Deeply haunting and atmospheric, The Bone Houses is the perfect autumn book and will certainly be in my top ten reads of the year.
Rating: 5 Stars
This ARC was sent to me by the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions express in their review are completely my own and not influenced in any way.
The Bone Houses
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.
The Bones Houses is one of those books that only comes around every once in a great while and stays with you for just as long. Emily Lloyd-Jones somehow manages to craft a haunting world filled with believable characters and a mythology all its own in a bit over 300 pages. And while I was able to guess a few of the twists, there was not one moment when I wasn’t enjoying this book. I just finished it two days ago and I already want to reread it. The Bones Houses is not only on my list of top ten read of 2019, but also the list of my all-time favorite books.
On of my favorite aspects of this novel is the storyteller atmosphere. Not only are there moments of storytelling from the characters, but the whole novel feels like the kind of story you’d tell a group of people around a campfire (my friend Sabreena from Books and Prosecco originally pointed this out in her phenomenal review of this book and I agree so much!). There are elements of horror, romance (don’t worry, it’s not insta-love and not the main focus of the story), grief, and heroism. The world building is small, but impactful. Lloyd-Jones takes us from the small village of Colbren and deep into mysterious fae forests where the danger comes from a very human place. Being a standalone, this is a very self-contained novel and every bit of the world building and characterization felt just right for the story.
Our two main characters are Ryn (aka Aderyn), the gravedigger of Colbren, and Ellis, the mapmaker who stumbles into town with a fair bit of chaos. Ryn is stubborn and fiercely loyal to her remaining family, Gareth and Ceridwen. With their father lost and presumed dead from an exploration missing many years ago, their mother perished from illness, and their wastrel uncle abandoning them to seek drink and gambling elsewhere, Ryn and her siblings feel their familial loses acutely, but their bonds to each other remain strong. Ellis, on the other hand, has no family that he knows of and is searching for his place in this world. Ryn and Ellis work so well together and their journey is endlessly amusing and pulls at the heartstrings in many different ways. One thing I also really liked about Ellis is his representation of chronic pain. I do not suffer from chronic pain, but I know those who do, and the portrayal of it in this novel seemed very on point with what I’ve heard from my friends.
I want to point something out that was the main eye-catching part of this book’s promotion. The Edelweiss+ synopsis calls it “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Sky in the Deep in this bewitching, historical horror novel, perfect for fans of Holly Black and V.E. Schwab.” Typically, I try to ignore statements like these because they lead to disappointment. But in the case of The Bone Houses, that statement is spot on! The lead is a slayer of the undead, a girl who just wants to protect her family, and she has a fair bit of biting wit in her. The atmosphere of the novel is deep and all-encompassing like Sky in the Deep. And as a huge fan of Holly Black and V. E. Schwab, I can say this book was perfect for me. I will say that I was wary with the Buffy comparison because Buffy is ingrained in my soul, but I can fully imagine Buffy and Ryn swapping graveyard tales with each other while sharpening their axes and stakes.
The Bones Houses is the kind of book that I wish I could find more often. In the YA world of overly snarky series, The Bone Houses stands out as a strong, yet quiet kind of stand-alone perfection. If you are looking for a book that will creep you out and make you smile, please go pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.
Oh, and if you’ve heard about the goat: yes, it is true.
The Bone Houses releases on September 24, 2019 and pre-order links can be found at the author’s website (along with pre-order incentive info! Click on “The Bone Goat” on the top of the page!).