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. 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 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 into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the deeply-buried truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairytale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page.
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That is, until one day, they do. Around the same time, a stranger shows up, Ellis, and he is oddly without a last name. Ellis is a mapmaker who wants to venture into the mountains to be able to make an accurate map- and for a more personal reason disclosed later. Facing being forced out of her home for lack of coin and also for a plan of her own, Ryn agrees to be his guide in the forest. Together, they may uncover the truth in the heart of the forest.
What I loved: The story is hauntingly well crafted, and the bone houses are intriguing while also feared. World and character building is top notch, and the reader is easily pulled into this fascinating other place and events. There is history, magic, a touch of romance, and a quest, making this a masterpiece for fantasy-lovers.
Ryn and Ellis are both characters that come to life in the pages of the book, and they, plus the side characters along the way (even the goat) are quite compelling. The romance is slow-building and sweet- easy to cheer for. Their journey and the truth behind the bone houses is certainly the driving force of the book, and this is certainly a page-turner.
What left me wanting more: The biggest mystery in the book is really easy to figure out. I was hoping for a bit more twists and turns and surprises, but it was still a well-crafted and engaging story, regardless, so it did not hinder my enjoyment (I just like to be surprised).
Final verdict: Spell-binding and fully-realized, THE BONE HOUSES is a a wonderful YA fantasy that will appeal to lovers of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and/or THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. As a stand-alone, this has great appeal for anyone looking for an engrossing new epic fantasy.