All The Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter
Titan, pb, £8.27
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Born Miren Elliot but raised as Miren O’Malley by her grandparents, a young girl grows up secluded in a grand house slowly falling into ruin. She lives off the stories that her grandmother tells her and is taught that the O’Malley name and reputation is important above all else. The stories tell of what her ancestors have given to protect the family legacy, their children to be exact; one in each generation, given as a sacrifice to the sea to protect the family’s fortunes. When Miren’s grandfather dies, her quiet life at Hob’s Hollow begins to unravel. The family fortunes are threatened by the lack of children to sacrifice, and her grandmother has big plans on how Miren can help save them. But Miren’s mother was rebellious and, like her mother before her, Miren has different ideas…
My favourite part of this book is the stories that Miren shares. Each one is a dark and magical spark within the book. However, it is the tempting lure of the truth hidden within them that really makes the stories stand out. Are they fact or fiction, history or myth, truth or lies? I love how Miren views the stories as an essential part of her heritage, even when she doesn’t believe they are real, and how she clings to them for comfort despite their dark themes. They also serve as a connection between Miren and her mother that is not found anywhere else in the book, further demonstrating their potency and importance.
The elements of real magic that Miren comes across are thrown in so casually and without any question that they belong there. Yet, there is never any accounting of what magic exists in the book’s world. Some magic is to be feared, some to be welcomed, and some seems to be both welcome and feared. This makes for an enticing setting where the reader is prepared to expect anything and nothing at the same time.
As for the characters, they each have their own mystery and magic. Nobody is quite what they seem at first, and all have hidden depths, for better or for worse. Miren’s grandmother, Aoife, is a particularly powerful character. We are made to pity her even as we hate her. Her influence, dark as it might have been, empowers Miren to do what needs to be done. Such a complicated relationship serves as an interesting foundation for a fascinating book.
It is the mystery and the magic of this book that pulls you in. The two are interwoven, and they lead the narrative through a maze of challenges and discoveries as Miren searches for the truth about her family. In the end, Miren manages to banish both the mystery and the magic, removing their influences over her and allowing her to make her own choices going forward.