Book Review: Isle of Bones
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
Zan Safra once again demonstrates her fantastical worldbuilding abilities with this worthy follow-up to the grotesque, gothic Children of the Night.
“The dead don’t return as spirits, they return with fangs.” Or do they?
Isle of Bones is the seductively spooky sequel to Children of the Night. The first book in the series spends much of its time building up the world of a fictional Venice that is divided into Naturals and Unnaturals, humans who have been untouched versus those who have been tested on and violently transformed by Alchemists.
This follow-up finds comfort in its pre-established world and spends its time exploring deeper into the psyche of its main characters. Where Children of the Night leans into the grotesque imagery to stir up a sense of horror in its readers, Isle of Bones leans into haunting undertones to invoke a sense of quiet terror.
“Ayanda requires the presence of the Dead to gain strength enough to fight, but those creatures were entirely different. Without vampires nearby, Ayanda can fight no better than any Natural girl.”
Naturals and Unnaturals have only ever seen eye to eye on one thing: their fear of vampires. A small group led by Ayanda Draculesti—a girl who possesses the same powers as vampires when she is in close proximity to them—is able to vanquish the Risen Dead. Only two weeks after fighting for their lives against the vampires, the ragtag group of Unnaturals hope to re-establish a sense of normalcy by dressing up, disguising themselves as Naturals, and going to see an opera. Normalcy is far beyond their reach, as is made apparent when, on their way to the opera, they are interrupted by hauntingly menacing creatures who look like distorted Naturals.
“Her voice falls to a whisper, ‘No one goes to the island. Fishermen won’t cast their nets near it. They’re afraid of catching bones,’ she says. It’s said Poveglia is the most haunted place on the Continent.’”
Ayanda and her friends Yurei, Belle, and Jette are up against an evil perhaps even more dangerous that vampires. There are superstitions about the Isle of Bones, that there were ghosts that drove the Naturals mad.These ghosts, these wraiths, are feared even by vampires. They seem to conjure up feelings of guilt within the main characters. What is frightening in this book is not so much the monsters the main characters are up against but the fears each character possesses subconsciously.
“I close my eyes and search within my heart, for the dark stain I try never to think of. But I’ve no choice.”
With each chapter narrated by a different character, we the readers are able to get a glimpse into what scares each of the characters. We are given a chance to see how the powers that were forced upon them affect them differently. This book is ultimately about vulnerability and coming to terms with all the factors that go into what make up who we are now. I would gladly recommend this book and its predecessor to young adult audiences who are looking to dive deeper into the worlds offered in the gothic fiction genre.
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Gothic
Print Length: 122 pages
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