All The Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A dark fairytale, beautifully written

AlltheMurmuringBefore I really get into this review I would say this one thing : keep your expectations in control before you pick this one up. As mentioned above, this is a dark fairytale, a world where creatures exist and bargains can be struck.  It’s beautifully written and maybe even a little purple in places which I realise won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  As it happens, I enjoyed the writing very much, I loved the fairytale elements and I was interested in the O’Malleys and their dire family history.  However, fast paced this isn’t, It can be a little predictable in places although then by way of contrast can be equally surprising in others, and if you’re expecting a story that takes you into the realm of the merfolk then you might want to adjust your expectations. Merfolk exist here, and we catch glimpses of them, particularly as they have a keen interest in the main character, but they’re more an aside or driver of plot than a central focus.

I won’t overly dwell on the plot.  The story revolves around Miren and her struggles to break free of others expectations.  The O’Malley’s have long held wealth and power, it is believed that long ago they struck a deal which helped them to succeed where others could not.  Their seafaring exploits remained untouched by stormy waters and their coffers overflowed.  The family prospered.  But, all was not as blissful as it seemed on the surface as these concessions must ultimately be paid for.  Eventually, one of the O’Malley’s was going to rebel at the price to be paid and slowly but surely their success would gradually drain away.

Miren is the last in line of the ‘O’Malleys and her grandmother has big plans for her to restore their fortunes.  Whether or not these plans are agreeable to Miren is of no consequence whatsoever – except of course, Miren doesn’t like the plans and doesn’t intend to be the sacrificial lamb.

What I really enjoyed here.  The darkness.  This is not a Disney fairytale by any stroke of the imagination.  The O’Malley’s are a cruel family mostly.  The deal they struck has definitely not brought out the best in them. Arrogant, selfish, cold and calculating this is a family where ‘every man and woman for themselves’ could conceivably be their motto.  Miren herself can come across as single minded and quite ruthless when the need arises and I admit that it can take a little while to warm to her and yet I did get on board with her plan to escape.

I think the author has written a story that is incredibly evocative.  This is a world of vivid storms and unexplained things, kelpies, merfolk and witchcraft to name but a few.  There are ghosts and poppets, wise women and intent and, in the way of all fairytales an eventual resolution of sorts.

We find ourselves with not one, but two gothic style mansions.  One on the edge of the sea with secret caves, forgotten gardens and a crumbling interior.  The other secreted behind a thick hedge that hides a sleepy little village within its borders and a dark secret in it’s cellar.  I enjoyed both settings although I was a little thrown at first when we seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire. But I won’t say more about that at this point.

In terms of characters. Miren is really the main focus.  Obviously there are peripheral characters but Miren really does take centre stage.  Is this a character that you will love?  She is undoubtedly painted in various shades of grey and she takes some surprising action on occasion.  Be warned, if you’re expecting a tale of women helping each other out you won’t necessarily find it here.  Miren has to fend for herself, although she does make a few friendships here and there, and a good portion of the other characters are very much self serving individuals – and that includes both male and female.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt that this got off to a really good start and I was immediately intrigued by the O’Malleys and their history.  The house is a place of secrets and lies and murmuring skeletons in closets.  At this point the tale does move very quickly.  I would say that the pace slows a little in the middle whilst Miren seems to enjoy a brief respite from family pressure and then the pace picks up again towards the end.  I would also reinforce that a lot of the characters here are not pleasant but for me, this reinforces the fairytale feel of it all.

Overall I enjoyed this.  I loved the inclusion of all the short stories that helped to reinforce the sense of ‘fairytale’, the writing was lovely and it was wonderfully dark.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars