Cover Image: All the Murmuring Bones

All the Murmuring Bones

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Member Reviews

A spellbinding tale of the sea, mer folk, selkies and kelpies. A story of familial sacrifice, magic and changelings. Miren is the salt daughter, the last of the pure O’Malley line and the only person who can turn the tide of the future fortunes of the family business by reinstating the contractual obligation of offering her third child to the mer – one for the house, one for the Church and one for the sea. What will she do?
Wonderfully written and perfectly accomplished.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Slatter and I’ll definitely be seeking out the others.
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A very fairytale-esque novel for fans of books like The Bear and the Nightingale and the Thirteenth Tale, who don't mind a bit of a slower start to their books. This took me longer than I would have liked, but in the end I think there were things about it that make it a very worthy read for those looking for a dark family story with some more fantastical elements.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I have been reading some mediocre books lately and I really needed something different that made me excited to read again. This was that book for me. I really enjoyed it and would really rate it as a 4.5. 

As people say, this is a dark, gothic fairytale. It has stories, fables and lore all rolled into it that all spin some semblance of truth about the history of the O’Malleys and their wealth. It doesn’t hold back on violence and it features a very strong and smart heroine I really liked. You saw her grow up as the book went on. 

There was a great range of characters both devious and kind, some fantastical and some human. It made for such a great mix to the story as everyone served their purpose. I actually wish there was another book. There are so many sequels and offshoots that could be made from this. Not to mention a book of just the stories (which I think there is somewhere). 

Great book. I’d definitely recommend it. I’ll be reading more from this author.
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The newest novel by A.G. Slatter, All the Murmuring Bones, is a tale that spans a wide gamut of genres and themes neatly packed into a pretty, blue cover whose curling motif hints at the churning ocean waves that permeate the tale. Slatter is no stranger to fiction, with several other books already under her belt, such as Vigil and Corpselight, as well as compilations of her short fiction. She is also quite the decorated author, with a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, six Aurealis Awards, and an Australian Shadows Award.

The blurb for All the Murmuring Bones promises a tale of old deals long broken, a plethora of family secrets, and the merfolk. While all of this does paint the beginnings of Slatter’s latest work, the blurb doesn’t quite give the whole shape of the novel and might lead some potential readers astray. The book is very gothic in nature, having all the gray, stormy atmosphere, family secrets, and huge, empty manors that are hallmarks of the genre. Mysteries abound, with murder and the supernatural being common themes as well. However, this isn’t about mermaids in quite the way some readers might be hoping for. Yes, they make appearances, but it isn’t really a story about mermaids. This is much more of a historical fantasy and gothic novel in which they are featured.

The story begins as a very slow, winding tale about the O’Malley family, what little of them there are left. The once proud family line is reduced to a grandmother and the protagonist, Miren O’Malley. Miren is to be married off for the betterment of the failing family fortunes, a common theme for those who read gothic or historical fiction, to which she takes umbrage with. Her husband to be is an abusive cousin she wants absolutely nothing to do with. This makes up much of the first half of the novel, focusing more on the mundane issues of family secrets, troubled times, and attempting to escape a fate seemingly already laid out. It winds in the myths, histories, and stories of the O’Malley family in with ease. It revels in lingering amid the stories of the past and the tales that speak of magic. It’s a tale that begs you linger in the dusty corridors and on the cliffs in the cold sea air.

Until the second half, that is, where the pacing, tone, and even some themes shift rather dramatically. The second half of the novel is very fast pace in comparison to the first half, so much so that it was a jarring change. With the change of pace comes a lack of advancement of the plot. While a great deal happens rather quickly, much of it making for very fun reading, a certain amount isn’t of any great importance either to plot or character development, either. This is also where more of the mythical creatures come into play, weaving in and out of scenes as they spin their own tales.

Myths and legends are an important theme in the novel. However, they aren’t always used to the best of their ability. The ancient tales of the O’Malley family and their encounters with mermaids and other mythological beings are a real highlight of the story, but these creatures use in the actual tale is oddly placed. The vast majority are more throwaway characters than anything else. While their scenes were fun and some of the most memorable within the novel, they also added little to the plot, character development, or backstory.

