“There’s an old woman, though, with plans and plots of long gestation; and there’s the sea, which will have her due, come hell or high water; and there are secrets and lies which never stay buried forever.”
For generation upon generation, the O’Malley family has prospered in their sprawling mansion on the granite cliffs of Hob’s Head. Their dynasty was borne of the sea: their history is murky (not by the whim of chance), and their fortune came at a price: an agreement with the Mer that, in return for the family’s prosperity and safety on the water, an O’Malley child of every generation would be sacrificed to the sea.
Time moves on, and promises are neglected. When Miren is born, she is the last of her line. Abandoned by her parents, and raised by her grandparents in the decaying mansion, she plans to leave Hob’s Hallow and let the O’Malley name die with her. Her grandmother, Aoife, has other ideas, however: she plans to marry Miren off, and use her children to reinstate the compact with the Mer. The O’Malleys will regain what is rightfully theirs, whether Miren agrees or not.
All the Murmuring Bones is a gothic fairy tale of dark covenants and magic, secrets, and betrayal. Miren’s attempt to escape the life planned for her reveals creatures from a rich tapestry of folklores, unlikely allies, and undeserved enemies.
The story gets off to quite an atmospheric but slow start, but does improve slightly once we get into the meat of the story. I found it to be over-long: the combination of the pace and the sheer level of detail just made the plot drag, and there are whole stretches of narrative where nothing happens, all described in painstaking detail. I found the depth of characterisation to be off, too. Some relatively minor characters are given great detail, but some main characters are left as two-dimensional ciphers.
With more finesse and heavier editing, I think this could have been a great story. Sadly, as it is, it just didn’t hit the spot for me.
I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication date: 9th March 2021