Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, death of an animal
“The living had a tendency to make promises they could not keep.”
Nothing stays buried forever.
Ryn only cares about two things: her family and her family’s graveyard. And both seem to be hanging by thin strings. The existence of a gravedigger is slowly being pushed aside and Ryn’s family is barely scraping by in their small village. There’s just one catch…the dead don’t always stay buried. Some say an ancient curse is the cause of the bone houses rising, but when a mapmaker by the name of Ellis arrives in town, things will never be the same again. The bone houses are becoming more aggressive and only Ryn can put a stop to their terror. Teaming up with Ellis, Ryn sets out on a journey to put an end to this curse and stop the bone houses, once and for all.
Readers, I loved this book immensely. I devoured this book and I never wanted to put this book down. Anything that has any for of necromancy, I am always here for it and this book is no exception. There’s necromancy, a subtle romance, and a hilarious goat that can’t stop, won’t stop! I’m hear for all of it and now I’m convinced I need to read more work by this author. I never anticipated this to become one of my favorites of 2019, but here we are and so excited to tell you about it.
Our story is split between two perspectives. We have the perspective of seventeen-year-old Ryn who’s a gravedigger and loves her family with her whole heart. She’s a strong-headed lady who would do anything to protect her family and their graveyard from falling into the wrong hands even if that means bargaining and taking jobs to guide weary travelers through all kinds of danger. There’s also the perspective of Ellis, a simple mapmaker who has found his way into Colbren. Unfortunately for him, his first night arriving to the village ends up with him being attacked by a bone house. Fortunately for Ellis, he meets our daring heroine Ryn. Ellis has a mysterious past and there’s more to him that meets the eye. With Ryn being backed into a corner from the bone houses venturing out of the forest to trying to prevent her family from losing their home, Ryn quickly accepts the offer of being Ellis’s guide for his map making the minute he mentions it. Thus our unlikely pair being their journey.
“Pain doesn’t make a person weak or strong, pain just – is. It’s not a purifier, it’s a part of living.”
This book was everything my heart needed for the month of October. There is a main theme of family means everything in this book. Ryn is very family focused from protecting her siblings to waiting for her father to return one day, Ryn would do anything for them. I also really loved how open Ryn was about her fear of losing the ones she loved and cared about. I definitely saw myself a lot in Ryn’s character. Ellis has no idea who his parents are. On this journey he’s trying to track down his parents and where he came from. We also have a goat who rose from the dead as a bone goat to follow Ryn and protect her from any harm that may find them on their journey. There’s just a strong sense of family throughout this book and it made me so soft, sappy, and a little weepy. I’m a very family oriented type of person and I would do anything for my own family. So reading this book was like a piece of my soul imprinted on the pages.
We also get amazing chronic pain representation in this book. Our main character, Ellis, has an old injury that he has to cope with. When the pain from this old wound flares up, he has to use willow bark to help. Ellis also talks about all the various treatments he had to undergo while under the care of his prince. My heart ached so much for Ellis. As someone who suffers from chronic pain and has family members who also suffer from chronic pain, Ellis was so relatable and a lot of the details that are talked about are very accurate. Chronic pain is one of the more lesser medical conditions that get talked about especially in books. The fact that we get so many moments of Ellis battling the pain, taking into account his medical supply, and the scene of him trying to tell Ryn about his injury and his pain, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
I also have to take a moment to talk about the goat in this book. I swear, this goat was a hilarious highlight of this whole book. This goat follows Ryn and Ellis on their journey to protect them from anything that may want to cause them harm. This goat pops up at the most ridiculous times, but at some of the most important moments as well. This goat scales a wall in the mine sideways, but acts like a guard dog while Ellis was in immense pain. I loved this goat and is was a great little bit to keep the mood light at times. I’ll admit, I was really rooting for that goat to be magic!
I am going to add a little breakdown right here, spoiler free. This book is broken up into three parts and this breakdown will help you get an idea of what each section holds.
💀 The Living – This sets the scene. We’re introduced to Ryn and her siblings, their financial situation, and details of the town. We also learn about the bone houses. We also met Ellis in this section. Ryn offers him guidance throughout the this section and eventually offers to be his guide into the mountains.
💀 The Dead – This is where the journey begins. Everything that happens to Ryn and Ellis on their journey happens in this section. Ryn and Ellis also begin to reveal more about themselves to each other. We learn about Ryn’s Uncle and Ellis reveals his chronic pain and injury. Also, a lot of battle along the way and some subtle romance brewing!
💀 The After – This is Ryn and Ellis after the bone houses have been stopped and the curse has been lifted. Both of our main characters are figuring out what the future holds and what it means to keep on living.
“I grew up thinking monsters could be slain.”
“And I grew up thinking people were the monsters.”
There are only two things to this book that I think many readers will have issues with. The first issue is the dialect. There’s a very “olden time” dialect that gets spoken throughout this book and if you’re not used to seeing or hearing dialect like that then I think it will be challenging for any reader. The other issue is the ending of this book. Without going into spoilers, I’ve talked about this with my buddy reader and a few other readers who have also finished the book, who felt that the ending was very predictable or hinted to far too soon in the book. Now, this wasn’t the case for my reading experience. I was so fully caught up in the moment, the action, and how everything was unfolding that it didn’t really register with my reading experience. However, that is something to be aware of if that’s something that might impact your reading experience.
Overall, I loved this book with my whole heart and soul! It was the perfect book for me to read right now and I’m so glad I didn’t put this book off or set it aside. It truly is a wonderful book to read for the spooky season and even in the fall in general. There’s so many wonderful, hidden messages in this book and it will truly warm the heart. Plus necromancy! Who can refuse a book with necromancy happenings taking place?! What a read for this spooky season!
Buddy read with Donna from Moms Book Collection