Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.
This is one of those cases that when I got this book in my September Owl Crate I hadn’t really heard of it. Because of how busy my life was at the time I didn’t even have a chance to read the blurb on the cover or on Goodreads, it just went on my TBR. It sat there until a few weeks ago when I grabbed it for a 77 Saturday over on the Aus YA Bloggers blog.
Even then I didn’t really read the blurb, I’m not sure why, but I did get completely absorbed into the story from that post, it promptly went to the top off my TBR. All of this is to say that I was completely taken by surprise to find out that this book is a Black Cauldron retelling. I think I’m one of the few people who really enjoyed the Disney movie The Black Cauldon as a child so this was absolutely a good thing.
I loved the character ARC’s here, especially Ryn’s as she slowly softens and lets Ellis into her bubble, learns to re-evaluate what she thinks about the world and finds answers to some of her questions. This book was less of the horror tale that I was expecting from a cover with a flowery skull on the front cover and more a deep fantasy. The story is helped along by a goat sidekick that at times entirely steals the show.
All this said I do have a few issues with the book, the main one being a lack of diversity, all characters bar one are assumed to be white, which while this takes place in a fantasy Wales, sort of makes sense. I still would have liked to see more effort made especially as it is a fantasy. There is a tokenist nod towards a character being queer but it’s just that, a mention, with no actual effort made to show this. In Ellis though we do get a bit of disability rep as he has an injury from childhood and chronic pain that is featured with that.
Overall it is a fun retelling of a classic welsh story that has many fascinating features. The Welsh mythology is well woven and explained along the way without it feeling too heavy or like a lesson. I do wish there was a bit more diversity and the main villain is a bit of a washout, but these don’t take away from the story too heavily.
I give The Bone Houses 4 out of 5 stars.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones was published 24th September 2019 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers. You can purchase your own copy at Mighty Ape, Whitcoulls, Booktopia, or wherever you like to purchase books.