Ever since the dead have started coming back to life, gravedigger Ryn has been out of work.
Desperate to protect her younger siblings and clear her family’s debts to a greedy landlord, Ryn connects with Ellis, a lost mapmaker who will pay her to guide him into the mountains. Raised in Caer Aberhen after being found in the woods by a prince, Ellis now searches for any trace of his parents, though chronic shoulder pain from a mysterious injury slows him down. Through a forbidden forest teeming with monsters, together they look for a mythical cauldron that will end the curse of the risen dead. Lloyd-Jones (The Hearts We Sold, 2017, etc.) gruesomely describes the undead, called bone houses, with their rotting flesh and unseeing eye sockets—yet the mood never gets too dark thanks to a tenacious and strangely adorable undead goat along with some mild romantic tension. The journey is slow to get started, the numerous attacks and fight scenes with bone houses grow tedious, and the twists are predictable, but nonetheless this Welsh-inspired story is haunting and compelling. Apart from a dark-skinned villager depicted as an outsider, all characters are presumed white.
A stand-alone dark fantasy that readers will want to sink their teeth into despite its flaws. (Fantasy. 14-18)