Sometimes, all you need to break with tradition is a lot of will. In Miren O’Malley’s case, it takes a lot of will and for a lot of people to shuffle off their mortal coils. In A.G. Slatter’s wonderfully untraditional fantasy novel, All the Murmuring Bones, we get the story of the very last of the O’Malley clan. The family was once powerful, ruling over land and sea from their great house. I’m not sure if it would make the people of Breakwater feel any better if they knew that all that power came from a diabolical bargain with magical creatures, but I know there would’ve been a lot more pitchforks. Miren, however, is not particularly interested in rebuilding the family fortunes. She’d be just as happy if the great house fell into the raging sea.
All the Murmuring Bones begins at a funeral. Miren’s grandfather has just died, one of the last of the true O’Malleys. Miren expected that the death would be just another nail in the family coffin, so to speak. Her grandmother and icky cousin, however, have different ideas—ideas that Miren is very much opposed to. As the plot starts to ramp up, we get snatches of stories that slowly explain where the O’Malleys got their power from and fill in some of the details of Miren’s magical world. I loved every bit of it. Slatter’s imagination is brilliantly original, borrowing from a bunch of European folk tales to create something refreshingly new.
The first third or so throws so many obstacles in Miren’s path that all she can think to do is run away. Before her grandfather dies, Miren quietly works around her grandmother’s dictates. Without her grandfather around, Miren’s grandmother gets bolder and a lot harder to ignore. Miren is forced to find the courage to strike out into a world she has largely been sheltered from. Not only does Miren have hidden depths, she also has all the knowledge that she’s collected from years of reading stories that help her when she encounters a kelpie, a trio of ghosts, and a village tucked away behind a hedge.
Like so many books that I fall in love with, I wanted All the Murmuring Bones to be longer. I wanted more of the magical world Slatter created. And I absolutely wanted more of Miren’s adventures. She is a fantastic character who, in spite of all the incredible things around her, is quietly competent in the face of a whole lot of scheming. This book is amazing!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.