Title: Bone Weaver
Author: Aden Polydoros
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 20th, 2022 (Inkyard Press)
Synopsis: The Kosa empire roils in tension, on the verge of being torn apart by a proletarian revolution between magic-endowed elites and the superstitious lower class, but seventeen-year-old Toma lives blissfully disconnected from the conflict in the empire with her adoptive family of benevolent undead.
When she meets Vanya, a charming commoner branded as a witch by his own neighbors, and the dethroned Tsar Mikhail himself, the unlikely trio bonds over trying to restore Mikhail’s magic and protect the empire from the revolutionary leader, Koschei, whose forces have stolen the castle. Vanya has his magic, and Mikhail has his title, but if Toma can’t dig deep and find her power in time, all of their lives will be at Koschei’s mercy.
Thank you to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co. BYR, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Kosa Empire is embroiled in a civil war as the Tsar has been dethroned and has had his magic stolen and a power struggle is ongoing between the magic wielding elite and the commoners. Seventeen year old Toma lives on the edge of the empire with her family of undead, completely unaware of the conflict until one day, it lands right on her doorstep in the form of Mikhail, the tsar in exile. His pursuers are not far behind, and when they end up capturing Toma’s sister to bring back to the revolutionary leader, Toma and Mikhail set out – Toma to get her sister back and Mikhail to regain his empire and magic. On the way, they encounter a commoner, Vanya, who has magical powers, but is labelled a witch by his neighbors and he joins them on their journey as they struggle to make their way across a war torn, dangerous land. But Toma begins to realize she might have magic of her own, and she will need to figure out how to use it before it’s too late.
I read The City Beautiful last year and loved both the concept and the author’s writing style so I was eagerly waiting for their next book. The premise of this book is what made me pick it up, even if necromancy magic isn’t my favorite. It takes the concept of Imperial Russian history and adds a fantasy element with the elite nobility who have magic, the magic-less but very superstitious commoners and anyone else who is found to have magic is persecuted as a witch. On top of this, when people die in this world, they may come back as different forms of undead depending on the manner of death. A lot of Slavic folklore is included and many of the monsters make an appearance. I’ve only come across this folklore in passing before, so I enjoyed learning more about it and was very thankful for the glossary at the end. The world building was amazing and we discover the Kosa Empire through Toma’s eyes as she sees the world outside her isolated home for the first time, both the good, like the many ethnicities and cultures, and the bad, primarily the ongoing civil war that is drawing lines between different groups of society.
One of the main arcs of the story was Toma’s quest to find her sister, but also find her identity and regain her lost memories, and I thought this was very well done. On the downside, the characters largely fell flat for me and I couldn’t connect to them at all – there wasn’t enough emotional depth. The pacing was quite choppy and while it started off strong, it began to drag a lot in the middle. The magic system, particularly the abilities Toma has and the Unclean Force, were not elaborated on nearly enough either.
As for the ending, Toma’s arc was somewhat resolved and it was though a little predictable, it was still good. However, it leaves a lot of things up in the air for Mikhail and Vanya regarding how the war ends and how Vanya figures out his new state of being, so the story felt somewhat incomplete to me in that aspect. Overall, this story had a lot of potential, but the execution wasn’t to my taste and the book didn’t really work for me. However, if the plot appeals to you, I would definitely recommend trying it out, especially for younger YA readers – it would be a great one for Halloween TBRs!
Bone Weaver releases on September 20th, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!