The Bones of the Earth (The Bones of the Earth, #1)The Bones of the Earth by Scott Hale
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

“The Corrupted living on Lacuna were entirely self-sufficient, but what they could not cultivate quickly enough was life. They kept coming to the mainland for offerings, sacrifices to be given up to their lord. Why is that? Why is it that humans always seem to think the best way to get on their god’s good side is to rub his nose in the corpses of all his children they’ve killed?”

i fully confess that this book took me forever to read because i am too dumb for fantasy. this isn’t fantasy-fantasy, it’s dark fantasy/horror but it is wicked detailed, and that is where my troubles always occur. much as i love well thought-out worldbuilding, when i am confronted with like 50 different capital-letter concepts, it takes me about two seconds per word to pause and remember “okay, this thing is this and that thing is that” and paragraphs like this make my head spin (spoiler-tagged because it’s a chunk of exposition that maybe you will want to come upon naturally in your reading) View Spoiler »


that’s just a random paragraph from the book, but there are a lot of similar passages, full of the Corrupted and the Crossbreed and Caldera and Cathedra and i am just not equipped to handle so many unfamiliar concepts at once. it brings back memories of me in deli-type stores in eastern europe, confronted with exotic products, waving my board game money in the air and shouting; “what do these things even DOOOO?”

but despite how creaky my brain is when exposed to new meanings/contexts for familiar words, i have to say that the descriptions in this book are a-plus. not the descriptions around “what this character looks like” or “what color the trees are” because that is unimportant. i’m talking about the disgusting splattery carnage and twisted repulsive scenes that bleed all over this book. it is gore-tastic. i don’t know what anne’s talking about when she’s all blasé about “pretty standard gross-out stuff” or what she’s been reading (is this something i will encounter if i keep reading hawkeye, anne?), but dude – there’s a TON of ick in here. heaving pits of ick. really fun and meticulously described ick. but it’s not ALL icky – there’s some other good description which is just hinting at the ick – the calm before the ick. (i’m going to keep typing “ick” until my spellcheck admits defeat)

One does not see the string of pearls among a heap of diamonds, and so Vrana was surprised when they veered into an iron-fenced yard and stopped before the steps of a beautiful church. Its front door was chipped, beaten in by overzealous parishioners too impatient to wait for heaven. From on high, its massive stained-glass windows scrutinized the city like drug-addled eyes. Around the foundation, holy inscriptions had been carved into the stonework, coupled with faded images of religious iconography entirely foreign to Vrana. It was from here and the black bowels of this basilica that the foul smell of lingering death originated.

i thought the story overall was really strong, even though i was confused by about eight different things. which is again likely down to my inability to absorb conceptual abstractions and not down to the writing. some of my confusion is around proportion, and how these animal skulls would fit on humanoid heads so uniformly. i’m unclear on how the black hour works, i don’t understand why the blue worm was dealt with as it was since it seems like it was helping? i don’t understand how a dropped necklace can have such … dramatic consequences, and i’m unclear about the specific differences, biologically and ontologically, between the various humanoids. and crazy witch and skeleton-man, what’s your deal?

but when i did understand it, i loved it. it’s a good quest-novel, and it has strong characters. i love bjørn, the cinna to vrana’s katniss, i loved vrana’s underground archivist boyfriend, with whom she does NOT have hot sweaty intercourse before she goes on her journey, which is rare when girls are in fantasy novels. i mean later there is time for that, but i like the prioritizing in their first scene together. i also appreciate the nonchalant appearance of a homosexual relationship later on the book. in a future wasteland-scenario in which birth rates are dangerously low, usually that would be treated as a frowned-upon “luxury” because of the need for baby-making, but here it wasn’t even an issue. this book doesn’t bash you over the head with DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DOING WITH SOCIAL COMMENTARY?? the way some fantasy-ish books can. there’s stuff there, but it’s politely whispered.

what else…? i love vrana’s mom, i loved r’lyeh (except for that NAME, although i did like her explanation for her name) and i even loved blixa, despite the fact that he’s a birrrrrrd.

there’s a lot to like here, even though i frequently felt like i was dragging my brain through oatmeal. if your brain has had better fantasy-training than mine, by all means jump into this puppy.

it’s a 3.5 for me, rounded up because so many good things.


also – ick.
damn you, spellcheck – SUBMIT!

read my reviews on goodreads

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