The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling

Recommended for: people who’d like a slow-paced, character-driven fantasy read, with a melancholy quality to it. No romance in the first book–the main character’s too young. Third person POV.

Borrowed from indiebound.com

The plot of the The Bone Doll’s Twin revolves around a prophecy, and it’s a prophecy that sucks.

Skala had traditionally been ruled by queens, due to the Oracle’s decree that the country will never fall to enemy forces so long as a female of the royal lineage rules. But queens can be good or bad, and Skala has been ruled by both. The worst one was usurped by the current king, who did good during his reign, good enough that many believed this decree no longer applied.

But as his reign stretched on and invading forces continued to harry the country, doubts rose anew. Worse still, his only surviving heir is a boy. So, in the tradition of many of those who hold power, he went about subtly eliminating his rivals–girls of the royal line started having accidents, all except for the king’s beloved sister.

And of course, here is where another prophecy comes in, when this sister becomes pregnant. With twins, a girl and a boy. In order to wield the magic that can save the girl, destined to be queen, a sacrifice is required…

The atmosphere of the book is tinged with melancholy and creepiness. The actions that the characters take for the chance of a future queen have consequences, mental and physical. They each find their own ways to live with it, but that night follows them. And it haunts even those who had nothing to do with this cruel action, including the twins themselves, who suffer the most for it.

Tobin grows up believing he is a boy. He looks like one, and is mostly treated like one. He also grows up very secluded, with a mother on the verge of insanity, and a demon haunting him–all consequences of a truth he isn’t even aware of.

This book details the events of his birth and childhood. Tobin starts off as the only child surrounded by adults, before a companion is found for him. He remains isolated for as long as his parents manage to keep him away from court. But they can’t do so forever, and eventually, Tobin joins his cousin’s Royal Companions, unaware that he is the greatest threat to his cousin’s right to rule.

And doesn’t that one hurt? Because Tobin likes Korin, the heir to the throne. And while Korin is by no means a perfect teenage boy, he’s got plenty of potential. Compared to other boys of his rank and age, he’s more accepting and more reasonable. And he’s been known to be embarrassed for his more insensitive actions after drinking too much. We get to know him when he’s around fifteen, and I honestly expected much worse from him. I’m going to have to steel myself to read the next two books, because there is no way this is going to end well.

Don’t expect a lot of action–the book centers around how Tobin grows up and how he makes sense of his world. In some ways, he’s very lucky, in others, very unlucky. But it’s pretty unarguable that he’s had an unusual childhood. The book takes its time, setting the mood about Tobin’s life and detailing how the people protecting Tobin move forward.

This is a dark fantasy, with endorsements from the likes of GRRM and Robin Hobb, and it doesn’t promise not to disturb its readers. I don’t think its necessarily promising a happy ending, either. But it did get into my head in a way that was amazing and sad all at once. I loved it.

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