Bone Crier’s Moon

Bone Crier’s Moon was written by Kathryn Purdie and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on a group of women whose duty is to ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife. The novel forms the first part of the Bone Graces series and its planned sequel, Bone Crier’s Dawn, is expected to be released next year.

Ailesse is desperate to become a Leuress and will soon collect her final Grace – a bone imbued with the power of the animal that it was taken from. Once she has all three, she is eager to perform her final ritual as soon as possible. To prove her loyalty to the gods, she must lure her soulmate to a specific ritual site. Then, she must make her choice to spend one whole year with him, or kill him where he stands.

Sabine is less sure of her destiny. Although the other Leuress are keen for her to embrace her calling, Sabine only holds one Grace and knows that she does not want any more. If the act of killing a fire salamander for its power hurt her so, she knows that she would never be able to take the life of a human being. However, Queen Odiva has instructed Sabine to bear witness to Ailesse’s final ritual. She hopes that it will inspire Sabine to also finish her training and truly join their sisterhood.

Yet it is at Ailesse’s ritual that everything goes wrong. Although Ailesse does lure her soulmate, he is not who she expects. Bastien is a young thief who desires revenge against the Leuress for taking his father. Without the strength of her Graces to save her, Bastien and his friends quickly overpower Ailesse and take her hostage, hoping to lure Odiva to their lair. Trouble is, they also manage to steal the sacred bone flute that the Leuress use to ferry the souls of the dead. Sabine knows that if she cannot retrieve the flute and her friend by the next new moon, the souls of the dead will run free. If that happens, everyone in South Galle will be in danger…

Bone Crier’s Moon is a really difficult novel for me to review, because I wanted to like it a lot more than I ultimately could. While the concept of this novel is really intriguing, the plot and characterisation unfortunately had a lot of problems.

To begin with the positive, the world-building in Bone Crier’s Moon is fantastic. Purdie does a brilliant job of allowing readers to find out what it means to be a Leuress over the course of the novel, without ever bogging down the flow of the story with too much exposition. The Leuress – or Bone Criers – are a wonderfully original creation, combining elements of mermaids and reapers to create a coven of powerful, beautiful and sometimes terrifying women.

My only real disappointment was that we see far less of the other side of the coin. While a lot of time is spent detailing Ailesse and Sabine’s world, we see far less of Bastien’s. I would have loved for the novel to have spent a bit more time exploring the streets of Purdie’s Parisian-inspired fantasy world, as most of Bastien’s chapters instead are confined to the catacombs beneath it.

Yet, although the world-building showed a lot of promise, this was not enough to mask the problems with the underlying story. The pacing of Bone Crier’s Moon came in fits and starts. While it did contain some very exciting moments, these often occurred after lengthy scenes of Ailesse in captivity or Sabine wandering at random in search of her Graces. The story was told in first person from three narrative voices – Ailesse, Sabine and Bastien – and I also felt that this caused the novel to drag in places. This was primarily due to the fact their voices were not especially distinct from one another, making it sometimes difficult to remember who was actually narrating any given sequence.

Bone Crier’s Moon is also not a story that entirely feels complete in its own right. The novel ends on a very abrupt cliff-hanger, which introduces a brand-new character (or potential future villain) and resolves none of the lingering plot threads. Instead, it seemed to raise even more questions which hopefully will be addressed in the sequel. The hasty explanation of what the villain this time around was trying to accomplish was very confusing. While their motivation was consistent with their earlier actions, the means by which they hoped to achieve this changed at least three times over the course of the story. It was also unclear what lasting impact these actions would have, as the gods in this story seem to be a fickle bunch.

However, my biggest problem with Bone Crier’s Moon is its characters. Sabine was by far the best of the protagonists, as she gets a lot of development as the novel progresses. While Sabine begins the story as a sensitive and uncertain acolyte, she grows steadily through her resolve to rescue Ailesse and becomes a wonderfully independent character in her own right.

The same cannot be said for Ailesse and Bastien.

As you may have gathered from my previous reviews, I loathe instant love as a plot device. Even though Bone Crier’s Moon tries to explain this away through the Leuress tradition of god-given “soul mates”, it doesn’t take away the fact that this is still a horrible example of teenagers falling in love at first sight. It should be noted that this occurs regardless of the fact that Bastien blames Ailesse’s coven for the death of his father and is aware that she plans to murder him.

So deep is this love that Bastien quickly seems to forget all about his father and, within less than a month of being together, both he and Ailesse would be happy to die for each other. This is every bit as tiring to read as it sounds. The climax of Bone Crier’s Moon also hints that a love triangle could follow in the sequel, which is the only thing that I can think of that could possibly make Ailesse and Bastien’s relationship worse.

I also found it unbelievably frustrating how frequently Ailesse had to be depowered over the course of this story. All of her incredible magical powers stemmed from the three Grace Bones that she carried, and so it was outstanding how many times these were taken from her in order to render her “powerless”. Despite the fact that Ailesse was a trained fighter, she proved to be literally unable to overpower anyone without these bones. While she was supposedly one of the most powerful Leuress – and the biological daughter of their Queen – this somehow allowed her to be depowered five times and kidnapped twice over the course of the story. This was utterly aggravating to read.

Well, rant over. All in all, Bone Crier’s Moon certainly wasn’t the novel for me. I loved the concept, but I found the plot to be too drawn out and the characterisation to be rather weak on the whole. Unfortunately, based on its cliff-hanger ending, I don’t get the impression that these problems are going to be fixed in the sequel either.

Bone Crier’s Moon can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook & Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bookgeeking
    Jun 14, 2020 @ 23:46:13

    Great review. I actually really enjoyed this book, I’ve read worse cliffhangers so didn’t bother me. I read a book years ago where 5 of the 6 main characters died in the last 2 pages.

    Reply

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