I love, love, love the writing style. Wish there was a lot more by this author so I could do a deep dive. As others said, I felt the possibility of some of the elements towards the end were not set up earlier, but I just wanted to spend more time in the world and hear more descriptions of magic by this author. I cared about the characters and was happy to see my favorite minor character get some bigger moments later in the book. I got it as part of a bundle but it is totally worth the money. I have definitely paid four times or more for books I couldn't get past the first chapter. This one was hard to put down.
Books and Bone
A downloadable novel
A Librarians-and-Necromancy Fantasy Novel with Small Town Charm in a City of the Dead
The others believe in blood and bone. Ree believes in books.
She manages the libraries and draws maps for the denizens of her hometown, a secret society of necromancers hiding in a sprawling underground crypt. Though they look down on her for not practicing their craft, Ree has bigger ambitions than raising the dead. She’s going to resurrect therianthropy, the ancient magic of shapeshifting. Or at least -- she’ll do it if it really exists. And if she can find the books that prove it.
But Smythe, a chatty historian from the world above, stumbles into the crypt and takes a curse meant for Ree. Now she has to find a way to save him, keep the townsfolk off her back, and convince her necromancer parents that shapeshifting is a viable career path.
Ree is certain that if she and Smythe combine their scholarly skill sets, they’ll find the right books to solve their problems. But Ree’s search for power might put the entire town in danger, and her father and the other townsfolk want Smythe dead lest he reveal their home to a world that hates them.
A dark and sweet story with an asexual protagonist and a touch of romance.
(Length: 100,000 words, the equivalent of 422 paperback pages.)
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[Spoilers for the ending.]
I got this book from the Palestine aid bundle.
The premise was really interesting, be it the setting of the tomb or the concept of Ree. An archivist learning about ancient magic, and deciding to research and learn it, at the cost of being powerless in the meantime, in order not to be locked into the path of necromancy.
I liked the writing as well, as well as the humour, and it read easily. I spent the best part of one of my shifts at the library reding through it, after being intrigued by the premise of a librarian.
However and sadly, I can't really recommend the book without talking about its last portion, which felt like it really came out of the blue and was quite disappointing.
Long story short for people who don't want to be spoilered:
time travel that doesn't really feel well-integrated or meaningul, character who is seemingly all-powerful without much reason, and weak payoff to a major plot element.
At some point, Ree, to learn about the ancient magic she's been seeking for years, enters the territory of the Lich, a necromancer so old and powerful he's been stripped of humanity. And... the Lich, not managing to kill them with a curse, sends them back in time through a ritual.
I don't exactly understand how someone locked into necromancy managed to cast time travel. I might not be seeing a link that was explained and I missed. But time travel is something very powerful that can easily mess with the balance of a story.
Here, little is really done with it. It mostly serves as exposition of some background elements and to set up the next arc, where the protagonists have to undertake a dark ritual or die. You could say that Ree going to the past is what set someone practicing the magic she sought to write a book about it, but she already had found plenty of books about the subject, and it didn't feel like time travel was necessary for the plot.
Then, there is the problem of a character learning necromancy and being able after two months to do several really impressive, bordeline impossible feats, which is... half explained by the fact that "a necromancer who would also be a scholar and commit to learning would become the most powerful of all", and half explained by his drive to prove people who looked down on him wrong. The problem is that his amount of power doesn't feel earned. The character surpasses many powerful necromancers in two months, and, even starting as a strong magic user, it doesn't feel right in the context of the book.
Last... Ree continuously thinks about how people who looked down upon her for not learning necromancy will regret it when she learns this ancient magic and shows them how powerful she can me and make them fear her.
The problem with that is that the only use of that magic in the book (apart from a speed boost?) is to shapeshift into a crow. There is a discrepancy between the amount of hype and the end result. This might partly be a set-up for the sequel, where we'll see what's exactly so fearsome about therianthropy, but it feels pretty underwhelming in comparison to everything necromancy can do.
I'm sorry to have to be negative about this book. I really liked the setting, the writing, and the beginning, and I wish my review reflected that more instead of talking about the ending. If you're looking for something light with likeable characters and can disregard (or are not bothered by) the points I mentioned, go for it.
Note:may contain spoilers
It's a bit late...I've finished the book 3 months ago.
I came across the novel in 2019 Halloween sale and somehow put it aside.In Apr.2020 I claimed it in Distraction Sale and somehow put it aside again...In Jan.2021 I picked it up again,mainly for fun.However,when I started reading this novel,to be honest I didn't understand the first few chapters...As an English learner,my knowledge and vocabulary is limited and understanding the general underground city setting is not easy.I remembered reading chapter one 3-4 times and even reading chapter one again after finishing chapter three.However,as I slowly progressed in reading,I came to understood the whole thing and the reading speed went up.When I reached chapter eight or so,I could read at a normal speed.There's still one mistake,though--I had thought Morrin was the name of Ree's mother until I finished reading nearly 2/3 of the book.
At first I thought the story was just about Ree rescuing Smythe--but not exactly.The plot is close together,full of twists and turns.For example,although coming back to the past is not rare in novels,I think in this novel you will not expect it.The black oath is more impressive--when I thought it would influence the plot,it didn't;when I thought it would not influence the plot anymore it came up again.
The characters are also amazing.Ree and Smythe's reaction to the oath is heroic. Larry makes me feel sympathetic.Lich is intelligent while sly.The relationship between Ree and Usther makes me think of what true friendship is.
To sum up,it is a great novel.Keep up the good work!Looking forward to tombtown book 2.
This book was delightful!! The entire underground city was so fun to read about and all the characters Ree ran into were amazing, it really felt like a (un)living town. Like other comments have said, cozy and fun. And the relationship between Ree and Smythe was so well written, I loved it. I'm so glad I picked it up in my bundle! Will definitely buy more things the author wrote!
Got this one with the Indie bundle for Palestinian Aid. Started reading it because, well, necromancy is fun! Okay, the ending was a bit rushed, but the rest is just so good it doesn't matter. The underground necromantic city is such an wounderous setting and the lore further shapes the world without weighting down the action. A lot of modern novels simply describes the events with as much engagement as a weather forecaster, but here, the language is alive and inventive without being showy. The story gave me a bit of a Discworld vibe; cozy and fun, but with a more serious core.
I came across this book because it was included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality and greatly enjoyed reading it. It was really hard to put away!
Tombtown, its inhabitants and history are quite an interesting take on places and societies you might encounter in other fantasy fiction. I also appreciated how you approached any topic that yelled "Young Adult Fiction".
I'm looking forward to getting the sequel! Until then, I'm going to check out the short stories set in Tombtown.
Thank you for writing this book and contributing it to the Bundle.
It was my pleasure to contribute it to the Bundle. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and so grateful for this lovely comment! It has honestly made me day. :)
I got this book with the BLM package - I didn't even know itch had books. but WOW. I ADORED this! Ree is a fantastic character! Larry a wonderful pest - the world was interesting, fleshed out (hah) with fascinating journal entries between chapters. I'd love to know more about Ree's life after the end of the book, if you ever intend on doing a sequel!
Thank you so much! Oh, I'm DELIGHTED you enjoyed it -- that's the thing that keeps me writing. I am so grateful to you for this kind comment.
And yes, I am actually writing the sequel right now! Fingers-crossed it will be out this year but ... you know, 2020.
If you'd like more in the mean time, there are a few short stories set in this world, including FAMILIAR & FLAME, which is a novelette following Usther post-BOOKS & BONE, and in which Ree appears again.
Anyway! Thank you for reading it! And thank you for supporting the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality.