BOOK REPORT for Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Cover Story: Shattered

BFF Charm: Maybe

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

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Talky Talk: Second-Person Storytelling

Bonus Factors: Hints of Pride and Prejudice, Prehistorical Fiction, Love is Love

Relationship Status: See You in the History Books

Cover Story: Shattered

I really hope that wasn’t a family heirloom or anything of much value...

The Deal:

Kol and his clan lead a pretty standard existence. They hunt, they fish, they gather. They join together at meals to celebrate life, and they all work together to make their camp the best it can be. But there’s one problem: the distinct lack of available young women in the tribe. And Kol and his three younger brothers—the sons of the clan’s High Elder—are getting to an age where they need to think about the future of the clan (i.e., start having kids of their own).

When members of a tribe from the south arrive for a visit, Kol thinks the Divine has smiled upon his clan. But there’s a history between the two clans that Kol doesn’t know, and it might have far-reaching implications for the future of them all.

BFF Charm: Maybe

Kol’s a decent guy. He’s super loyal to his family and the extended family that makes up his clan. He’s a provider, and as the clan’s second-best hunter, he often brings home the (mammoth) bacon. He is willing to go the extra mile whenever he’s asked, and even on occasion beforehand. But being that he’s a guy who lives in the stone age and is content to wear pelts and go to the bathroom in a pit—I’m assuming; there wasn’t any mention of the facilities in the book—and I’m a modern woman who likes jeans and t-shirts and totally takes indoor plumbing for granted, I just don’t think we have enough in common to really make any sort of lasting or deep connection.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Kol’s relationship with one of the girls from the visiting tribe starts off super rocky, and it’s not until the end of the novel that they both realize that they’ve been being idiots. But even then, their chemistry isn’t ever all that palpable. It’s enemistry that just sort of fizzles into mutual appreciation.

Talky Talk: Second-Person Storytelling

Ivory and Bone is written in second-person narrative, which made for a bit of an unusual read; it can be jarring at times trying to remember who Kol’s referring to every time he says “you” or “your.” However, it makes sense for this book, since Julie Eshbaugh frames the whole novel as Kol telling a story to another character. Thankfully, Kol’s quite a reliable narrator with an excellent memory, so there’s very little wondering if the story he’s telling is actually true and/or missing important parts.

In addition to the unusual narrative style, Eshbaugh took a leap by setting Ivory and Bone in a prehistoric age. I struggled to fully buy into the life Kol and his fellow clanspeople led, specifically because all of the characters were extremely well-spoken and used language that wouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone who speaks English in the modern world. (Attempting to be true to the language of the era likely wouldn’t have been a better choice, however; I’m not familiar with how humans who hunted mammoths spoke, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make for the most engaging of books.) Peppered into the plot were reminders of the era, such as mammoth hunts, sleeping in huts made from bone and hides, the drinking of mead from cups made of animal skulls, etc., but there was still a large disconnect between the time period and the story.

Bonus Factor: Hints of Pride and Prejudice

Ivory and Bone is a semi-retelling of Pride and Prejudice if the Bennet sisters were stone age tribal brothers and Mr. Darcy a sullen young woman from another clan. I knew this going in, thanks to the first line of the book’s blurb (“A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.”), and I saw glimpses of the well-known story from time to time. It’s not heavy handed, but it was fun looking underneath the surface for the familiar themes.

Bonus Factor: Love is Love

One of the secondary characters in Ivory and Bone is a man who loves another man. This realization is made without fanfare, and Kol isn’t shocked to hear it:

Of course, I know that love is sometimes like that—some men love men, some women love women.

If only everyone saw love so simply.

Casting Call:

Booboo Stewart as Kol

Relationship Status: See You in the History Books

Well, Book, that was certainly a unique experience. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so intrigued by Stone Age humans and their interpersonal relationships. I was somewhat fascinated at the start of our date, but we didn’t get deep enough into the technical side of things to really hold my attention. Call me when you’ve published those research papers.

Ivory and Bone is available now.

Mandy lives in Austin, TX, where she's a technical writer by day and a pop culture junkie by night. When she's not ensconced in a book for Forever Young Adult, Mandy can be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.