Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.
Plot: Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.
Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.
Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.
Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.
“On that new moon – like every new moon – the Leurress need to summon the dead from their graves and ferry their souls past the Gate of the Beyond.”
“The dead must be ferried, my mother told me as I prepared for my rite of passage, or they’ll wander the land of the living and wreak devastation.”
The Bone Crier’s are a tribe of women called Leurress whose soul purpose is to ferry souls to the Gates of the Beyond. They must lead the unchained to the gates of Heaven, and the chained to the gates of the Underworld. But in order to become a Ferrier, each Leurress must first acquire three Grace Bones from an animal that she has hunted and killed herself. The most desired graces are from animals with extreme speed, powerful senses of smell and hearing, or immense strength. Once a Leurress binds the grace bone with their blood, there is only one ritual left – she must use the sacred bone flute, which also opens the gates on ferrying night, and play a song to lure her soulmate to a bridge, and kill them. But the boy that Ailesse lures to the bridge on her ritual night isn’t what she bargained for, as he plans to kill her to avenge his father’s death.
Ailesse is the daughter of the matron of the Leurress, and has been named heir. As such, she feels the need to prove herself to her mother and the women around her. We first meet her as she and her best friend, Sabine, begin to hunt a shark so that Ailesse may acquire her third grace bone. She is a determined and strong lead character who is not easily shaken or driven to defeat, and her tenacity is shown from page one. She desperately wants to become a Ferrier, as is her life’s purpose, and shows both excitement and longing to complete her final ritual…which involves killing her soulmate.
Her best friend, however, is quite unlike Ailesse. Sabine is just a little younger than her and is indeed a Leuress as well, but has no desire to kill any animal or an innocent person. She is a gentle soul who has an unflinching devotion and love for her friend, but she refuses to harm any innocent creature. She expresses sorrow and uneasiness for the rituals the Leuress go through with in order to ferry the dead, but she is fully supportive of Ailesse and helps her complete her tasks.
“Far be it from me to deny anyone the chance to watch you slaughter the man of your dreams.”
Obviously a story about witchy women who kill their soulmates, gain powers from animal bones and ferry the dead into the afterlife is enough of an epic read. But add a little revenge, romance, betrayal and a kickass setting and you’ve got one amazing fantasy.
The story flips between three main characters: Ailesse, Sabine and Bastien. Bastien is a young man who, as a child, witnessed his father being killed by a bone crier. Ever since, Bastien has been planning his revenge on the Bone Crier’s for taking his father and leaving him an orphan living on the streets as a thief. For years he has been training to be able to compete against the Bone Crier’s and their otherworldly powers, and he does so alongside two other orphans whose father was also killed by a Bone Crier.
“His powerful desire for revenge is a grace of its own.”
Bastien is a formidable love interest and makes things in this story interesting, but I didn’t get as much substance from his character as I wanted. And to be quite honest, I didn’t get enough substance from any of these characters. I feel that Sabine was developed the most in terms of personality and emotions shining through, but she is only a supporting role next to Ailesse, who is the female lead. I found Ailesse to be strong and a complete badass, but I only ever felt that we were brushing the surface with her. I didn’t feel a strong connection or love for her at all, or for Bastien for that matter. By the end of the read my favorite characters were Sabine, with her unshakable determination and loyalty, and Marcel (Bastien’s friend) with his quirky personality and carefree attitude.
Oh, and the mysterious owl.
Obviously the romance in this tale is between Ailesse and Bastien, soulmates who are never supposed to be together…right? Well no YA Fantasy is EVER complete without a little twist and an epic cliffhanger to leave you wanting more, and of course that is EXACTLY what this author gave us. But my question is this, will this love stand the test of time? The test of the stars and gods?? Well I don’t know. I’m waiting on book 2 just like you are! But there is something to be said about a forbidden love and two characters who desperately DON’T want to be attached to each other. That’s how all great romances start, right? Just ask SJM, she’ll tell you! Give them blinding hatred, threats of murder and a a few below the belt insults and we’ve got some serious L–O–V–E.
“All I smell is Ailesse. Earth, fields, flowers. Everything green and alive. A twisted trick of her magic. I have to remember what she really is.
Darkness. Decay. Death.”
But of course, the romance isn’t the only aspect of this tale. It’s an epic fantasy packed with magic, a setting of ethereal beauty and the catacombs of France, and a whole shitload of dead just praying to wreak havoc on the living. I really enjoyed every part of the world-building, the idea of intertwining the frightening and sad history of the very real underground grave in France, and the themes of bridges linking mates and guiding souls beyond. But as much as I loved all of these parts, the rest of the story just didn’t quite measure up. There were a lot of days that just went by as characters hid out in the catacombs, Sabine was constantly hunting for Ailesse, and it was all just kind of…a lot of waiting around?
I think the story could have been either condensed or seasoned with a bit more prominent scenes. It wasn’t exactly slow, but there just wasn’t enough happening to keep me fully invested…which is why I ended up putting the book down a lot and getting distracted way more than usual. It was a good start to the series and I feel like book 1 was just an introduction for what is to come, so I’m still invested and ready to continue the books. But just know, if you’re expecting epic mind-blowing, you might not get it from this first installment. But all in all, it was a good story with an impressive premise.