Hello book lovers!
I’ve been rather silent on the blog this year. There have been posts I’ve started, left half written and ended up scrapping. I don’t know, time has been short, life has been busy, it’s just fallen by the wayside.
Well this book has dragged me out of semi retirement as I just wanted to talk about how great it is!
So, first of all – thank you to the author, T Kingfisher and the publisher, Titan Books, for my advance copy of this book, granted through Netgalley.
- UK release date: 26th April 2022
- 416 pages
- Published by Titan Books
- Genre: Fantasy
I’ve had Swordheart by this author on my TBR for ages, I have a copy sat waiting on my kindle. I can’t quite remember where I heard about Nettle & Bone but wherever it was, I prompted me to add it to a list I keep of books to look out for. I was really pleased to see it turn up on Netgalley and doubly pleased to be approved for it.
The story centres around Marra, the third and youngest Princess of a small harbour kingdom. Her home, whilst small, is valuable, and is flanked by two much larger kingdoms. Marriage between the prince of the Northern Kingdom and Marra’s beloved eldest sister Damia is proposed and an alliance is formed. That alliance is expected to be strengthened by the birth of a child, but Damia’s body is unexpectedly returned to the harbour kingdom, and Marra’s other sister, Kania, is sent off to marry the Prince in her sister’s place. Marra has an eerie feeling about Damia’s death but is whisked off to a convent to ensure she will not bear a child that may be a threat to any offspring the Prince and Kania may have. But when Kania falls pregnant, and Marra visits, she begins to see that the suspicions she harboured after Damia’s death may not have been unfounded……
I won’t go into to much more detail about the plot but I think I’ve set the scene there.
This is a fairy tale, but not a sweet story for children with a moral tale at its centre. It has princesses, but not beautiful ones searching for their prince. It has animal characters, but they’re made of bones or contain demons. It has knights, but ones who were for sale at a goblin market after sleeping on fairy lands. There is also a wonderful humour in this story that really appealed to me. This paragraph where a mother with small children tries to give the characters some directions was so well done (and so accurate), it had me howling!
The woman’s face turned briefly cheerful. “Oh yes – Don’t put that in your mouth! The godmother. She’s very kind – I swear to the saints, Owen, I will take you down to the market and sell you for a three legged goat! – Five miles down the road, turn where it crosses the stream and go along the bank until – Owen, I’ve had about enough! – You’ll find a little house with a garden and a signpost out front. The sign’s fallen down, but the post is still there, There’s usually trumpet flower up the post and I don’t think we’ve had a hard enough frost yet – Owen! You leave that cat alone!”Nettle and Bone
No word of a lie, that is how I conduct most of my conversations.
In the Author’s Note to the book, she explains that this book originated with a thought she had whilst out shopping, which later led to a short story called “Godmother”. If you want to read that, its available on the author’s website, here: https://www.redwombatstudio.com/godmother/ The Author’s Note was really interesting actually, I’d recommend reading it once you’ve finished for insight into the author’s process of writing this book.
Sorry, jumped ahead a little there!
The settings are wonderful and world building well done. Even thinking back now, a couple of weeks after finishing the book, I can see Marra in the blistered land building her bone dog, the convent where she led a quiet life, the Goblin market, the tombs under the Prince’s castle….I could go on.
And I loved the writing! There were so many little bits that stood out to me, for various reasons; they were funny, they were heartfelt, they were true. I’ve already quoted the passage above about trying to talk with a small child in your line of sight, and this one really jumped out at me too.
….few humans were truly worth the love of a living dog. Some gifts you could never deserve.Nettle and Bone
There were so many wonderful characters, I’d be hard pushed to pick my favourite. Marra is great, she’s happy with her quiet life at the convent, but is pushed to act to save her sister, despite her fears of doing so. She really grows over the course of the book into a woman who knows what she wants out of life. The dust wife is a brilliant character, she made me chuckle on several occasions and she and the godmother made a great double act later in the book.
Despite the fairy tale setting, there are some realities in this book. Things aren’t simple in life, princesses cannot just be rescued and Princes cannot just be killed without consequence and Marra is forced to consider this.
I absolutely loved the experience of reading this book, I was sucked into the world and I so enjoyed spending time with the characters and following them on their journey. It was definitely one of my favourites of 2022 so far, a real highlight.
So, time to bump Swordheart up the TBR. I’m also waiting for my library hold to come in on The Hollow Places, a horror novel by the same author. Cannot wait to explore more of her works!
Read this if you liked: The Winternight Trilogy, Uprooted, The Princess Bride