Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 26th, 2022
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thank you to Titan Books for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley – views remain my own!
This is the first novel I’ve read by T. Kingfisher, and that is a damn shame, because really I should have been reading her work for years, and now I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!
Marra is the third born daughter of a king. When her oldest sister marries a prince and dies shortly after, Marra is sent to a convent when the prince remarries – this time, his bride is Marra’s other sister, the middle daughter. Marra, shy and sheltered, soon realises something isn’t right – her sister seems forever pregnant, and bruises mark her skin. Marra knows that to save her sister, she has to do something drastic. She seeks out a dust-wife who sets her three impossible tasks; sew a cloak of nettles, build a dog of bones, and capture moonlight in a jar. With the tasks completed, Marra and the dust-wife set out on their journey, with a demon possessed chicken, but there are others they need.
The book opens with Marra creating the dog, and he soon becomes a close companion. We move seamlessly between the past and present day, seeing how Marra ended up seeking the dust-wife’s help to kill the prince, before we are set firmly on the path and follow Marra and the dust-wife as they enlist others and work out how, exactly, they’ll get close enough to perform the deed – let alone how they’ll actually do it.
This world comes vividly alive with Kingfisher’s excellent prose, without it ever feeling like it gets bogged down in too much detail. She keeps a tight hold on the POV, meaning everything is filtered through the sheltered Marra’s eyes, allowing us to learn about the politics and dangers presented by this world as Marra does.
The characters are excellent – Marra really grows throughout, and her determination carries her through. The dust-wife has shades of Granny Weatherwax, the chicken and dog are unusual and delightful, Fenris is a disgraced knight who has some really funny lines, and we even get a fairy godmother joining in on the quest, too.
There’s a dark element to it, too, melding horror with fantasy and fairy tales and giving it an almost retelling feeling, too. This is a really great fantasy novel, and if you like your fantasy on the darker side with characters fighting back against a dark, dangerous, patriarchal world where a prince can get away with anything, definitely pick up Nettle & Bone.