Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Angela Slatter, the author of All The Murmuring Bones, specialises in writing about dark fantasy and horror. This is her first novel set in the same world as her mosaic collections Sourdough and Other Stories and The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, as well as the novella Of Sorrow and Such. This story will be followed in 2022 by another called Morwood.
In this 2021 offering, Slatter weaves in bits of tales she’d already made up for previous books. She wanted the stories she’d told in the past to form the mythology that the characters in All the Murmuring Bones grow up with and refer to all their lives as a sort of guide.
This is certainly true for Miren, granddaughter to the last true O’Malley. She grew up in the house, or fortified mansion, not so far from the granite cliffs of Hob’s Head, in the belief that her parents were dead. “They’ve been here a long time, the O’Malleys, and the truth is that no one knows where they were before” (9). They prospered but kept to themselves. Many rumours abounded about smuggling and piracy until their fortune faded.
According to the story, the O’Malley’s had salt water in their veins and had made a pact with the mer people in the past, which involved a sacrifice each generation.
When Miren’s grandfather died, her grandmother hatched a scheme to rebuild their status. This required Miren to marry a distant cousin, with money, who was only too willing to increase his own status with this match. Miren was not having any of this and when she found her grandmother murdered, she determined to run away. She had recently found letters that suggested that her parents were still alive and although this brought on feelings of abandonment, she set out to search for them.
The journey which unfolds, through Miren’s voice, is one of danger and encountering many creatures from myth such as corpsewights, and a “Kelpie, a waterhorse, a nuggle, a tangie; so many names for the same thing” (186). She had recognised them from stories she had been told as a child and she used this knowledge to protect herself or come to mutual agreements with each of these creatures she encountered on her way.
Eventually she finds where her parents lived but even here, she may not be safe. Her parents are away, the area is not producing, and people are not who they claim to be. Her cousin, who she had been determined not to marry, is not going to let an opportunity to increase his status slip through his fingers.
Angela Slatter has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, one Ditmar Award, and six Aurealis Awards for her writing in this genre and the brilliance of her penmanship is evidenced in this latest novel. Her work has been adapted for the screen and translated into Japanese, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, French, Italian, Chinese, Russian, and Bulgarian.
She has created a fascinating and exciting story which highlights several strong women, and the men who wish to dominate them as well as remastered folk law to create a story of dark family secrets, of magic and myth.
Some of the themes in this story are not relegated to the past but are in the foremost of today’s society. Slatter has taken feelings of loss and abandonment and bullying and combined them with honour and determination to create this wonderful story.
I quite enjoyed this unusual, interesting story.
All the Murmuring Bones
by A.G. Slatter
ISBN:9 781789 094343