In much the same fashion as the usage of mythical creatures, magic is also oddly approached in some regards. This is a fantasy book in many ways, not simply a gothic novel where the unexplained lurks within the dusty, unused hallways of ancient manors and rundown villages. Mythical creatures, spells, and hexes are weaved throughout the tale, plain as day, and treated as very real staples within the world. However, Miren repeatedly says that not all the old stories in the book passed down through the O’Malley family are true, and that she isn’t a real witch like her mother or other ancestors. Except every story we are told from this book is proven true (or at the very least never has any serious shadow of a doubt cast upon it) and Miren preforms some true magic. This removes the element of the unknown that made the beginning of the story so very intriguing and might disappoint those reading for that gothic, mysterious air.

Yet, the mysteries surrounding the Miren are interesting. What happened to her parents? What secrets does the ancient family estate hold? What sorts of things did her grandfather take to his grave with him? These beg answers, and keep us reading.

The stories many plots wrap up quickly and nearly simultaneously. Having an action-packed ending makes for an exciting climax to the tale, but we are not able to spend any great amount of time with each plot thread, as jumping from one to the next, which didn’t really leave much room for any of them to breathe. And, once the plot threads were tied up, that was it. There was but a page or two of wrap up before the novel’s conclusion.

In all, this is a good novel that differs vastly in pacing and tone. While both halves have many good qualities that will have readers begging for more, I can’t help but feel that they also might drive those same readers away as other sections of the story simply won’t be what they’re looking for. However, the gothic air, hidden secrets, and mysteries make All the Murmuring Bones a great atmospheric read for a rainy day. Slatter certainly has wonderful prose style, and I’d be interested to see what her other works have in store.
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A good dark fairy tale that kept me hooked.
Excellent world building and character development, an interesting plot that kept me hooked.
It's the first book I read by this author and won't surely be the last.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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All the Murmuring Bones is part familial saga and a love story to fantastic beasts. A young woman the last of long line of matriarchs must reckon with family secrets she uncovers. She sets out on a quest to escape an overbearing marriage proposal to find her family and shake free from the family curse. 

The beginning of the story is slow-going, like trudging through wet sand, but you’ll find the occasional beautiful sentiment, like seashells, strew along the way. Throughout the story, the main character often harkens back to a family book which houses fairy tale and legends. The reader is uncertain of which ones are fact and which ones are false and which ones carry a grain of truth. But more often they are a ham-fisted way of explaining everything the character needs to know at that moment. 

Soon the stakes are raised and the character is set on a personal quest where she meets all sorts of monsters and must decide which humans in her life are telling the truth. There were so many adorable moments of fantasy, like all of my favorite bits of fairy tales rolled into one story. Spiteful mermaids, water horses, ghosts, books with family legends, ocean zombies, and practical witchcraft. As the plot thinned and her journey appeared never-ending, the monsters took hold and I began to love the story for the attention paid to each fantastic creature. 

By the end of the book I overlooked any grievances with the plot and just enjoyed living temporarily in a world where mermaids could hold a grudge, ghosts are tricksters, and a matriarchal family could bend monsters to their will. 

[SPOILERS: The book is like a mirror folded in half, each half of the book tells the same story. Part I: She is trapped in castle by the sea by an oppressive fiancé. Part II: she is trapped in another castle near a body of salty water held by an oppressive uncle. All the while finding cheat cards along the way in the form of a helpful kelpie, spiteful mermaids, fairy tale books, hidden letters, and more.]
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A little darker than I was expecting. But this book features strong, relatable characters and serves to completely ditract the reader from real life. I would recommend.
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This gothic tale starts out readily enough with our heroine looking to be trapped in a crumbling mansion as her prospects and sanity fades. However, the story and heroine's possibilities open up as she escapes from the manse early on and strikes out on her own in a dangerous open world. Her leaving the grounds empowers her more than the traditional haunted house tales. A great "fractured fairy tale."
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Sadly, I was not feeling chill regarding the rampant amount of incest going on in this novel, and it felt weird to read about. The prose is ornate and promising, but I also felt lost in the world w/o explanation of the scene and how everything worked. So I've elected to stop reading it.
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Stories give a place depth. You look at a castle, deserted house, graveyard or a forest and our brains will fill in the history real or imaginary of a place. Folklore is culture and influences the people who love their – the traditions and attitudes of the past being kept alive by stories. In the brilliant All The Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter we get a wonderful dark mix of folklore, family secrets and a trip through a darkly magical land to try and find some answers and safety.

