The Bone Orchard
by Sara A. Mueller
Charm is the madam of Orchard House, a prisoner of war, and the Emperor’s mistress. When she is summoned to the Emperor’s deathbed, he tasks her with uncovering his murderer and selecting his successor in exchange for her freedom.
Although I don’t think this is a perfect book, I found this story so engaging. This one comes with all of the assault trigger warnings as the story ultimately revolves around trauma, but the majority happens off page. It’s certainly a dark story, but I personally don’t think it was especially graphic or difficult to read.
The plot is about a woman with necromantic powers solving the murder of the Emperor. The actual story is about a woman doing whatever she must to survive the trauma she has endured. The two halves of the story are tightly woven together, and as things progress and unfold we slowly learn more about what’s really going on with Charm while simultaneously solving the murder. I definitely think this is one that’s better to go into not knowing too much about the plot.
I loved the ladies of Orchard House, learning who they all are and how they’re connected. Their allies outside of Orchard House were also wonderful additions to the cast. I think there could have been more distinction between the Emperor’s sons though. The relationships and interactions are complicated. Everyone’s political and sneaky in a court intrigue sort of way.
I don’t mind not understanding the ins and outs of a world or magic system if it doesn’t affect the story. If it’s explained, I prefer it to be gradual as things progress. If it’s not, I can usually just accept it for what it is and carry on. It’s fantasy, not science. This book explains the world, but the explanations came after I had accepted that I wasn’t going to get one. The timing of the world building usually came after I stopped needing it. I mostly get why it was paced that way, but I wish some of the world building was moved up a bit and clearer.
Overall, I think was a great debut and would definitely recommend this.