All the Murmuring Bones by A. G. Slatter is a dark tale that weaves together fairy tales, mythology, lore, refreshing takes on Gothic tropes, and a strong heroine to die for… literally. It is set in a fictional time and place with elements similar to 18th century Europe, but in this world there are creatures of myth and magic such as corpsewights, kelpies, mer, ghosts, werewolves. But these creatures are increasingly driven to the wild places as the ‘godhounds’ of the church eliminate anything that does not bow to them. Among the un-bowing are the O’Malleys, an old family that once prospered enormously from the bounty of the sea, manifesting in a huge mansion and estate – Hob’s Hallow – perched above the ocean some distance from the port city of Breakwater. But the O’Malley empire has declined in recent generations, leaving a crumbling mansion, a horde of lesser O’Malleys far-removed from the core bloodline, and 18-year-old Miren O’Malley, who lives at Hob’s Hallow with her scheming matriarch of a grandmother, a recently deceased grandfather, and a mounting pile of debts they can never hope to pay. The book begins with the funeral of Miren’s grandfather, shortly after which, with her only obstacle now buried in the freezing crypt under their home, Miren’s grandmother begins to put into place her scheme to restore the O’Malleys to their former glory by marrying Miren off to her unpleasant but well-heeled cousin, Aiden.

This book is a brilliant dark Gothic fairy tale. The protagonist is a murderous teen heroine who is coming of age but will bow to no man; not one but two crumbling, sinister mansions on the edges of malevolent bodies of water; assassins, automatons and animated corpses; riddles posed by malicious ghosts and deals struck with water deities; betrayals and redemption; defiance and rebellion. And yet, somehow Slatter manages to inject moments of such humanity and empathy that I never saw any of the characters as purely good or evil. Even the disgusting, power-hungry Aiden has a backstory full of reasons why he acts the way he does. Miren is betrayed by people she thought of as allies more than once, but then she learns of the larger deceptions that put her once-allies in those positions and she realises that she is not the only one being manipulated; she forgives her enemies on more than one occasion and it is so beautiful and touching that you can forget you’re in the middle of a murderous fairytale.

I’d recommend this book to lovers of dark fantasy, re-written mythology and fairy tales, resourceful but bloodthirsty teen heroines, and sinister mysteries. The follow up, not a direct sequel but set in the same world and a similar time, is due out next year!

I was provided a free copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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