For centuries, the O’Malley family that lived at Hobb’s Hallow was a family to be feared. A touch of te pirate about them they were cunning, crafty and not above getting their hands dirty to get more power and wealth. But over the years the family fortunes have declined, the large house is mainly empty; more money is owed, and the fleet of ships is now just one. Now the family Matriarch Aoife is watching her husband be buried in the family vault leaving just her and her granddaughter Miren the last key members of the family. Aoife though has a plan to restore the family fortunes and has decided Miren should be married to the dangerous but wealthy Aidan who is keen to possess Miren; the family home and the O’Malley name…and silver trade. After Aoife is found dead though Miren decides it is time to track down her missing mother Isolde and hopefully find a new home and family.

This is an absolutely brilliant piece of storytelling. Slatter weaves a family saga; a gothic thriller (with two quite strange houses to explore at the beginning and end of the novel) and a land where people know there are witches, rusalka, mer-folk and ghosts on the tracks between towns. The novel is a landscape of dark magic and stories. The O’Malley family have created their own lore of various family histories/folk tales some incomplete and as the novel expands, we see these may explain the family’s fortunes. As Miren travels the land we meet automata that sing; ghosts who want a riddle solved and spirits wishing to trade secrets. Lovers of folk lore will enjoy the original takes that Slater constructed and it is refreshing to see a world where people all know these things are real. This gives the whole book a sense that nothing and no one is ever entirely safe or to be trusted.

Powering the tale is Miren and her quest as our principle narrator I loved how this take is very much about Miren gaining her independence – coming out of the shadow of Aoife and even her absent mother to become a woman on her own two feet. She discovers through her journey that she can act on her own desires; protect herself when needed and use her guile to get herself out of quite dangerous situations. If a lot of lore is about telling young girls how women should behave in society the tales here tell Miren how to take charge and beware of dangers. All of which come into a final set-piece far away from home where Miren tries to unpick the last few family mysteries and aware a hidden danger is watching her every move. Here Miren is alone having to use all her skills to survive, and it really shows the difference from the uncertain woman we first met at the start of the tale. I really loved how Slatter gave Miren a character that we see change through narration as she realised what she is capable of and uses the O’Malley cunning for her own plans.

All the Murmuring Bones is a fantastic tale that revels in all lore and the power of stories. Slatter drops little easter eggs of various short stories they have created into eh tale creating a world where all of this happens at the same time. There is a sense that this world of Robber Queens, stage troupes, bandits and werewolves could have many more stories to tell. If you enjoy stories within stories and the dark side of folk lore then this is a tale you will love. Strongly recommended!
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All The Murmuring Bones follows the story of Miren O’Malley as she discovers the truth behind her families previous wealth, and current decline. Her entire life, she has lived solely with her grandmother and grandfather. However, following the death of her grandfather, Miren’s grandmother decides there is only one way to restore her families glory. In an attempt to escape this fate, Miren goes on a quest to find her mother and father. With the help of unlikely allies, this quest she leads her to the truth about her family and herself.

I found this book extremely slow to start. I didn’t necessarily like the ambiguity of location and time period. However, when the book finally picked up, I was unable to put it down. Miren becomes an extremely likable character, and the story takes twists and turn which you don’t always see coming. Additionally, I enjoyed that the magical elements of the book weren’t in your face. I felt like Miren and her story felt more like the focus of the novel, and the magical elements just happened to be there as well. It makes it feel almost as if you could see this happening in your life as well.

