The Bone Queen – Alison Croggon

Hardcover
Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by Candlewick Press
Source: ARC from Publisher

If you have been a reader of The Book Wars for any period of time, you will know of my enduring love for the Pellinor series by Alison Croggon. I have read them multiple times and return to them again when I feel a need for brilliant storytelling and worldbuilding.

The Bone Queen functions as a prequel to the Pellinor series but it serves as a standalone. You do not need to know the events that unfold in the original quartet, actually, perhaps you ought not to know but your enjoyment might be doubled if you were a fan of the original and already familiar with Cadvan and the events that shaped Maerad’s (the protagonist of the Pellinor) series. On the other hand, if this serves as your first introduction to the world, more power to you because you have four more delicious books to devour set in the same world albeit at a later time.

I will be reviewing this as someone who was a fan of the original series.

Cadvan has always been an enigmatic character. He is flawed and not very nice all the time but he is always intriguing. We knew he had a story and in The Bone Queen we find out exactly what that story is. We also meet Maerad’s mother and I can’t tell you how much I loved being able to experience the character who was present throughout the Pellinor series in the memories, spoken and remembered, of her children and people who knew and loved her.

Alison’s writing is, as always, brilliant. Some of the characters in this book we merely get glimpses of in the original series. Dernhil, in particular, was an interesting character to revisit and know in greater detail. The interactions between Dernhil and Cadvan are gold. For instance:

“I’d rather you wanted to make love,’ said Dernhil, smiling crookedly. ‘That was my first thought, when you barged in here. I could easily refuse that.’
‘It’s a much lesser question,’ said Cadvan gravely. Then he gave Dernhil a sharp look. ‘Would you really refuse me?’
‘Probably.’ Dernhil’s eyes brimmed with sudden laughter. ‘Honestly, Cadvan, have you no grace? What a thing to ask!’
Cadvan’s rare smile smile leapt in his face. ‘It occurs to me that I might love you well enough.’
Dernhil looked briefly astonished. ‘And to think that all these years I thought you hated me!’ he said lightly.
‘You know I don’t hate you,’ said Cadvan. ‘I think you know I never did. Nor you me. And you, maybe more than anyone else I know, understands that there are many kinds of love.’ He gestured impatiently. ‘That’s not what I’m asking, anyway.’
‘I know.’ Dernhil met his gaze darkly. ‘Only you would demand such a thing, in the middle of the night, from me, of all people!’
‘Yes,’ said Cadvan, a soft mockery in his voice. ‘From you, of all people!’
Dernhil looked down at his hands and was silent for a time, thinking. Cadvan waited patiently, watching him. When Dernhil looked up, his face was open, and a smile lurked in the back of his eyes.
‘Perhaps I love you enough to scary you, Cadvan,’ he said. ‘And that is a great deal more than you deserve.’

 There is another scene in the book when a character is looking out the window and glimpses another world, another dimension. The scene is so evocative that I felt goosebumps and honestly speaking, that doesn’t happen to me all too often.

The book is a feast of the senses. If you have read the series, you will know the tragedies that await some of the characters. This adds a bittersweet aspect to the story that makes it all the more memorable.

Would I suggest you read this before or after you read the Pellinor series? I reckon after because this way you will come to the world prepared. Either way, The Bone Queen is lovely and if you value good storytelling and epic fantasy, you should give this one a whirl.

  • I’ve just requested The Naming on Interlibrary Loan. I keep hearing about this series from people whose opinions I trust, so I think I’d better read it!

    • It is very old school fantasy in its concern for the world and the lengthy descriptions. The worldbuilding is brilliant (it took Croggon ten years to write) and the story is so layered and complex and the ending is fantastic. I recommend it.