Orphaned as a young child, Miren O’Malley has been brought up by her grandparents on their isolated, rambling estate Hob’s Hallow.
Long ago her family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer, the terrifying creatures who live in the depths of the sea: safety for their merchant ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and their fortunes have suffered as a result.
When Mirin’s grandfather dies, her grandmother puts in train a plan to restore their glory — but at the price of Mirin’s freedom.
Finding amongst her grandfather’s papers evidence that her parents may still be alive, Mirin is determined to escape and discover the truth about her origins. This takes her on a treacherous journey to Blackwater, the estate her parents built when they fled Hob’s Hallow, but on arrival Mirin finds the estate in decline and her ‘Uncle Edward’ in charge: where are her parents, and who is this Edward Elliott really?
All the Murmuring Bones is one of those divine books that is just so perfect for my taste that it is hard to describe what I liked about it or why without sounding like I am completely bonkers.
I am quite partial to gothic writing – I love reading something that gives me that creepy sense of unease, where you feel like something isn’t quite right even when you can’t quite put your finger on why – and I think Slatter nails it in this book. I also like the traditional fairy/folktale feel of how the narrative unfolds, and the actual stories that Mirin tells from time to time throughout the book. The combination of these two, and Slatter’s magical writing, meant that all the way through it just absolutely hit the spot for me. Like, I felt like every word was so perfectly placed that it is hard to wrap my head around that an actual person wrote them (I told you – I am bonkers for this one!)
I really loved Mirin – I thought she made a great protagonist to go on this journey with. I do love an underestimated young female character, who everyone assumes is quite meek but given the chance you just don’t know what they might do. Something else i really enjoyed about this one was the range of creatures we meet – from the mer around Hob’s Hallow to a water kelpie that appears later in the story – these sorts of books and characters always pique my interest, and this one left me wanting to learn more about the tradition and folklore behind them.
I do want to just clarify that while i do read and review a lot of YA fantasy books, and often those have some elements of fairy/folktales at their centre, this one is not YA. It gets pretty dark and sometimes a bit disturbing – there are a bunch of themes in here that deserve content warnings (including, but not necessarily limited to abuse, incest & blood purity, gore, murder and violence), so I encourage readers sensitive to particular topics to look for more info before diving in. Publisher Titan Books ran a blog tour for All the Murmuring Bones so you might like to start with those bloggers’ posts for more info/views (you can find them listed in this tweet).
Obviously this was an absolute hit for me, and has cemented Slatter as an ‘auto-buy author’ for me. I was super excited to see that All the Murmuring Bones will be followed in 2022 by Morwood, another gothic fantasy novel set in the same world, which is also the setting of Slatter’s short story collections Sourdough and Bitterwood, and I think The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales is also set in the same world.
Let me know in the comments if you are planning to pick this one up, or if you have a favourite gothic fantasy novel I should check out too!
All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter
Out now from Titan Books (via New South Books in Australia).
Source: I did receive a free e-copy of this one for review from Titan Books via Netgalley, however I also bought my own paperback copy as pictured. All views are my own.
Category: Gothic fantasy fiction.