Croggon takes readers back 50 years before the four original books in her Pellinor series for this prequel about a malevolent spirit breaking into the World.
Cadvan, a mentor in the Books of Pellinor, is much younger here. He’s living in a mining village, having been exiled from Barding for an act born of arrogant, immature jealousy: he summoned a Revenant, the titular Bone Queen, with sorcery and lost control of her. An arduous banishment seemed to cast her out, but she merely split apart, like Mercury—with some parts finding their ways inside people. The protagonists—Cadvan; his old peer, Dernhil; their mentor, Nelac; and Selmana, a probably teenage Minor Bard and apprentice to the humors of earth, metal, and stone—are given deeply humane characterizations and complex interpersonal histories. Together they tackle the cryptic, soul-breaking task of suppressing the Bone Queen. The Dark threatens; the “tissue between the Circles is broken,” opening ways for evil to seep through; and the Bone Queen stalks Selmana with a “suffocating pall of malice.” Croggon’s humbly exquisite prose weaves splendor into everything, from spells of magery and the frightening, otherworldly realm that the protagonists must tread to the regular World’s aesthetic beauty and human emotion (grief, shame, terror, trauma). No pain is romanticized. Either direction of reading—this first, or the original quartet first—will hold beauty. The protagonists here (unlike in the earlier books) are white.
Magnificent yet intimate, dark yet tender. (Fantasy. 14-adult)