Slatter’s writing is intriguing. While at moments I was iffy on how I felt about it, in the end I settled on really enjoying her writing style. It felt sophisticated without being stuffy. She does an excellent job of helping to paint a picture later on in the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I would definitely recommend it to others to read.
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I was so pleased reading this, I requested on impulse and wasn’t too sure, but boy was I wrong to even hesitate.  This story kept me hooked  from the very start. This is a dark fairytale that will keep hooked until the early hours, saying just one more. This is a character driven story,  so if you like a lot of action this may not be for you, the writing is beautiful and I found it to be quite lyrical. Although a book full of fantastical creatures and I say it’s a dark fairytale, it’s definitely not YA. This is dark and gothic and not one for those faint of heart. I absolutely adored it and it’s one of my favourites this year. 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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I apologize for the inconvenience but due to the sudden changes in my schedule, I won't be reviewing this book anymore. I had to focus on my academics and internship for the past month, and up to the next few. I believe that it would benefit your book more if I did not skim your book and write a rushed review. Again, I am sorry for the inconvenience.
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I was somewhat hesitant to request this book from Netgalley. I am not sure why. I guess I was scared it would be too tropy, and romance heavy. But then I saw some early reviews and figured I needed to snatch this up. And I am so glad I did because I absolutely adored it.

Because this book is what every book about mer (and fae) should be like… gothic, slightly unnerving and filled with lore and stories. Miren is the last of the O’Malleys, and old family that has powerful blood due to a deal struck with the mer. Blood and a womb for which she is being forced into a marriage with her cousin. Luckily Miren is a strong lady and doesn’t just do what she is told… This leads her to go look for her mother and the family secrets she holds.

Along her way she comes across automatons, selkies, wolf-boys and of course mer. These creatures aren’t necessarily nice. Nor are they evil though. They are different and exactly as they should be. Magical. And they really help to create the wonderful and dark atmosphere of this book. A book that is very much character driven, and full of layers. A book that highlights that maybe man and its greed is the biggest evil.

And that is all I really want to say on this book. This book is different from what you might expect from the blurb, and for me that turned into a pleasant surprise. One side note… my late request meant that it is already out, and I could listen to the audiobook along the side. And Aoife McMahon does an Amazing job with the narration. So if you can, please pick up the audiobook.
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I really enjoyed this story, I thought it was a unique tale of everyday magic, secret bargains and family history and was well written. Although it didn't feel too much like a 'gothic fairytale' about witches and mer, instead I liked the ways that small magics and 'common' mythical creatures were just part of life, albeit a bit unusual. I liked Miren a lot, she takes everything in her stride and I enjoyed the single POV throughout the storyline - it follows her reasoning and growth. There were a few twists and turns and I really didn't know what to expect of the story when I started, but I enjoyed it overall.
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Have you ever sat down and read some Fairy Tales to your children? Not the sanitised versions that we read today, but the originals. If you have, you gave the kids nightmares as these are stories not about happiness and magic but of creatures and consequences. If you do something naughty, it is not the bottom step for you, but the belly of a beast. Surely the gentle Mermaid is not part of this hidden past? With their razor-sharp teeth and penchant for eating children, they certainly are, and A. G Slatter’s All the Murmuring Bones should be seen as a cautionary tale next time you hear the siren call of a Merperson.

Miren O'Malley is the last in the line of a family who settled at Hob’s Hollow, a once great estate, but over the years it has fallen into disrepair. It appears that the power that once made the O’Malley such a force is being diluted, just like the family blood. Miren discovers that the family tales told to her as a child have truth to them; one for the family, one for the Church and one to feed the curse. With fewer children being born, who is to protect the O’Malley’s future? Miren has the mind to end the line forever.

Murmuring opens as all good Gothic novels should with a bleak and remote mansion house. Those that live inside rattle around within its crumbling walls and they sit upon a sea of secrets. Many of this type of novel will build to a reveal over the entire novel, but Slatter has not just written a Gothic novel, but a Gothic Fantasy Horror novel. This is a world in which people know that magic and creatures exist, just that many, like the Church, are trying to repress them. The curse that the O’Malley’s live under is real and may be of their own doing.

