Publication date: April 8th 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with t...

Review || All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter




Publication date: April 8th 2021

Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren's freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.
 

 
When I first read the blurb for All The Murmuring Bones, I thought "Gothic mermaids? Yes, please." However, the story that I got did not line up with the story I was expecting. There are three separate plotlines throughout. There's the history of the O'Malley family, the mystery of  Miren O'Malley's parentage, and last—but certainly, not least—a dash of the fantasy and the deal struck with the Mer. We get a taste of the former and the latter in the beginning as a third-person narrator matter-of-factly tells us just where the O'Malley's came from and where they have now landed. Generations of O'Malley's have had children and sacrificed them in exchange for wealth. 

"One for the house, one for the church, and one for the sea."

A once prosperous and highly regarded family, they now are down to Miren and her grandmother Aoife in a dilapidated shell of the once rich estate. Expected now to marry a very cruel man to rescue the estate, Miren yearns for her freedom and for answers and sets off to find them.
 
I'll admit I found the pacing a bit odd. The prologue immediately draws you in with its fairytale feel, then abruptly drops you into Miren's life where nothing is really happening. There are drips and drops of fantasy elements in the beginning like corpsewights seen by Miren on the way to town and a cursed blanket. Those elements kept me turning pages for more but honestly felt disconnected from the story. You almost forget at times the world-building isn't simply historical until the author casually mentions trolls or some other mythical creature.  Instead of immersing me into the story, these bits brought me out of it instead since I'd forgotten that this world had magic. 

Another unfortunate flaw is while the story is very character-driven, I didn't care enough for Miren to be interested in her escape and life on the road and almost DNF'd more than once. When the reader is supposed to care about the journey and less about the destination, it's difficult when the character is dull as dishwater. I wanted to see character growth but it never reached the pinnacle I expected.

There's no denying the gothic elements. There are not one but two decaying manors. Family secrets around every turn. There is beautiful prose throughout and some fantastic imagery. The author excels at lush descriptive language. There are so many moments of fairytale goodness but it's interspersed throughout and doesn't feel cohesive. However, the second half of the novel completely changed and has a entirely different feel. It's dark and enchanting and satisfied my dark fairytale-loving soul. 

If you want character-driven fiction, you'll probably love the journey with Miren. If you are reading this expecting a whole lot of mermaid fantasy action, I think you'll be disappointed. It's also touted as a very feminist novel but it almost goes to the other side. Men are vilified or disregarded, including a later romance for Miren. This is one of those reads that you'll feel strongly about. You're either going to love it or be bored to tears.