Today is publication day for Heather Kassner with her debut novel, The Bone Garden. This was a book that intrigued me when I first heard about it with it being described as a dark fantasy fable with echoes of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, with a story appealing to a range of readers.
In this story we meet a young girl named Irréelle, something of an ethereal character who we first meet descending into a basement to collect bones. From the start her story has an eerie, gothic feel, as we see a girl who questions who she really is, and how real, as she is a girl formed from bone dust. As a result she feels incomplete, and craves the acceptance of her creator, Miss Vesper, who we learn is something of a sinister, cruel character who remains critical of Irréelle despite the girl’s best efforts to please her. Over the course of this novel, we see Irréelle embark on a journey to discover her true identity, and to be loved. But her journey is a challenging one, and one in which she faces many obstacles, including her own crooked bones along with the wrath of Miss Vesper. With the help of some fellow creations, she sets out to unearth the truth about this mysterious magic that has brought her to life, putting her own existence at risk in the process as she finds the courage to defy her creator for the first time.
I thought the premise for this story was an interesting one, as I liked the idea of a being formed from bones and the whole concept of ‘bone magic’. I also liked the use of setting, with the graveyard being the perfect backdrop for this story which has the feel of a Gothic fairytale with its dark atmosphere. The characters were also interesting, particularly Irréelle who is an otherworldly being, a girl formed from dust who is trying to find her place, and to be certain of her own existence. As the plot develops it deals with themes of creation and identity as well as love as we see a young girl who puts her fragile existence at risk in search of her true self. This was an entertaining and accessible story that I think would appeal to younger readers with its mix of magic, darkness, hope and love with some interesting characters and revelations along the way as the truth behind Miss Vesper’s dark magic unravels.
The Bone Garden is an intriguing dark fantasy debut which was published on 23rd July 2019 by Titan Books, with thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.