The Bone Charmer by Breeana Sheilds appealed to me immediately. I first read about it 6 months ago, and I was lucky enough to meet Breeana at Emerald City Comic con, and pick up an advanced copy of her newest book. I’m excited to talk about this book for so many reasons. I think it challenges narrative archetypes in an amazing way, and pushes the reader to pay attention. I love what Breeana did with this story, let’s dig into a few of my favorite elements.
Click here for the Synopsis!
In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother. On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence. Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
Poor Saskia has it pretty rough. Her mother, Della, is her town’s main Bone Charmer. Essentially she uses bones to see into the future of her clients. Saskia doesn’t really want to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but she may have no choice. Because she is reluctant to accept and use her power, she never really fell into the trope of the special snowflake to me. Yes, she was able to do some bone magic previously thought impossible (though there are reasons for that!), but she still struggles to learn how to manipulate her power.
“She won’t care if the bones don’t.”The Bone Charmer ARC page 80
Romance is always a tricky thing for me, and I’m pleased to say that I found the romance in this book compelling! It was a slow burn for the most part, and there’s plenty of tragedy and heartache throughout. Unrequited loves, betrayals, and a focus on arranged betrothals make the romance in the book more interesting.
“…how could the bones show paths toward a different partner if it’s truly a fated match?”-The Bone Charmer ARC page 30
One of the major thematic drives of the book is fate vs choice. Saskia often feels manipulated by forces she cannot control. That seems to be a factor in everyone’s lives in the world Breeana created. Saskia’s people use bones to see the past, present, and future but they also acquire tattoos in an unconventional manner. Strong emotional experiences like falling in love, or losing a family member cause tattoos to appear of their own accord. The residents of this world have no say in when or where these marking appear. After you have a tattoo some of your life experience is on display. All love tattoos appear as a red circle around the wrist, for example. With tattoos and bone magic driving her actions, Saskia has to find ways to choose what’s best for her and her loved ones.
It’s been a long time since a Fantasy novel kept me up past my bedtime, but this one did just that. I found it hard to put down as the back and forth between 2 primary perspectives kept me wanting to push on in both plot lines. The exposition is so artfully woven through the opening chapters. Information is never dumped, it is given in small doses that require the reader to connect a few dots. This kept me thinking and engaged with the reading early on.
If you enjoy books with a big focus on cool magic systems, and twisty turny timelines, I highly recommend The Bone Charmer! It is on shelves now, and that cover is really just to die for. I’m looking forward to reading more about Saskia in the future!
Let me know what you thought of this book, or if you have recommendations for similar titles!