Received to review via Netgalley
The Bone Orchard is a hell of a ride, and it doesn’t give you much to begin with. You get dropped into the world with a bunch of characters who know (or think they know) what they’re doing, what they need to do, and what they want to happen, leaving you picking up the history and details of the situation as you go along. It’s done pretty well, in that the information is there and if you pay attention you’ll get it… but it left me feeling pretty at sea for a while, and a little bit unsure about whether I was having fun.
Mind you, this book is pretty dark and some pretty dreadful things happen, so having fun is probably not the way to put it anyway. There’s a lot of trauma, and a lot of awful things happening — commentaries on trauma, and fault, and colonialism, and abuses of all kinds. The main characters are prostitutes, and one of them has been deliberately made (that’s a thing that can be done here) for the sole purpose of being abused and raped by one of the princes of the land they’re in.
So, yeah, it’s a difficult read at times, and the characters aren’t particularly likeable if that’s the kind of thing that you latch onto — though I did find myself rooting for them, particularly Pain, who has a good heart. Mostly they’re willing to lie and spy and do whatever they must to get their revenge.
I did enjoy the character of the Duchess, about whom I wouldn’t want to say too much and spoil the surprise. The character is very well handled, though, in my opinion.
In the end, it delivered on the promise, for me at least — the slow feed of the information about the world helps you really get hold of things and form your own opinions, not necessarily guided by those of the main characters, and things resolve in a satisfyingly dramatic way. Mueller stuck the landing on something that would’ve made me metaphorically chuck the book against the wall in disgust, too — not that I had much doubt about it, based on the way the characters were all positioned, but it was one potential answer to help unpick the knot, and I wasn’t gonna like it if it happened. (Without too many spoilers, I was afraid someone from Charm’s past would become her present, and I did not think they deserved it at all.)
All in all, I couldn’t have put it down without knowing the end, and then the end proved worth it.