A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver’s daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves. There is an evil presence in the carver’s life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.
When the setting – in this case a small village along the shore of a Scottish loch – adds a layer of claustrophobia to the proceedings’ tension, it’s hard not to claim it as a favorite part of the story. And so it was for me. But it wasn’t just the descriptions of the landscape, vivid as they were, that won me over in regards to setting: Scotland’s folklore, intrinsic to the history, land and people, had something to do with it too. That this aspect of By These Ten Bones is in the forefront of my mind, however, is telling.
Maddie is a practical young woman; her grounded, responsible nature is likely indicative of the time. But here’s the thing about that: Throughout the entire novel I was held an arm’s length away, unable to connect with her on an emotional level. I appreciated her backbone, her loyalty to her parents, but it was a shallow kind of appreciation that leaves me saddened and selfishly wanting more at story’s end. I want to feel for the characters, I want them to wrap around my mind or my heart, but the characters I found in this book – Maddie, Carver, and the rest – did not. To balance the scales a bit, Maddie and Carver’s relationship wasn’t immediate or over the top, and that went a long way with me.
By These Ten Bones was a solid, quick read, and one that might be enjoyed even more by readers who favor strong settings, historical or folkloric detail, and/or a twist on a classic creature (werewolves) over character.
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