Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
April 26, 2022, by Tor Books
Review by Angela
As much as I adore this author’s romantic fantasies, and I absolutely do, sometimes I actually prefer her horror novels. If you haven’t read The Hollow Places and The Twisted Ones, you should definitely get on that.
This is very much a novel in two parts. The beginning introduces our main protagonist and tells the story of how she came to be on the perilous mission she is currently undertaking. And the second part is her gathering a small group of allies on her quest to kill a king and rescue her sister.
Marra is the princess in a faraway kingdom, whose only real resource is their proximity to a deep harbor between two much bigger kingdoms, who are also rivals. Her older sister is married off to the prince in one of those kingdoms and there is great pomp and circumstance when she leaves to start her new life. There is only sadness when her body comes back home shortly afterward, with the rumor of a mysterious fall. Then Marra’s other sister is married off to the same prince and leaves to do her duty. Shy, reserved Marra is shipped off to a convent and is more than happy to spend her days gardening, knitting, and staying out of the royal life.
Then she starts to slowly realize exactly what is going on behind the castle walls between her sister and the evil prince and she sets out to rescue her and stop the prince from killing another one of her sisters.
This book starts out with Marra in a bone patch, slowly knitting those bones together to form the shape of a dog. She has been given three impossible tasks by a powerful gravewitch, and she is bound and determined to get them done. When she breathes life into the bone-dog, she begins her journey back to the dust-wife to find out how she can complete her deadly goal.
The scenes go back and forth of Marra on her current trek, to her life as a royal princess, then later as she settles into convent life and only makes appearances in times of importance. Her character growth from sheltered youngest sister to woman on a quest is slow, but I enjoyed this character quite a bit. She is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save a sister who wasn’t really all that nice to her because it is the right thing to do.
She is joined on her journey by several amusing characters. The dust-wife and her demonic-possessed chicken, a knight rescued from the goblin market, and a reluctant fairy godmother who isn’t really in control of all of her gifts. They make an amusing rescue party. This author sprinkles in just enough wit and snappy dialogue to break up the dark and sinister themes throughout the book. There is also a sweet, low-key romance that will have fans of this author’s fantasy romances happy.
The climax and conclusion were well done and I was satisfied at where it left all of our wonderful characters. T. Kingfisher should be an author on everyone’s fantasy must read lists. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Final grade- B