Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: The Bones of the Earth (The Bones of the Earth #1) by Scott Hale

Release Date: July 10, 2015
Publisher: Scott Hale
Source: Author
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Is it wrong to kill a human …
when you’re not human yourself?
It’s been two hundred years since the Trauma, a catastrophic event of a now forgotten origin, wreaked havoc upon the Earth, reducing the human population from billions to thousands, and leaving the survivors as prey to humanoid hunters. Vrana of the Raven is one of these hunters. Her tribe has made killing humans, now known as the Corrupted, its purpose—to “keep the balance”—to ensure that the Corrupted do not rise to power and lay the Earth to ruin once more.

But, one night, in the great northern city-state of Geharra, over ten thousand Corrupted disappear.
And if so many can disappear so quickly, what’s to stop it from happening again elsewhere, or to Vrana’s own?
Geharra, however, is not the only place to suffer from strange happenings. In Caldera, Vrana sleeps fitfully, dreaming of a Void and the Witch trapped within. When she is called upon to travel with Serra, Lucan, and Deimos to the abandoned city, she accepts, but only to get away from Caldera, because the Witch that haunts her nightmares has begun to haunt her days.

Alright, so this is a self-published work that was given to me by the author. Normally, I'd say, no thank you, but Bones of the Earth had been on my reading list for a while, and came highly recommended by a good friend of mine. And then another friend of mine. And then another...
Ok, you get the picture. People loved this one!
And I kind of went into it with this vague knowledge that it was some kind of a horror/fantasy/dystopia  mash-up about non-human animalish people vs. some kind of hybrid humans after the world has been destroyed...then rebuilt. Plus magic!
Or something awesome like that!

And that's still about all I know.
I had a mighty number of questions that went unanswered! I don't want to give any spoilers, but there were quite a few basic world-building questions that I felt I never got any sort of satisfactory answer to by the end.
I mean, I'm not even sure why these people wear animals on their heads. I guess it's some sort of a tribal ritual thing, but it wasn't explained other than to say that's what they did.
Get a hat, kids!
I'm also not sure why the humans are referred to as Corrupted. Evidently, they all have one red arm, and their ancestors fucked up everything royally in the past. Now, sometimes Vrana's people kill them. Sometimes they don't.
Do they need to meet a quota to keep The Balance?
And what is so special about Vrana's people, other than their lack of red arms? Are they stronger or something? I guess they were, but in all honesty it seemed like the main difference between them was the oversized dead animal hats. Was that it?
Did I miss the point, and the humans were kept in check due to fear of the hats?

And that set the tone for the rest of the book for me. I just didn't understand why/what/who was going on for most of the book.
There are two main enemies, the Witch and this tribe of religious nutters. I'm not sure...
Ok, I get what happened, just not why it happened.
so, Vrana goes on these errands for the elders of her tribe, and a lot of horrible things happen, and there's magic stuff, & plain old evil people stuff. It kind of bleeds together, and it was hard (for me) to get a bead on where this thing was going.
I kept making notes to myself that I hoped there would be some sort of clarification in the reasons behind everything, or a clear-cut path that Vrana needed to take, or something...anything! But, no.
The entire time I was reading I felt like this:

But since I have friends who loved this so much, I'm going to have to say that perhaps it wasn't the book's fault. This just might not have been the kind of book for someone like me. Now, I'm not terribly self-aware, but I do understand that I'm not the kind of person who enjoys poetry, or meta writing, or anything that requires me to read it twice to get the layered meanings.
In other words, I'm willing to take the blame for not getting the underlying story.

As far as the horror stuff? It's not that bad. I was preparing myself for something really disgusting, but it's pretty standard gross-out stuff. Rape, dead babies, dismemberment, penises stuffed in mouths, that sort of thing. If that makes you squeamish, then step back. But it all happens off-page, so you really don't have to deal with anything in an up-close and personal way. So, those of you who don't like to roll in the gore should be able to handle this stuff.

Now, as far as the characters go?
Mr. Hale has that one down pat! If you peel back all the stuff that I didn't get, you'd be left with characters that I did get. Vrana and the rest of the cast were all so natural and relatable.
I know, right?
No one was more surprised than me. Here's this weird chick wearing a bird corpse on her head, and yet I loved her! She was an excellent young female character. She wasn't stupidly cocky or bullheaded, but she was still tough and brave. The relationship with her mother was well done and felt realistic, as well. It was so nice to see a good healthy bond between a mother and daughter for once.
Vrana's relationship with her BFF/boyfriend was another one that I really liked. It grew in an organic way, didn't feel forced or cheesy, and she didn't let their budding love change any of her plans.
Nicely done!

So, in the end, I'd say that this is a book for those of you who like to dig for answers, don't mind a bit of mystery to the origins of things, and aren't the type to pull out your hair when things aren't spoon-fed to you.
For a debut (self-published!!!) book, this was really interesting. And even if it wasn't totally my cuppa, I still think this guy is an excellent writer. The prose was beautiful and the characters were surprisingly easy to identify with, so if you think this sounds like something you'd be interested in, go ahead and give it a try!


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