The initial section of the book romps along well as a classic feeling Gothic tale. Our heroine dreams of freedom, but every time it gets close, the cage is closed once more. There is an aging and overbearing Grandmother and a violent suitor. It has all the flavour of a Wuthering Heights but with added Mermaids. 
It is the use of magical creatures that makes Murmuring distinct. Rather than remain a linear Gothic tale the book soon opens. Miren is sent on an adventure that will allow her, and in turn the reader, to see more or Slatter’s world. It is here that the book really opens. Slatter has already written several short stories set in the same world and she interweaves some of these into this novel length outing. Miren meets the likes of three ghosts and a Kelpie. These are almost contained stories, but they go a great way to weave the wider world, and it is a rich tapestry.

The book concludes in an alternative mansion house and a new Gothic tale begins with elements remaining from the first. It does feel a little strange to go from one traditional Gothic setup to another, but you would not want to miss any of the adventures that link the two. The use of fairy tales and myths makes the wider world a fascinating one full of excitement, but also danger.

The character of Miren is fantastic. She may be trapped, but that does not stop her. There is a power that runs through her personality that drives her ever onwards. There is no weakness here and she will do what is necessary to survive. They say that she is the last of the O’Malley’s and some of the characters in the book forget this fact at their cost.

All the Murmuring Bones works as both a Gothic novel, but also as a Fantasy and as a Horror. The setup is pure Gothic, but the trappings are traditional Fairy Tale and Fantasy Horror. If you are a reader who enjoys any of these sub-genres, then this book will work for you. As a bonus you will also get a very accomplished world full of magic and wonder. Just don’t plan to visit it.
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If you had to choose which child to sacrifice to the sea, would you be able to do it? In “All the Murmuring Bones” by A.G. Slatter, if the O’Malley’s can’t make a choice, then they will be poor and unsuccessful. I’m already poor so I would stand by my choice of choosing not handing my child over to Ursula the Sea Witch. Ursula is one of my favorite villains but I wouldn’t want to give my child to her.

Miren is the last of the O’Malley children. She lives on a formerly magnificent estate with her grandmother. Her grandmother did not sacrifice her child to the sea.

Well . . . Miren’s mother, Isolde, eloped with Liam Elliott, had a child and then ran away from home with her husband but not the baby. Miren found out later that her mother stole something valuable from the grandparents. It’s a mystery until the very end but it is enormously unexpected. For her whole life, Miren believed that her parents were deceased.

It turns out that Miren’s parents never came back for Miren. They were alive. After the granparents passed away, Miren went off in search of her parents, Isolde and Liam. Everyone that she talks to about her mother believed that she had magical powers.

First, she had to escape from her creepy, abusive fiance, Aidan. She doesn’t like Aidan but the grandmother arranged the marriage. He had a lot of money. People forgive too much bad behavior in the name of money.

So Miren escapes from the fiance. She has a few clues about where her parents are located. Some nice traveling theater people help her along the way.

After searching for a little while, Miren finally finds the place that she is looking for – her parent’s home. However, the parents are not home but her Uncle Edward, Nelly the nanny and a baby sister, Ena, are at the home. Those three people are a whole other mystery.

Maybe I should have been a casting director. I am confident in the following choices for any films made based on the book.
If you like Gothic fairy tales and merpeople, then you will enjoy this book. It is an actual fairy tale, which have tragic things happening throughout the book. It is not a Disney princess fairy tale. I read a review of this book that said how the reader was disappointed because it wasn't a "real" fairy tale. However, that reader is wrong about the definition of a fairy tale. Plus, this is a Gothic fairy tale which is even creepier and more tragic than a regular fairy tale. 
The people that only want pleasant endings to a pleasant story with beautiful princesses, loving mothers, and happy mermaids will probably not enjoy this particular story. They might if they give it a chance. It's such a good book, it would be a shame to miss out on it.
I received this ebook from NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Obviously.
Amazon affiliate link included in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
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I have several of Angela Slatter’s books on my shelves, but this might be the first full length novel I’ve read by her, and what a wonderful surprise it was! All the Murmuring Bones is an enchanting tale of hidden magic, of dark secrets and mysterious creatures of the sea, and at the center of it all is a fiercely independent young woman who uses her wits and resources to go on a journey of soul searching.

