Whatever soul I might have, O’Malley though I might be, it is mine and I’ll not sell it at any price.
I seem to have a niche and specific love for historical fantasy with strong female main characters, witchy themes and watery settings. And All the Murmuring Bones is a fantastic example of all of those things. I loved this one so much.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to W.F. Howes for the Audiobook Review Copy of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: murder (adult and child), forced marriage, incest, abuse, child sacrifice.
About the book:
Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.
A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.
What did I think?
So I once again did that thing I do where I instantly request something without reading the summary, solely because Andee (mousereads.co) recommended it to me. And once again, it worked out so, so well. I absolutely adored this book. I received an audiobook review copy and I listened to it in one sitting, unable to put it down for a second. It’s not an easy read by any means, but if you enjoy dark historical fantasy, I highly recommend it. Miren O’Malley has always known that mer are real. The O’Malley family sacrifice their children to them in return for safety and prosperity, but since the death of Miren’s mother, that deal has gone unkept and so the family’s fortunes are declining. Fortunately, Miren’s grandmother has a way to fix that. Unfortunately, that way involves marrying Miren off to Aidan Fitzpatrick, her distant cousin and all-around arsehole. Fortunately, Miren’s grandmother dies before the marriage can happen. And everything that happens after that? Unfortunate to the very end.
All the Murmuring Bones is a gothic fairytale, and the atmosphere throughout is absolutely impeccable. If you like books that lean hard into atmosphere and vibes to create a sense of horror, you’ll enjoy this one. The world is full of magic, whether that’s small magic like the little castings that women can do or big magic like the existence of merfolk, ghosts and kelpies. This magic is threaded throughout and I really enjoyed the way that it was knotted into an otherwise familiar historical setting. I also absolutely loved Miren’s repeated insistence that she wasn’t a witch before she cast some little casting or spell, all based on the fact that misogynistic men would see women’s magic as evil witchcraft and burn them for it – so instead women kept things secret and labelled them traditions instead of magic. It felt really authentic and despite the fact that this is a fantasy world, it did feel like A.G. Slatter had done some loving research into the time period.
Miren was the focus of the story, and very much the highlight of it. She might technically count as this fairytale’s damsel in distress, but she’s not much interested in being rescued. I will forever be weak for women who save themselves and Miren is dedicated to doing exactly that. Despite the actions she’s ready and willing to take to save herself from an unwanted marriage and the machinations of some truly awful men, Miren always feels good at her core. It makes her easy to love and trust as a protagonist, because I always felt like she was doing her best. I was rooting for her, I wanted her to be safe and happy because that’s what she deserved, and there were several points where I would have been very willing to kill certain men to protect her.
I can’t wait to get a paperback copy of this one on release, as I know I’ll come back to this story again when it’s dark and cold outside and I need some gothic magic to curl up with.
Release Date: 29th March 2021