Book Review: All The Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Titan Books (March 9, 2021)
Length: 368 pages
Author Information: Website
I have several of Angela Slatter’s books on my shelves, but this might be the first full length novel I’ve read by her, and what a wonderful surprise it was! All the Murmuring Bones is an enchanting tale of hidden magic, of dark secrets and mysterious creatures of the sea, and at the center of it all is a fiercely independent young woman who uses her wits and resources to go on a journey of soul searching.
Set in the 19th century on the Irish coast, the story follows protagonist Miren who is last of the “true” O’Malleys, an old family which has long held sway over the local community. But even as their wealth has dwindled over the years and their ancestral home of Hob’s Hallow stands in near ruins, the O’Malley name still much power and influence. For this reason, Miren’s grandmother Aoife has arranged a marriage for her in the hopes of restoring the family’s fortunes. However, while her intended Aidan is a wealthy man, he is also from an offshoot of the family who has always lusted after the O’Malley name and estate, so for him the union will be nothing more than another business transaction.
In a twist of fate though, Miren soon discovers a secret revealed in a collection of her late grandfather’s old letters. Growing up, she’d always been told her parents died when she was a baby, which was why she was raised by her grandparents. But now, she has reason to believe her mother and father are still alive, living at a place called Blackwater. No one knows where that might be, but Miren is determined to find it and confront her parents on why they gave her up. Besides, she has no desire to lose her freedom or to stay at Hob’s Hallow—especially once she realizes the awful bargain her ancestors had struck to ensure the O’Malley’s prosperity, and that Aoife wants to Miren and Aidan follow in their footsteps. With the sudden death of her grandmother, Miren realizes she has no reason left to stay, and so she makes her daring escape.
What follows is a beautifully written tale, with as much adventure as there is danger. Slatter’s prose is flowing and practically flawless, descriptive yet also tinged with a thread of our protagonist’s wry sense of humor. For this reason, while the story frequently edges into darker territory, it still maintained an easy air that prevented the mood from becoming too heavy (and kept me glued to the page). Of course, it helped too that Miren was such a strong and likeable lead, and the injustices of the circumstances she faced made it easy to feel invested in her quest and cheer her on through her struggles.
On top of that, the author does a superb job at setting the scene, creating a vibrant setting populated by mythical creatures like kelpies, ghosts, merfolk, and more. In fact, the world-building is surprisingly well-developed, considering her delicate approach to the paranormal—not with a heavy hand, but giving just enough to give the reader a sense that these elements are as real to the protagonist as the world she lives in. It’s a kind of magic one can feel working from the very first page.
Miren herself is a character that feels very relatable. Although she is resourceful and intelligent, she’s not the most level-headed, her emotions often running close to the surface. Strong feelings are quick to flare up in her, which sometimes leads her to act impulsively, landing her in or out of trouble depending on the situation. The people she meets are also delightful, even the shady scoundrels and ne’er do wells. Truth be told, it kept things interesting, not knowing how Miren would react to the many random surprises or obstacles she encounters along the way, and these unknown wonders also served to drive home the fairy tale inspiration behind her journey.
All told, I found this novel captivating. Slatter knows how to hook the reader, and All the Murmuring Bones certainly held my attention rapt with its indomitable protagonist, artful storytelling, and rich atmosphere.