A book I thought I would love, turned to something I did not like, transformed once more into something that I do adore. That was my journey with this book as a tl;dr.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields
Synopsis From The Book
On the day of Saskia’s kenning―a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds―her worst fear comes true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, a seer, like her mother.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose the one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones, with the devastating result of splitting Saskia’s future.
Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously: one where she’s forced to confront her magic, and one where she tries to run from it. But when both paths become entangled in the plot of a rogue Charmer, Saskia learns that no future is safe, and some choices have unimaginable consequences. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
I go into this with high hopes after having read Sorcery for Beginners. This came in the same box as that book. I was more interested in reading this book to begin with than the other anyway. While this seems like a book about Necromancy, it’s about divination if I’m correct. I’m excited for it. Good luck to me, I suppose.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Well that was a roller coaster. At first I was bored with the book, until the split in time lines occurred and I had to double back. The concepts and progression was solid. Seeing how this world is shaped from our main character’s perspective in two different lives, was nice. I was entertained, but the best part of this book was the bone charming. Also, there is a great concept of fate versus freedom, that intrigued me. I can’t wait to see how this plays out in the second book.
Note this is a really long plot synopsis.
Saskia is the daughter of the local Bone Charmer, a profession akin to divination that allows ones to use bones to read a person’s past, present, or future. Saskia’s mother reads the future (Bone Charmers can only specialize in one). Saskia has lived her entire life at the hands of her mother’s powers and wants nothing more to be able to live a life outside of fate. On the day of her kenning, a ceremony where people are given a reading about their future profession (and if they have the money, their matched partner), Saskia asks her mother not to give her one.
Her mother does not abide by her daughter’s whims and does so anyway and this is where the paths diverge.
Path 1: Saskia is read to be a Bone Charmer with Second Sight (present). Her match is a boy named Bram, a boy who is to be a Bone Breaker and the boy who Saskia has shunned for years. In her fury, Saskia breaks one of her grandmother’s bones (the ones used for the reading) and walks out. She accepts Bram as her partner, and then gets shipped off for training at Ivory Hall. It is here that Saskia struggles with her gift, and turns to a Master, other than her own, for help. This master’s name is Latham. He starts helping her with special bones, and she begins to get control over her power better. Saskia makes friends, and begins to realize that she can not only see the present but a bit of the future and past as well.
Path 2: Saskia’s mom freaks out. One of the bones has broken and now her mother can not see all the paths. Saskia and her mother are stuck in a situation where the proper path might not happen, and her mother gives her the reading: Declan (for love), and tutor. This was the fate that Saskia wanted. She has been secretly seeing Declan before the day (a taboo) and wanted to be with him. She also wanted to be a tutor not a bone charmer, despite that being what she wanted as a child. She wanted a more normal life. However with the broken bone, Saskia realizes that perhaps this wasn’t the best path that was supposed to be given to her. Her mother reveals that if they can’t mend the bone, then Saskia has the possibility of disappearing (all her fates do) and so she and her mother begin to heal the bone. Saskia begins her tutoring with a woman named Audra. Through this, Saskia and Declan’s relationship is strained due to the fact that Saskia can’t help but feel like her mother is forcing her into this. One day, Saskia’s best friend, Ami, tells Saskia and her mother that Saskia’s father’s bones had been stollen. A trial ensues, no one can be seen to be blamed, and Saskia is at a loss for why. It is when she finds her father’s bones in Audra’s house that she realizes that they are being sold.
Path 1: Saskia is progressing well and accidentally in one of her lessons she off handedly mentions that if she had and intensifier, things would be easier. Saskia’s master reveals that this is dark magic and forbidden, and she is forced into a trial. When Saskia tells them it was Latham who gave her the bones, her past is read and she is said to be a liar. She is stripped of her apprenticeship and to be sent away. While she is leaving, Bram finds her and she tells him that she needs to find out why Latham lied and he leaves with her. The two go to a woman named Esme, who helped raise Bram after his parents were killed in a brutal fire. Saskia realizes that the vision she saw as a child was about this.
— Aside — When Saskia and Bram were children, Saskia took a dare to go on a boat and to see a prisoner being sent to the highest caliber prison. While up there the man grabbed her, and the powers that she could not control went out of control (from the bone of his cage that was an intensifier). Bram tried to help her but instead she started see his past intermingled with the prisoner’s past, and she rejected him. In her fear she pushed him far away and shunned him, which resulted in many others shunning him, and he became and outcast with markings on his hands that are the sign of betrayal. — Aside over —
Path 2: Saskia, after finding the bones, demands Audra take her to where they were bought. This location is on a boat, while there, Saskia finds her father’s bones, demands them all bought, and recognizes Declan’s voice. Declan had lied about not knowing what was happening to the bones, and he mentions the woman who was murdered recently, meaning he was involved in it too. Saskia realizes she has been betrayed and her heart breaks. She takes the bones to her mother and reveals the truth, her mother tells Saskia that this was the best path out of the ones that she could see and that Saskia has to trust her. Saskia does, and they begin training in bone charming so that Saskia and her mother can try to stop Declan and who ever is helping him. Saskia, pretends to fall in love with Declan, using ink to fake a love tattoo on her wrist (so that none know of what her mother and her are doing). Her mother trains her, until the point where they can’t move on without Declan’s blood. Saskia goes to get it, and through a kiss does. This lets them see another bone stealing.
