The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum: Necromancy, subterfuge, and dark secrets in a diverse and divided city

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Synopsis: A necromancer serving the Crown pursues the murder of a prostitute in possession of a royal ring (that should have been buried in the tomb of a queen, under a heavy protection spell). She finds herself neck-deep in dangerous secrets that threaten the entire city, and even the Crown itself.

Series: Technically, this is the second book in the series, but it’s unnecessary to read the first one first–they share only one character, and the events of book one have no bearing on this one. They don’t even happen in the same country.

POV: Multiple. Three POVs.

Romance: Some, but Amanda Downum does have this habit of taking relationships in her books down with a wrecking ball.

Excerpt here.

I really enjoyed this. Probably even more than the first book.

It’s initially staged like a mystery for the characters, but for the audience, it’s more of an unfolding tragedy or political drama–the viewpoint characters all have different information that doesn’t necessarily overlap, giving the readers a clearer idea of the big picture. So while the characters are discovering new information, the readers know much sooner who committed the crime and the general motive for it. The interesting part is that we see what the story is poised for, and what the repercussions of these actions threaten to be.

What is the villain going to do next? When will these different characters find out about this particular thing, and how are they going to react? What will this character do, when this other character gets involved? And of course, how much destruction will the villain cause before the story ends?

We get to watch as these characters with their disparate motivations and emotional entanglements head for conflict, and wonder how they’re going to resolve their conflicting loyalties as they get closer to the truth.

Issylt, our only returning character, tells most of the story. She’s determined, but also quite reckless–as is evident when she follows through on an investigation with the potential to get uncomfortable, even disastrous, if stirred up, because she can’t leave it at that. I get the impression that she’s a little removed from people, possibly because her status as a necromancer keeps many away, but she still has this sense of compassion towards people–it’s what drives her for most of the book.

She has no personal reason to continue what she’s doing, and a few personal reasons not to. She’s not even getting paid. But she keeps going, for the sake of a young refugee with no status, and no one else to care about what happened to her.

Issylt remains the punching bag of the series, with her recklessness driving her into danger and inevitable injury.

Savedra is the mistress of Prince Nikos. Her family and his have a long history of enmity, but Savedra genuinely loves her Prince, and makes it her mission to protect him and his wife. But she also loves her family, and when she finds out one of her favorite relatives may be involved in a plot against the throne, she’s put in painful position.

She could never marry Nikos. Not only because of family, but also because she is a member of the third gender, a woman who was once a man, and can’t bear children. But that doesn’t lessen her loyalty to Nikos, or to his wife, Ashlin. Even despite the emotional difficulty of her relationship with them.

And then there’s Kiril. A retired spymaster, Kiril is tired and grieved from all the things he’s done, and all the broken relationships that litter his past. One of those is Issylt, his former student, whom he still loves but believes he needs to let go of. He’s finished with his service to the crown, but he has one secret left. One mistake he has the opportunity to atone for, even if he goes about it in the wrong way.

One person left whom he owes something he can at least try to repay. But this isn’t a small secret, and he needs to make the decision of how much he’ll allow to happen, in the name of a debt he’ll never be able to repay.

These three characters, and many others, converge on this one event, and choose where they stand. What they’ll fight for. Who they’re willing to betray, and what they’re willing to betray them for.

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2 Responses to The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum: Necromancy, subterfuge, and dark secrets in a diverse and divided city

  1. This was a great review, and this book sounds like a really interesting read. I love stories that can use dramatic irony well, and it’s especially fascinating to see people gradually come together to work together a bigger picture. And the world and characters sound fascinating- I’ll have to put this one on my to-read list when I”m not quite so behind with other books.

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