Title: The Bones of Ruin
Author: Sarah Raughley
Genre: YA Fantasy
Page Count: 496
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date Published: September 7, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org
As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…
She cannot die.
Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.
To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.
If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.
Three things stood out to me while reading this:
- I loathe harem and reverse harem love tropes … which I didn’t know about until reading The Bones of Ruin … essentially everyone, everywhere is in love with our main character Iris, and it is exhausting, unbelievable, and wholly lacking connection or development.
- A “competition to the death” really loses all sense of urgency or stakes when the main character CANNOT DIE. I mean, come on!
- The story has way too many elements competing with each other – not only is it confusing but tiresome, irksome, and loathsome. X-Men style teens with superpowers fighting in the streets of late 19th century London, an elite secret society of high brow gentlemen who enjoy ritual murder and games of death as they covet control over a mysterious “Ark style” object/machine that will bring forth the end of the world – but allow them to control the repopulation of a new world, colonialism, racism, a Hunger Games style competition of death, mysterious white crystals, bone skeletons, and at least 20 different characters. Just, choose a damn lane!
Sarcasm aside, I was truly invested in this story for the first 50-100 pages, before the story exploded into too many directions. Iris being adored by at least two characters (and oftentimes more) was completely unnecessary. Having the competition work in teams of two partners would’ve been greatly beneficial by simply focusing on developing two strong characters and their connection.
The book is gorier and bloodier than I thought and the premise is compellingly original, but the execution fell apart for me with an overly bloated page count, a story that tried to take on too many plots, a character that wasn’t just detestable, egocentric, and hypocritical, but lacked any urgency or stakes because she simply couldn’t die in this game of death. Sadly, a frustratingly big miss for me.
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