Charm is a bone witch, a prisoner, and a whore. Alongside the boneghosts that she grew in her laboratory, she runs a brothel at Orchard House. When her keeper the old emperor lies dying, poisoned, he charges her with safeguarding the empire and finding out which of his sons was his killer.
Firstly, that cover is utterly beautiful.
Now that this important matter is acknowledged, let us go on into the story. I saw a lot of complaints that it was difficult to understand, for the author plunges us straight into the plot and leaves it to the reader to figure out how to navigate this new world. However, I thought the world-building was well done and understanding unfolded quickly enough – you only need to pay close attention.
The characters are each distinct and well-realized, and I enjoyed the complex relationships between Charm and each of her parts. The boneghosts embody her cast-off split personalities, and so the interactions between them provides a fascinating commentary on trauma and identity. I also liked all the politicking and Charm’s machinations to keep herself and the others afloat amid all the upheaval . You well know I am a sucker for political intrigue, and The Bone Orchard explores how women can manage it in a society that does not give them much power through characters like Charm, Pain, and Ylsbeth.
However, I found the piecemeal delivery of Charm’s backstory somewhat unsatisfying – there are a lot of gaps left in it still, though I think that was an intentional choice on the author’s part. A plot twist was telegraphed to the point that I did not realize it was meant to be a plot twist, though another related to it did catch me off guard. Finally, my only major criticism, I thought the climax got somewhat rushed after the leisurely pace of the story, so that I did not realize we had come to the end until we had.
Overall, a solid debut, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future work by this author.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.