One for the house, one for the Church and one for the sea.

Every so often a book comes along that absolutely enthralls me and I can’t wait to  share my delight.  This time it’s a Gothic tale infused with Irish folklore, A.G. (Angela) Slatter’s latest, ALL THE MURMURING BONES.

Long ago, the O’Malley’s made a deadly deal with the Merfolk: one child each generation in exchange for prosperity and power.

But they didn’t keep up their end of the bargain and have fallen on hard times. Miren O’Malley, abandoned by her parents, is the family’s last hope, pledged against her will to marry a cruel cousin in the hopes they’ll breed and regain the clan’s fortune. Miren escapes and undertakes a harrowing journey to find the truth about her past and shape her future.

I love strong heroines, and Miren rates highly in that regard. She’s prone to musing, but quick-witted and swift to action when the situation demands it. I enjoyed her growth as a character from a rather naive, protected girl to a determined young woman.

On the surface, the plot sounds like a familiar story: a young woman running away to escape an arranged marriage, cruel men wanting her power, heartless guardians, missing parents. In lesser hands, these elements would come off as trite but Slatter weaves them into a story that mesmerizes. The first chapter, in particular, is absolutely gorgeous, drawing you into a richly atmospheric tale full of mystery and dark delights.

Slatter’s writing is so good it’s often breathtaking. And she knows how to keep your interest, infusing folkloric stories, introducing fantastic characters–a kelpie, a singing automaton, grim mermaids, to name but a few–while staying true to the pulse of the central story.

My only quibble is that Miren’s internal dialogue feels tiresome after a while, but it fits the young adult genre and her character arc so that’s a minor nit. The ending, while predictable, was still heart-stopping.

Lovers of dark fantasy, this book is for you!