Shocking and gripping from the get-go, this tightly wound tale of gods and monsters had me hooked from the opening pages. The writing veers from slick, Tarantino-style dialogue and rapid narrative to surreal, bewildering sequences, which gradually coalesce into an ambitious plot involving ancient deities, their appalling servants, demons of the abyss and the apocalypse itself. In the midst of all this we meet a father and daughter; no ordinary parent and child. They see dead people… among other things, and they’re more than capable of standing up to an insane god.
Yet ‘Blood and Bone’ tells more than a simple tale of confrontation and magical battle. Much as I would normally shy away from any ‘coming of age’ story, by the time I realised that the teenage girl was undergoing her transition to become her adult self, I was totally sucked in by the narrative force of the story – and the sheer audacity fuelling her metamorphosis. These aren’t flimsy, stereotypical tropes of fantasy fiction; they have the feel of real (if extremely weird) people. We’re not weighed down by acres of exposition or establishing back=story, we simply join the cast of characters at a pivotal point in their mutual life stories. This is a deceptively slim novel – I consumed it in a short afternoon – but it’s a masterful demonstration of less being more.
Amid the scenes of brutal, blood soaked carnage and sexual rampage (if books had rating then this would definitely be an R/X), there’s a truly inventive story-teller at work, weaving a new mythology from strands of age-old stories. If the Corinthian ever gave you the screaming heebie-jeebies, then there’s plenty in here to find delightfully appalling… and at the same time, we meet a range of compelling creations, all-new characters who delight and appal in equal measure. Throughout, the writing is razor-sharp and wielded like a deadly weapon; there’s no hackneyed clichés in these pages, but plenty of wince-inducing visualisations of abominations.
The final payoff is a treat. Ditto the epilogue. And the special guest appearance by Charon was a rare delight, too. ‘Blood and Bone’ is a near-note-perfect adult fable; a squealing, squirming blood-black nightmare with a solid core of potential redemption. Not for the squeamish, but oh-so satisfying.. and more than good enough for me to immediately order more from this author.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Masters of Blood and Bone by Craig Saunders is available as an ebook