Author, Mary Holland, sent me a copy of her novel The Bone Road. I’ve included both of the covers I’ve come across simply because I like them both. But I’m fairly sure the second is the correct and current cover.
Description from Goodreads:
A divvy, a dying woman, and a promise
Rhona has the divvy gift; with only a touch she can tell if a baby will be fertile or a sterile Shun, destined to be killed or outcast. The people of the Deom depend on the divvys for survival, but it is a hard and brutal gift. As long as Rhona’s mother was alive, Rhona had followed the old ways, but now her mother is dead and Rhona is free to live her own life. She has one last obligation to fulfill: honor her mother’s dying wish to find a woman named Selina and offer her help.
Rhona has no idea who Selina is, but the best way to find anyone on Deo is to travel the Bone Road, the trade highway paved with the remains of their ancestors. And follow it Rhona does, accompanied by her young son Jak, straight into a twisted conspiracy of vengeance, death, rebirth, and the mystery of the Riders, men who never die and are bent on closing the Bone Road forever.
It’s been a while since I really mourned the end of a book, but The Bone Road is one that I will. I don’t want it to be over yet, though I’m so glad it ends. It is a nice, tightly wrapped stand alone book. Do those seem to be getting rarer these days, or is it just me? Either way, I’ve found a new author to follow. Holland’s writing is wonderful. The world-building is elaborate and the characters are extremely fleshed out. I absolutely loved, loved, loved, loved Jak and Matteo—wonderful male characterisations. Rhona and Ani are strong, self-assured women. In fact, I think Rhona is my new role model. Her steadfast determination do the right things while refusing to succumb to social pressures was both honourable and a little enviable.
This is fantasy for grown-ups. Now, it’s not light fiction. There are some real social injustices to be considered here. The classification of people into Wid, Zeosil and Shun is very reminiscent of a caste system and those in the lower tiers fair poorly. The reader is forced to face some of humanities crueler tendencies, but it is worth it because you also get to cheer for those fighting the good fight. I’m always a little wary of fantasy books in which characters are trying to change society for the better. Experience has taught me that what this ends up really being is an attempt to remake their fictional world into a moral mirror of the West. I was thoroughly pleased and immensely satisfied to find that Holland created a world and characters with moral quandaries different from our own, in which right and wrong were still identifiable to the reader, and was then willing to leave them alone.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. There is a generational shift in the middle and it slows down considerably for a little while while the reader gets acquainted to the new main characters. But it picks back up after 2-3 chapters and keeps the pace brisk after that. I have no hesitation about recommending this book. It’s fabulous.