Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 26/04/2022
Length: 336 pages
CW: mentions of sexual assault
After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.GoodReads
Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.
On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.
The opening of this novel immediately sets the scene and draws you into the world. From the first chapter we see how dark and mysterious this story will be, but also balanced with humour which I wasn’t expecting at all. Additionally, I really enjoyed how we jumped straight into Marra doing what she can to save her sister from Prince Vorling. I also liked how we got to see how Marra was pushed to this point by going back to her eldest sister’s engagement. This pacing was the perfect start to the novel, and it was a great way to show Marra’s development in a short space of time.
The characters in Nettle and Bone are an absolute delight and all complement each other well, even with all their eccentricities. My favourite of them all just has to be the ‘dust-wife’ and her demon chicken. I just liked her attitude towards everything, how nothing really surprises her anymore after all of her experiences. She’s calm and controlled, but also very happy to point out that what Marra wants is foolish and will likely lead to their deaths. I could have easily read a book all about her life up until it’s disrupted by Marra as she is such a fascinating character. The cynical pessimism of Marra and the ‘dust-wife’ is balanced nicely with the laid-back Fenris and the always positive Agnes. Even though this novel follows Marra as she tries to save her sister, Karina, and the guilt she feels towards Darnia, we see surprisingly little of the sisters and their relationship. However, Kingfisher makes those brief moments count as you really get a clear sense of them as characters and how nuanced their relationships are.
As much as I really liked the characters and the way they were written, at times it did feel as though there were too many of them, from the palaces to the convent, to the goblin market and back again we do meet a lot of characters and some I felt could have been combined, or removed, and this would have had a bigger impact. Additionally, although extremely well-paced at the beginning of the novel, I did have some minor issues as the novel progressed. I understood the urgency to rescue Karina as soon as possible, however, it did feel like we were jumping from one thing to the next very quickly with very little breathing space. I think this novel would have definitely benefitted from being a little longer to give some more time to particular locations as well as introduce some conflict, as it did feel as though everyone was very agreeable with the idea of killing a prince.
Despite these minor gripes, I still enjoyed this novel and found myself laughing on more than one occasion. Don’t let the humour fool you, though, there are still many dark and disturbing moments scattered through Marra’s journey with Bonedog by her side. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of this world as there is so much potential and so many characters that could very easily enchant readers for a whole novel. I highly recommend this novel for fantasy and dark fairytale fans!