Monday, April 18, 2022

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

The Bone Orchard is adult fantasy at its best: dark, disturbing, and romantic, with intriguing characters and enough political machinations to keep one guessing to the end. It’s also a story of survival and dealing with trauma so severe that the only way to handle it is to shatter one’s mind to several independent personas.

Charm runs the most popular brothel in Borenguard, with the Emperor of Boren himself as her client. But she is the Emperor’s prisoner, has been for decades, thanks to pills that keep her and the Emperor’s family eternally young. He controls her with a mindlock that is used for keeping those with psychic abilities in rein and from going mad.

But she has a way around the control. She has shattered her mind into separate personas, each with a living body of flesh she calls bone ghosts, copies of her that don’t need sustenance. Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain each hold a facet of her to keep the traumatic memories of her past from overwhelming her. Their bodies are unique creations of Lady, with whom Charm shares her mind, but who is mostly kept sleeping because of her delicate nature.

Then the Emperor summons Charm to his deathbed and gives her one last command: find out who murdered him and keep his sons from inheriting the throne. The command plunges her in the middle of political machinations and on a road that will either destroy her mind for goodor heal it.

This was an absolutely brilliant book. Slow-paced, but constantly moving ahead. Charm doesn’t have an easy time figuring out what happened to the Emperor and her task is made even more difficult when the Lady starts to fight over the control of their shared mind. The bone ghosts, who serve the customers at her brothel, begin to show independent streaks too.

There are three point of view characters, Charm, Lady, and Pain who has a unique position in the brothel as the only person who can leave the grounds. Despite being facets of the same mind, they are different persons and have unique voices. Pain’s path to independence and her slow-burning romance acted as a counter to Charm’s cold determination to find out the killer and earn her freedom, and Lady’s persistent clinging to her innocence.

Little by little, we learn about the events that led to Charm’s mind shattering and how it played to current political turmoil. And while none of the emperor’s sons are fit to rule, there might be other candidates for the throne after all. This was a stand-alone book, but I would love to return to its world and characters.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment