Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Crier’s Moon came into my life by way of Owlcrate, as many of the most beautiful books in my collection do, and this one was no different. The custom cover and sprayed page edges were gorgeous, as was the entire theme of the box, Full Moon Magic.

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Two super-strong young warrior women who will fight for each other to the death? Mysterious and binding love spells? Moon magic and uninhibited ghosts? Everything about this book screamed for my attention and I couldn’t wait to become engrossed in it. 

Despite being best friends, Sabine and Ailesse couldn’t be more different. Ailesse is the daughter of their matriarch and is eager to prove she is ready to take her next steps. Sabine is tender-hearted and can’t bear to perform the prerequisite ritual(s) needed to truly be a Leuresse – which involves killing three animals for their strengths and, inevitably, her one true love (OTL) as a sign of devotion and sacrifice to the gods. Sabine helps Ailesse and supports her desire to complete her mission, but can’t bring herself to do the rituals for her own gain.

As for Bastian, he is out to exact revenge for the murder of his father by killing the Leuresse, aided by his two best friends, Jules and Marcel, whose own father was also brought to his demise by a Leuresse. The three grew up on the streets together, and are out for vengeance. Ailesse quickly becomes their target, as she is the first Leuresse they’ve ever spotted while scouting. 

There is a catch though- Ailesse began her ritual, so what if Bastian truly is Ailesse’s OTL? Can he bring himself to kill her, after all the vows he swore to avenge his father’s death? There is a chance that due to the ritual she performed, if Ailesse is killed, Bastian will die too. At a loss of what to do, Bastian and his crew take Ailesse deep into the catacombs underground, where fresh air and moonlight can’t get to her. Weakened without the strength of the moon or her bone talismans that lend her animal strength, unsure if they are truly meant for each other, Ailesse and Bastian fall in love.

Meanwhile, Sabine has lost her best friend, begins to question everything about the Leruresse’s way of life, which was already hard for her to embrace, and comes to the decision that if she wants to rescue Ailesse she has to become strong, and so starts to complete her own animal rituals to gain strength and speed.

The imagery in this book is phenomenal: A forest bathed in moonlight, the silver owl and golden jackal, the deep dark tunnels below- all were depicted so beautifully I felt like I was in the middle of a fairy tale. I loved the author’s writing style, and her ideas for building her lore into something as beautiful and mysterious as female warriors who must ferry the dead to the underworld using their bone and moon magic. I loved each and every scene where they have to battle ghosts, especially at one point where Ailesse doesn’t have her magic to see them, but is able to spot where the ghost is based on where the rain pouring down on them is not falling.

Another interesting aspect of Bone Crier’s Moon is the evolution Sabine undertakes in trying to save Ailesse. Being the “weaker” of the two, Sabine grows to be as fearless and efficient as Ailesse (if not more so). Meanwhile, Ailesse undergoes her own transformation into the “weaker” position. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for what it’s worth: when one rises the other sets. But that wasn’t what I was looking for in a warrior story. What I really wanted was two strong women whose strengths and weaknesses, even though opposite, are complementary to each other; who will go into battle back to back, even after being separated, even after falling in love.

I would have preferred a narrative that focused on the kinship between these two, but with Bastian and his crew in the mix, and not to mention the Leuresse and the kingdom’s soldiers who show up at the end, I felt there was too much going on and not enough attention put to the characters and the relationship I found the most interesting.

And while I am a romantic at heart I found I could not care for Bastian and Ailesse’s love. It was too sudden, too stilted in their imbalance of power, and strangely over-dramatic. To me, it felt contrived, and even though we all knew they meant to kill each other but chose not to (the source of many forbidden romance tropes of which I am unabashedly a fan) I kind of wanted them to give it the old college try. 

In fact, Marcel’s barely mentioned romance with Birdie and their navigating Jules’ (his sister’s) disapproval was far more interesting to me, and that was summed up in a grand total of one mention and one scene.

Bone Crier’s Moon has an epic premise with amazing lore, two endearing yet imperfect female leads, and unruly ghosts and yet – somehow – it missed the mark for me. I am absolutely flabbergasted. This book should by all accounts have been my favorite of the year, but it went on a journey I didn’t enjoy, as much as I really wanted to. I am sure many people will not have the same hang ups I did, and even with all my complaints I do encourage readers to give it a try, if for nothing else than to enjoy the moon magic! However, I fear this book was trimmed down to set up for a sequel that may or may not be better than the first installment, and I’m not sure I am eager to find out if it is.

A disappointing 2 stars.

Published by francinewonders

Hi! My name is Francine and I spend a lot of time wandering about while wondering about stuff. I like to talk about cats, books, travel, and all things w@nderful. Follow me on Instagram: @francinewonders

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