Path 1: Esme trains Saskia, and in the training Saskia sees that Latham is coming for her. She and Bram escape and Latham kills Esme in a fire. Saskia and Bram try to figure out what to do. Saskia has a pendant that will hide her from Latham (given to her by her mother, along with a letter saying not to go home), but Saskia is afraid for her mother. Latham is trying to complete a dark magic spell of past, present, and future. One that she must stop. Saskia’s mastery tattoo comes, and she and Bram go to her home town. There she stumbles upon her mother about to be killed, and instead dies herself as Bram tells her how much he loves her.
Path 2: Saskia and her mother are confronted by another murder, which ends in her mother having to go to a council meeting. Saskia reads the present, goes to save her mother, does not find her at the council and goes home to find her mother there. Latham is there, ready to kill her and her mother. Saskia reveals she faked her love line, only for it to be revealed under the fake to be real (Bram from the other timeline). Declan, in his last act of life, redeems himself a bit by calling for help. Latham kills her mother, takes the body, and flees. Saskia gets knocked out, wakes to Ami who gets healers. Saskia realizes the bone her mother had tried to heal, had healed and that her time line was not erased. Saskia tells those who come to help her about almost everything. Then Bram arrives. Bram reveals that Latham sent him days ago, and that he had arrived before the masters from Ivory Hall. Saskia has him get her bones and she does a bone reading and sees all the futures that her mother could not (cuz the bone is healed). She sees herself die in so many of them, as well as how Bram is her true match. She knows Bram was sent to ensure that Saskia staid in love, and she does not want him to be used like that. Unfortunately, the other line has a little more power over that and she doesn’t want to part with him completely. When the masters come to interview her, telling her that they are hunting for Latham, Saskia finds out that her mother never reported the results of her kenning. Saskia has the chance to change it, and she does. She reveals that she was read a bone charmer, and had staid back because of the deaths in her family and that she wasn’t ready to go. She will not reveal her mastery tattoo, and plans to learn as much as she can.
Her mother didn’t tell the Council for a reason, and Saskia plans to keep some of her mother’s secrets. The woman was only trying to help her daughter, after all, the path her mother had given her was the only one she lived in. A mother’s life for a daughter, and Saskia planned to honor that.
What I Liked:
Saskia; Now this is interesting to me because at the beginning of the book I hated her. I hated her in both timelines, and I think this has a lot to do with me not really understanding the idea of being able to grasp the concept of your future being read for you and decided. As the story progressed I loved both versions of her. But it had to happen and it didn’t happen immediately. I was not sure which version would remain, and the one that did — you will do well.
Bone Magic and Magic in general; Wow, what a complex system of magic. Also the use of divination is brilliant. The fact that bones and bones in magic can be so complex has me wanting to learn more. This was the best part of the book to me, and I want to go on about this. However, because this is the first book, I won’t lay on the praises so much. Just know the Divination is wonderful, and has consequences. Additionally there is a tattoo system in this book, where tattoos form on the body after intense emotional moments. They all have different colors and meanings, and sometimes those meaning can be misinterpreted. I think this is also beautiful.
Two lives parallel; I was not prepared for this. However it is what makes the story. We see the life of Saskia paralleled in two different stories, of two of her paths. One that results in life and one that results in death. You can see the points where things are similar, where they are different. You get to see how the life of the two is the same, just her in a different place. I really liked this concept. There is also the show of the clear distinction that the two girls can see bits of their other lives, as well as how those other lives can effect them. Both receive their Mastery at the same time, from the cumulation of training. The love line for Bram (may have, but I think it did) transferred from one Saskia to the other. This is really interesting, with that melding.
Bram; I do like him from what I can tell in both lines. I want to see more of him.
Saskia’s friends; I really hope she remains close to Tessa and Ami. I need more of both of them.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Bram and Saskia; I knew Bram was to be the one the moment he was introduced in the story and she said “I don’t like him.” I wish that there may have been a bit more build up to this. In general, however, I do like the idea of them together, as well as the reason she doesn’t like him stemming from her own misunderstanding as a child.
Time Taken To Read
“You have a hundred possible futures, my love.” – Saskia’s mother, pg13
“Saskia, you’re acting as if fate and freedom are opposites”
“No, love, they’re partners in the dance of life. Always circling each other, touching and then coming apart again, both made more beautiful by the existence of the other.” – Gran and Saskia, pg 321
“Fate is the ability to see the choices people will likely make. It doesn’t rob freedom.” – Bram, pg 329