Book review: dark family history collides with gothic fantasy in AG Slatter’s All The Murmuring Bones


Long ago, the O’Malleys thrived, making a deal with the sea to secure their ships as they made their fortune. But the O’Malleys have broken their promise, and Mirin’s grandmother, Aoife, must find a new way to save the family.

Sacrificing one child of each generation to the sea in return for their continued survival, Aoife, it seems, is ready to revive the O’Malley tradition. But it’s not the creatures of the deep that she’ll appease, and the threat to Mirin’s safety is far more human.

After discovering letters that point to answers about her past and a potential outcome to her grandmother’s shenanigans, Mirin runs away. The letters mentioned a place called Blackwater, the last known location of his parents, and it will take more than Aoife and a few angry seas to stop Mirin from making his way there.

Gothic fairy tale All the whispering bones is the last of AG Slatter (otherwise called Angela Slatter), living in the same world as his acclaimed Leaven and other stories and The Bitterwood Bible. The prose is rich, the locations haunting, and Mirin is, frankly, phenomenal.

Suspicious and suspicious, but desperate to be loved and to belong; she has all the cunning and quick-wittedness of the O’Malleys, combined with a gentleness and an empathetic nature that fuels, rather than tarnishes, her need to rebel. If she had only cold ambition, staying behind and following her grandmother’s plans would be easy. But then, of course, there would be no story, and Mirin’s fascinating and thrilling journey from Hobs Hallow to Blackwater begins.

That said, it’s not all family drama in All the whispering bones – although it is certainly not a shortage. Supernatural elements, including the sea and a particularly intriguing kelpie, are seamlessly integrated into Slatter’s prose, firmly anchoring them in the world Slatter created. It’s normal here, even expected, and that fluidity is refreshing as so many novels rely instead on the wonder and surprise of it all.

Add to that all the attributes of gothic and traditional sensational novels – crumbling estates, alluring assassins, and supposed identities to name a few – and All the whispering bones becomes a glorious melting pot of twisted genres, themes and plot points.

Atmospheric, engaging and overflowing with stories and subplots, All the whispering bones made a fantastic read. The pace is a bit off-beat at times, but that’s a minor gripe in a lush romance that grabs and draws you – much like a vengeful mercenary – right off the bat.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

AG Slatter’s All the whispering bones is now available, available however Random penguin house. Do you take a copy of Booktopia HERE.


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