Published by Little Brown (9.24.2019)
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
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 deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.
I absolutely LOVED the premise and the Welsh mythology!! So awesome! The bone houses, the Tylwyth Teg (fae), the pwca, and the story of the cauldron were so unique and intriguing. That was definitely my favorite part!
This book started off really strong! I was super interested in the bone houses and the mythology aspect, and it wasn’t like anything I’d read before. (I’d also heard all about the goat so I was ready for that hehe!) It flagged a LOT in the middle – I actually put it down for a couple of weeks and was struggling to find the desire to pick it back up. When I finally did, I was lucky enough that I’d stopped right before a major action scene, so I didn’t have a problem getting back into it like I thought I would after struggling through the middle parts.
And the last quarter of this book is really where it shines. I’m so glad I stuck with it! I loved the parts once they finally reached Castella Sidi (and the afanc!). I also want to note that this book tackles grief and loss, which I was 100% not expecting from a fantasy. These two lines in particular are relevant to me currently and thus were extremely poignant to the point that it physically hurt:
“You wouldn’t understand. You’ve never lost someone. You‘ve never had to see the end coming and know there are no other options.”
“The anticipation of the loss hurts nearly as much as the loss itself. You find yourself trying to hold on to every detail, because you’ll never have them again.”
I’m gonna get perhaps a little too personal here: I’ve been taking care of my elderly father, who is dying from stage 4 lung cancer (he has been removed from chemo)…the doctors gave him 3-6 weeks about 5 weeks ago. So it was interesting timing for me to read this (I don’t believe in coincidences) and those lines in particular were meaningful to me and really struck a chord. So the feels were high a few times because of that.
Sadly, though, I didn’t get the feels from the characters. I did like Ryn and Ellis – Ryn is a badass, but struggles with being a good person and openly admits it. She’s prickly and stubborn. Ellis is inherently good at heart, but has a disability in the form of crippling shoulder pain. I might not have been able to connect to them like I’d hoped, but they were interesting and memorable characters. And kudos for the inclusion! I also want to say here that the goat was my absolute favorite part of this whole book! Definitely my fave character! View Spoiler »I actually picked this up because someone described it on one of those ‘describe a book in the simplest way possible’ memes as “a mapmaker, a gravedigger, and an undead goat” (there was probably more, but that was all I needed) and the undead goat part was what pushed me to finally pick it up! I might not have picked it up so soon otherwise, but I do kind of wish I hadn’t known the goat would be undead. I probably would have been really upset when she “died” the first time and I was just waiting for it. BUT, on the other hand, it gave me something to look forward to! And she was everything I was hoping for! I got a little misty when they found her curled up after the curse was broken. :( « Hide Spoiler
10/10 would read again just for the goat.
Monsters were unrestrained, unbound, and beautiful in their destruction. They could be slain but they would never be truly defeated. And perhaps, even back then, Ryn thought that if she could love the monsters – then she could love those monstrous parts of herself.
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5