland, possibly in the 19th century. Her family has a long prosperous history of trading and pirating on the seas without suffering the losses normal to those professions. All the murmuring bones tell stories…

After generations of giving one true-born O’Malley to the sea every generation to ensure their prosperity, the family is in decline. Inbreeding had the obvious side effects as well as, in the past few generations, struggles with fertility. The enormous castle is all but empty, with only Miren, her grandparents and two loyal retainers. Then her grandfather dies, setting events in motion.

Miren’s grandmother wants to sell Miren off to restore the family fortune. Horrified, Miren flees, seeking refuge from a source that surprises even her.

A gothic mystery

Mystery surrounds the O’Malley family alongside prejudice and fear. The tropes woven into All The Murmuring Bones combine in an original tale. Miren’s battle for freedom brings her life crashing down around her, which, in turn, exposes the family’s secrets. I was pleasantly surprised by the focus of this novel becoming relationships and family secrets breaking familial ties, creating relatable scenes in a fantasy world. This focus makes the story more real, more immersive. Miren’s discoveries and bid for freedom are both a coming-of-age story and an everywoman’s story. A true feminist tale.

The verdict

I don’t want to say too much because I feel like anything more would be a spoiler.

All The Murmuring Bones combines a Faustian-like pact, a gothic mystery, Game of Thrones politics and family relationships, and many legends that Slatter previously incorporated into her writing. If you – like me – enjoy this genre, then I highly commend this novel to you.

If you enjoy Angela Slatter’s work you might be interested in this podcast where she joins a discussion about vampires. I enjoyed Vigil and Corpselight by Angela Slatter too; reviews are at the links.

Book details

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781789094343
Publisher: Titan Publishing Group
Format: paperback, 368 pages
Released: 2021
Category: young adult, fantasy, dark fantasy
All the murmuring bones: the tip of a fish tail emerges from the bottom of the cover, trailing water in its wake up the sides of th ecover. A harp rests above the tail below the title

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.

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