Brood of Bones by A.E. Marling.★★★1/2
Brood of Bones is a self published fantasy novel available for free on Amazon. In short, Brood of Bones is about Hiresha, a narcoleptic enchantress who’s returned to her hometown only to find that all the women there are mysteriously pregnant. It’s a fun story that combines fantasy and mystery with flashes of humor.
Enchantress Hiresha left her home city of Morimound many years ago when she first began her training as an enchantress. She had not wanted to return before finding a cure for her constant sleepiness. However, she has been called upon by the city’s Flawless due to a plague of pregnancies afflicting all woman older than twelve, including the city’s grandmothers. At first dubious as to whether or not some elaborate prank is being played upon her, Hiresha eventually begins to investigate the cause of the mysterious pregnancies. If she cannot find it, many women, especially the young and the old, will die in the coming months.
Hiresha’s probably my favorite thing about the book. She’s a powerful enchantress with good intentions, yet she is very flawed. She insists on following the rules of propriety but she is often unaware of when she has inadvertently offended someone, despite her skill at reading facial expressions. She constructs elaborate fantasies about a future life of marriage and children, to the point that she builds a mansion with specific rooms for all of her yet unborn children. She hates her constant sleepiness and believes that it prevents her from fulfilling her hopes for the future, but it is also what gives her such power as an enchantress, as enchantresses can work magic only in their dreams. She’s powerful, confident, intelligent, brave and flawed, a fascinating and different sort of protagonist.
While I didn’t find any of the other characters as intriguing as Hiresha, they were for the most part enjoyable. I particularly liked Hiresha’s banter with Maid Janny, her almost constant companion. Janny’s unafraid to voice criticism, and this leads to some funny exchanges.
“Maid Janny, it is well that you are unattractive, or you would be entirely insufferable.”
“It is well you’re rich. Or so would you.”
The world building of Brood of Bones was also impressive. When Hiresha sleeps, she enters her dream laboratory, where she feels awake and alert. In her laboratory are all the tools she needs to craft her spells, mostly in the form of multi-colored gems. There is never any lengthy exposition as to how the magic works, but you are able to deduce and understand it naturally.
Brood of Bones does have its flaws. The mystery section of the plot was a bit slow to take off, and I would have appreciated not having yet another rapey villain. On the whole however, I did enjoy Brood of Bones and would recommend it to people looking for a fun, different sort of fantasy novel.