TITLE: The Bones of Ruin
AUTHOR: Sarah Raughley
PUBLISHER: Simon Pulse
RELEASE DATE: September 7, 2021
GENRES: YOUNG ADULT FICTION—Historical, Fantasy
As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…
She cannot die.
Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives… and who doesn’t.
To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return, he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.
If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.
I struggled with how to rate this book for pretty much the entire time I read it. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Was it good or great or meh? It’s really rare for me to come across a book that isn’t easy for me to rate. In the end I settled on liking it.
The plot was certainly compelling and interesting. It managed to stay away from a lot of standard YA tropes and plot types which left me constantly guessing. I did feel that towards the end of the book the plot lost some cohesion and several threads were fumbled, but then it was very complex. Really it was handled quite well overall.
The characters were interesting but they fell a bit flat and I wish there had been more character development. Aside from Iris and Max they were all rather static throughout. I also wish we’d seen the side characters more rather than focusing so completely on Iris. That said, it was brilliant to see so many POC and queer characters in a Victorian London setting. We definitely need more of that.
I also love how racism and colonialism and the racial horrors of the enlightenment era were explored. They don’t often play such a large role in YA — or fantasy in general — and they definitely livened things up and increased the stakes. And made the Enlightenment Committee even more vile.
The love…. square? Was excessive, however. I’m not a fan of the love triangle or reverse harem tropes, and when every boy inexplicably falls for the lead girl it gets a bit old. I’m also not sure why Iris seemed so torn between them and couldn’t figure out who she liked? Only one seemed to genuinely care for her with no ulterior motives.
Jacques and Gram were incredibly creepy from the start and just got creepier as the book progressed. I would definitely not want to meet them in a dark alley — or, y’know, anywhere ever. The Fool was also rather creepy and I feel like there’s a lot to him left open to explore in future books. All of the other champions were sympathetic and I would have liked to see more of them teaming up.
I can see how it sets things up for an interesting sequel — especially with that last chapter! Talk about more questions than answers. If anything, there were a few too many questions and parts where the reader is missing vital information for my tastes. I get that things are a mystery to Iris. This could, however, just be me disliking being kept in the dark.
The biggest stumbling block for me was the writing style. I just didn’t jive with it, and I find it incredibly frustrating when I’m into a story but I feel like I’m reading around the words to get to it. It also made it very difficult to get back into the flow of the story whenever I had to take a break. And for a story that was so high-octane –or should have been, what with the high stakes and sheer amount of blood and gore –it dragged a bit. Think the Hunger Games, but slower-paced.
I’m glad I read it, though, and I’ll definitely consider picking up the sequel when it’s out.
*Thanks to Netgalley, Simon Pulse and Turn the Pages Tours for providing me with an e-arc for review.
Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to SF/F TV to Japanese Role Playing Games, but she will swear up and down that she was inspired by ~Jane Austin~ at book signings. On top of being a YA Writer, she is currently completing a PhD in English, because the sight of blood makes her queasy (which crossed Medical School off the list).
She is represented by The Bradford Literary Agency.
So far, you can also find her on Twitter, where work ethic goes to die
Up for grabs will be TWO (1) finished copies of The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley. This giveaway will be open to U.S. residents only and will run from August 29th to September 13th at 11:59 PM CST. Two winners will be chosen. To enter, click the link below!
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