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.
The Bone Houses has definitely been a book I’ve been looking forward to reading this month, however, I didn’t realise just quite how much it’d suck me in – I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting.
The story follows Ryn, a gravediggers daughter living in a Welsh inspired land which borders on the ancient faerie lands. Living so close to old magic, the people of Colbren mostly still believe in the old ways, unlike those in the bigger cities.
Ryn was definitely a main character I could root for – after her parents died, she took over the family business of caring for the graveyard to provide for her younger brother and sister. Working amongst the dead and becoming the head of the family has taken its toll on her, and she’s grown determined and unyielding, but she still cares so much about the people of Colbren, both living and dead. Ellis, the mapmaker from the city who Ryn reluctantly agrees to help, is quite the opposite – softer and more open, however, the two complement each other so well. Ellis also has chronic pain in his shoulder which I feel is important to point out as there’s such little chronic pain rep in YA. I really enjoyed reading about both of them, although I will say that I did think Ellis’s origin story became quite predictable as the story progressed, however, this didn’t ruin the ending for me. Another standout character for me was Goat – and yes, this is an actual goat. If you read it, you’ll see just why I loved her!
The world building was lush and atmospheric; this is one of those books where I really felt like I was in the setting, whether the characters were in the graveyard, in the forest or climbing through the abandoned mines into the mountains. The entire book was incredibly descriptive and I think the prose is really what made it such an enjoyable read for me. I loved how it was also obviously set in a Welsh inspired world and found this inspiration easy to place from the beginning of the book.
Although this is, in a way, a book about zombies, it’s definitely not as gruesome as you might expect. It’s a lush, fairytale like fantasy with horror elements throughout, following themes of family and loyalty. There’s a villain who is completely corrupted by the system and another villain who we find out isn’t so much of a villain after all. There’s also a very slow burning romance which was just written so perfectly.
I found this to be such an easy but immersive read, and it’s the perfect book for this time of year. I’ve never read anything else by the author before and am now very much looking forward to picking up her other books!