Set in the 19th century on the Irish coast, the story follows protagonist Miren who is last of the “true” O’Malleys, an old family which has long held sway over the local community. But even as their wealth has dwindled over the years and their ancestral home of Hob’s Hallow stands in near ruins, the O’Malley name still much power and influence. For this reason, Miren’s grandmother Aoife has arranged a marriage for her in the hopes of restoring the family’s fortunes. However, while her intended Aidan is a wealthy man, he is also from an offshoot of the family who has always lusted after the O’Malley name and estate, so for him the union will be nothing more than another business transaction.

In a twist of fate though, Miren soon discovers a secret revealed in a collection of her late grandfather’s old letters. Growing up, she’d always been told her parents died when she was a baby, which was why she was raised by her grandparents. But now, she has reason to believe her mother and father are still alive, living at a place called Blackwater. No one knows where that might be, but Miren is determined to find it and confront her parents on why they gave her up. Besides, she has no desire to lose her freedom or to stay at Hob’s Hallow—especially once she realizes the awful bargain her ancestors had struck to ensure the O’Malley’s prosperity, and that Aoife wants to Miren and Aidan follow in their footsteps. With the sudden death of her grandmother, Miren realizes she has no reason left to stay, and so she makes her daring escape.

What follows is a beautifully written tale, with as much adventure as there is danger. Slatter’s prose is flowing and practically flawless, descriptive yet also tinged with a thread of our protagonist’s wry sense of humor. For this reason, while the story frequently edges into darker territory, it still maintained an easy air that prevented the mood from becoming too heavy (and kept me glued to the page). Of course, it helped too that Miren was such a strong and likeable lead, and the injustices of the circumstances she faced made it easy to feel invested in her quest and cheer her on through her struggles.

On top of that, the author does a superb job at setting the scene, creating a vibrant setting populated by mythical creatures like kelpies, ghosts, merfolk, and more. In fact, the world-building is surprisingly well-developed, considering her delicate approach to the paranormal—not with a heavy hand, but giving just enough to give the reader a sense that these elements are as real to the protagonist as the world she lives in. It’s a kind of magic one can feel working from the very first page.

Miren herself is a character that feels very relatable. Although she is resourceful and intelligent, she’s not the most level-headed, her emotions often running close to the surface. Strong feelings are quick to flare up in her, which sometimes leads her to act impulsively, landing her in or out of trouble depending on the situation. The people she meets are also delightful, even the shady scoundrels and ne’er do wells. Truth be told, it kept things interesting, not knowing how Miren would react to the many random surprises or obstacles she encounters along the way, and these unknown wonders also served to drive home the fairy tale inspiration behind her journey.

All told, I found this novel captivating. Slatter knows how to hook the reader, and All the Murmuring Bones certainly held my attention rapt with its indomitable protagonist, artful storytelling, and rich atmosphere.
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Wow,  what a beautiful gothic fairy tale! This story kept me engaged from beginning end.  Angela Slatter transports her readers to magical lands filed with witches, ghosts, scary mermaids, murderers, and other terrifying creatures. Her strong independent female lead is very refreshing. I found myself rooting for Miren throughout her harrowing journey to find answers to her past and future. I liked that her character was determined to get what she wanted despite impossible odds. This is a dark tale that will keep you reading late at night until you reach the last page.  I hope you give it a try.  

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with this ARC in return for my honest review.
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DNF at 20%. Will possibly read again in the future. 

All the Murmuring Bones should have hit a lot of familiar spots in my book tastes, such as it being a very dark gothic fairytale fantasy standalone. It probably wasn't just a book for me at the moment because I couldn't get through it as I thought I would have. It really held a lot of promise and potential, and I think I would pick this book up again in the future when I'm feeling more hopeful towards it.
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