“Book Review: The Crown of Bones”
Reviewed by Rosa Kumar
A fruitless quest, a deadly fog, and bones being left behind
Imagine a fantasy novel that combines the sociopolitical intensity of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games with the creepy imagery of the original Grimm’s fairy tales. Now stop imagining. Rosalyn Briar’s The Crown of Bones is a tantalizing mix of the two styles, and it’s exactly the page-turning escapist novel I needed to kick off 2021.
Our spunky redheaded protagonist Gisela cleans manors, sells produce at the market, and manages the caretaking of her sister who suffers from a developmental disorder, all while warding off handsy obnoxious suitors and managing an alcoholic father. If that isn’t enough on her plate, she is constantly badgered by her dead brother’s gorgeous best friend Brahm. And not to mention that she has no money…and she’s still a virgin.
“The woman steps towards the Altar…She allows her toddler to sacrifice an egg. I rub my temples at the sight. How many more of my customers will waste my goods on a fairy tale goddess?” (3)
At 18, she is also a potential Offering to the local Goddess Bergot; her entire town is obsessively pious toward Bergot, but Gisela finds the piety ridiculous and wasteful. This isn’t something on her radar though, given that she’s the sole provider for her family.
But then she is Chosen.
Gisela knows it’s not a coincidence that the day before she becomes an Offering, Brahm is also chosen, and together with other Offerings, they have to navigate the deadly fog and horrifying fairy tales of the foggy mountains. They are searching for Bergot’s mythical crown. They don’t know what it looks like or where it is, just that every year eight Offerings go on this quest, and every year not a single one returns.
“The white smoke creeps all around. On the track leading into the dim cavern sits six rusty carts. And seven of us” (54).
Dark fairy tale retellings are one hell of a way to spend a cold winter night. Rosalyn Briar does not shy away from the gruesome authenticity of the original German stories either. But my favorite part of reading this has got to be the imagery; I vividly picture the moving deadly fog and all the horrible little fairy tale creatures. Briar’s writing is absorbing and fast-paced, with adventures in every chapter.
Another aspect that keeps us going is the competitiveness between the Offerings; it’s very much a reminder of The Hunger Games and their desperate need to survive, but lucky for us, it’s different enough to stand out.
A word of warning: there is plenty going on fairy-tale-wise within the novel, but it does ultimately read as a romance which is difficult to tell from the blurb; expect frequent scenes of romantic intensity along with the expected deadly quests, dark twists, and headstrong characters. If you’re down for all that, you’ll be just as enthralled as I was.
Category: Dark Fantasy
Paperback: 250 pages
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