By These Ten Bones, by Clare Dunkle

By These Ten Bones, by Clare Dunkle (Macmillan, first released in 2005, re-issued 2011, YA, 240 pages)

In Maddie's small town in the highlands of Scotland, hundreds of years ago, there is a shortage of men. Clan warfare has hit hard. When a young woodcarver comes to town, silent and mysterious, and incredibly talented, Maddie begins to fall in love for the first time...

But he has brought with him an evil shadow, a bloodthirsty being that seeks to kill on the night of the full moon. And Maddie's town is plunged into horror as it begins to hunt. To save the young man she loves from the nightmare in which he lives, and to save her town, Maddie must make a desperate choice....

This is a tremendously atmospheric story, in which the details of the mundane world are contrasted just beautifully with the fear and horror the creature brings. Likewise, the pagan superstitions of the townsfolk (rather justified, in this case), and their fears of witchcraft, co-exist beautifully with the determination of the parish priest to maintain faith and sanity. And Maddie is a tremendously appealing heroine; her love story is convincing, her courage admirable (and she has likable, supportive parents, which is a nice bonus). Also convincing is the difficult choice she makes...it's not unrealistically easy for her to do what she feels she must.

I am not a fan, myself, of horror qua horror, and neither do I have a great love for paranormal romance. But this book is more than the sum of labels. These elements are crucial, of course, to the plot, and Dunkle's careful buildup of suspense and fear, and the dark shadow that stands between Maddie and her beloved, make the book one that should appeal to fans of either sub-genre (although those looking for, um, passionate romance, as it were, won't find it here). But for me, the main appeal was the historical fiction aspect of it--Dunkle makes this place and its people come to life.

I was gripped by this story, and read it in almost a single sitting.

Other reviews at The Book Smugglers, WORD for Teens, Tempting Persephone, and Rebecca's Book Blog


  1. Well, this has gone on my wishlist. Thank you. ;)

  2. I LOVE this book. I have re-read it a large number of times and recently acquired my own copy. Usually I am a very timid person - not too long ago I was running away from large dogs - but for some reason Maddie's story was a good one for. I also appreciated Dunkle's thoughtful portrayal of Christianity.

  3. Looks like a great book! Thanks for reviewing!

  4. I also read this, and didn't at first realize it was a rerelease of a previous novel. I was totally excited to get what I thought was a new Clare Dunkle book (always an event). Anyway, I totally agree with you. I've felt a bit jaded by some paranormal books lately. Clare's book was a breath of fresh air.

  5. I agree, Rina--it's rare in a paranormally book for Christianity to be something taken seriously, as an integral part of the character's world.

    I hope you like it, should you get it, Cat and Karen!

  6. Some more thoughts that I thought after I commented: http://justbookingaround.blogspot.com/2011/04/courage-fantasy.html

    Regarding fantasy books, timidity, and the lack thereof.


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