Title: All the Murmuring Bones
Author: A. G. Slatter
Genre: Gothic fantasy; fairy tales
Publisher: Titan Publishing Group
Published: March 2021
All the Murmuring Bones by A. G. Slatter is a dark tale that offers a refreshing take on Gothic tropes and weaves together fairy tales, mythology, lore, and a strong heroine to die for… literally. Set in a fictional time and place with elements similar to 18th century Europe, the story begins with the funeral of Miren’s grandfather. Shortly after the funeral, with her only obstacle now buried in the freezing crypt under their home, Miren’s grandmother begins to put into place her scheme to restore the O’Malleys to their former glory by marrying Miren off to her unpleasant but well-heeled cousin, Aiden. But in this world of myth and magic Miren has no intention of being used as a pawn in regaining her family’s ill-gotten wealth and glory; she will escape and make her own way, by any means necessary.
This book is a brilliant dark Gothic fairy tale: the protagonist is a murderous teen heroine who is coming of age but will bow to no man; there are not one but two crumbling, sinister mansions on the edges of malevolent bodies of water; assassins, automatons and animated corpses pop up to cause mischief and strike deals with the unwary; there are riddles posed by malicious ghosts and deals made with water deities; and juicy sub-plots of betrayal, defiance, redemption, and friendship keep the plot rich in intrigue and unexpected tenderness. Miren is betrayed by people she thought of as allies more than once, but then she learns of the larger deceptions that put her once-allies in those positions and she realises that she is not the only one being manipulated. Somehow Slatter manages to inject moments of such humanity and empathy that I never saw any of the characters as purely good or evil; even the disgusting, power-hungry Aiden has a backstory full of justification for why he acts the way he does.
I’d recommend this book to lovers of dark fantasy, re-written mythology and fairy tales, resourceful but bloodthirsty teen heroines, and sinister mysteries. The follow up book, not a direct sequel but set in the same world and a similar time, is due out next year!