Tim Burton fans, pay attention! This is a book for you. Its magic and characters envelop the reader in a snug Gothic cocoon, delightfully bizarre and moving. Explore my book review for what makes Heather Kassner’s The Bone Garden a wonderful work of dark fantasy. It’s a celebration – or study – of strangeness. A perfect, surreal reflection of what it’s like to be a little “monster” in a superficial world.
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It feels like The Addams Family and The Corpse Bride were weaved into a dark little fairy tale devoted to the magic, balm and pain of love. It fits well within the gnarly yet elegant Gothic setting, this story of Irréelle, a malformed girl confined by her mistress and creator to the boundaries of an old house, only allowed to venture into the labyrinthine underground passages of a graveyard in order to collect bone dust for Miss Vesper’s unique craft.
Each of them – broken, twisted or unpleasant – has a soul. Irréelle’s innocent perspective and care for all, some perhaps undeserving, makes it easy to see how wonderful she is despite – or because of – her physical defects. Every character, whether human or appendage, has something “wrong” and special about them that intrigues the reader.
I almost pictured the whole book in black and white, the colours of night and bone. Something I particularly enjoyed is how the whole narration and structure conveys the beauty of strangeness, darkness and even death. Their otherness and unknown have a compassionate, melancholy light shown upon them that they become familiar. An eccentric normality ties all the story’s features together.
The bottom line of this book review: The Bone Garden is a modern Gothic fantasy, a sweet tale of little monsters seeking a sense of belonging. From its excellent cover design by Julia Lloyd to its core, Kassner’s debut novel feels like a gift to the world’s oddballs, a message of love and unity.
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