Book Review — The Bone Houses


Title: The Bone Houses
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: Hardback, 335
ISBN: 978-0-316-41841-6
Opening Lines: "The gravedigger's children were troublemakers. They chased chickens through the neighbors' yards, brandishing sticks like swords, claiming that the fowl were monsters in disguise."

Rating


"Seventeen-year-old Ryn cares about only two things: her family and her family's graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scaping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the food of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don't always stay dead.

"The risen corpses are known as bone houses, and legend says that they're the result of an old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with a new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

"Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the deeply buried truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairy tale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page."

~ Jacket copy



Bānhūs is a kenning in Anglo-Saxon literature meaning "body".  It is one of the many kennings made famous by Beowulf.  When the title of this novel caught my attention while I was teaching Beowulf to sophomores.  (It was not actually during the middle of class.  Rather, Viking and I were wandering through Barnes & Noble, and I squealed with excitement while repeating  "bānhūs" over and over again . . .)


This book stuck with me for several months; however, with my work schedule, it is oftentimes hard to find the time to actually read non-work-related book.  However, through an amazing Facebook group (and an amazing swap partner), I finally found myself in possession of this truly beautiful book.  

Ryn has always had a good relationship with death.  Her father, being a gravedigger, taught her not to fear death—especially the Bone Houses that wander the forest.  However, after the disappearance of her father, the death of her mother, and the arrival of a stranger, the Bone Houses are no longer sticking to the forest.  With the growing unease over the Bone Houses, the villagers of Colbren are no longer content to bury their dead; rather, they burn them.  Quickly losing her source of income, Ryn reluctantly agrees to help the stranger navigate—and map—the forest in hopes of finding the source of the Bone Houses.

When I first picked up this book, I fully anticipated encountering a mixture of Norse mythology, fairy tale, and fantasy.  However, this book is nothing less than a fairy tale.  That is not to say it lacked for plot or character development or relied on classic fairy tale tropes (damsel in distress, large dragons to fight, and all that).  On the contrary, this story was a bit closer to a combination of Hunted and Brave.  The female protagonist does not need to be saved nor does her male counterpart.  Instead, they need each other to find the keys to the Bone Houses . . . And his past.  

This story was nothing short of beautiful!  The writing style, the word choice, the characters, the setting, the history, and even the subtle hints of romance are profoundly rich.  I found myself easily getting lost in the pages of the book, and I struggled to put it down at night.  Unfortunately, it seems as though recent additions to the YA genre truly lack any kind of depth, which made The Bone Houses a refreshing surprise!    

Despite the amazing storytelling prowess of Emily Lloyd-Jones, I felt as though the ending was a bit rushed, as well as Ellis' past being a bit predictable.  I wanted to know more about the relationship between Ellis and his family.  I also wanted to see a bit more between Ryn and her father later in the book.  That aside, I do not feel as though these instances took away from the story.  They were merely questions I still had when I finished reading. 

If you're looking for a completely unique fairy tale and an engaging read, I highly recommend this book!  After finishing the novel, I felt refreshed.  It has been a long time since a book was able to elicit that type of response from me.




 

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.