Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
# of pages: 229 (pb)
Publisher: Henry Holt, Macmillan
Recommended for: MS & Beyond
There's hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it's time.
A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver's daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves. There is an evil presence in the carver's life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.
When I found out that Clare Dunkle's newest book was getting a cover makeover and being rereleased, I was so excited. I'd only read one other novel of hers, The Hollow Kingdom, but it remains one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I just had to grab a second helping of some Dunkle literary genius. I read By These Ten Bones in literally 24 hours - started at 8:00 one night and finished at around 8:00 the next night. It was that absorbing. If nothing else, reading this book will *not* be a waste of time. At all.
So to keep it all simple, I'm going to divide this review up into 3 categories:
Does it Better than...what I remember
The setting in this book was so vibrant, so alive, I really felt like I was reading this at the foot of some giant rolling hill high up in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by mist. The atmosphere lends itself well to the apprehensive and wary tone of the novel...eerie, eerie, eerie! I can't say enough how the setting just came to life here. I always look for that when I read, and I definitely felt that extra connection to the story here.
Just as good as...what I remember
Dunkle's writing style is so special. She really has a knack for making storytelling seem easy and effortless. What I really enjoyed about this book was how easy it was to read - it didn't contain nuanced or over-the-top language, it wasn't overly flowery with literary devices. No, instead the prose was simple, yet elegant, and the simplicity is what made it so absorbing. Just as absorbing, in fact, as what I remembered in The Hollow Kingdom.
The story is also so incredibly creative. Dunkle previously worked with goblins and elves in The Hollow Kingdom, and here she takes on werewolves. Tired of werewolf stories? You'll likely appreciate this one.For one, it just seems more like a fantasy: no urban setting, no high school, no "ohh, what if he doesn't shift back in time for prom?!" Instead, By These Ten Bones reminded me of a longer, more epic campfire story.
Could Have Been Better
All these things said, I could have done with a little more character development. Bones is not very long, so at times it felt like I was missing some character connection that a few more chapters might have remedied. Maddie was a headstrong and determined protagonist, sure, but there were times when I wondered what drove her to be so brave, and headstrong, etc. I said this book reminded me of a campfire story...well, a campfire story is something you hear, not something you see, so I didn't always feel like I was observing the characters closely enough to have a true emotional investment in them. The love story was sweet, but seemed slightly underdeveloped. However, I'm certainly not complaining, and don't let that sway you from possibly checking this out. There's way more to the story than the romance aspect, plenty more in fact to keep you entertained (and delightfully creeped out!).
All in all, By These Ten Bones was a fun, decent, distracting read that I devoured in about 24 hours. If you're in between books, in a slump, or just itching to pick up something you would normally pass over, I definitely suggest giving this one a try!