Title: The Bone Snatcher
Author: Charlotte Salter
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror, Dark Fantasy, Apocalypse
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 2017
Hardcover: 352 Pages
Murder, madness, and sea monsters combine in this thrilling and atmospheric middle grade debut perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, and Tim Burton.
Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.
The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.
But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): Ebook
Imagine a small island, just off the stormy, briney English coastline. The island has a large house atop a weather-beaten hill—Catacomb Hill, a sprawling manor aging and decaying in the salty spray from the sea below. The waves that surround the house are full of monsters; tentacled, devouring creatures, hungry for unsuspecting innocents who would test the water’s murky depths. And the house itself, the crumbling mansion atop Catacomb Hill? That house is full of madness.
Enter Sophie, a young girl with silver hair and six toes on each foot and a penchant for stories. Sophie learns, most rudely and violently, that she has been traded by her parents for tickets that will take them far away from the sea. (You see, in this world, everyone suffers from “sea fever”—there are monsters in the deep, and humans afflicted by the terror find water in any form horrifying, most especially the tentacled creatures that lie in wait at the seaside.) So instead of her own bed and home—which wasn’t great to begin with—Sophie now finds herself in a decrepit home, where she must wait on a horrible family who are set to torment anyone in their wake. There are three rules on Catacomb Hill: 1. Sophie must never go knocking on closed doors; 2. She must never talk to anyone—especially not the twins Gail and Ralf or their mother, the Battleship; 3. Sophie must never be late for the Bone Snatching, lest the monsters go hungry. As the new Bone Snatcher, apprenticed to the curmudgeonly house steward, Mr. Scree, Sophie vows to break each one of these rules and uncover the mysteries shrouded in Catacomb Hill’s halls… and in so doing, discovers a great and terrible secret at the house’s core that may, possibly, cure Sea Fever once and for all.
The Bone Snatcher is Charlotte Salter’s debut novel—an ambitious, salt-soaked Lovecraftian ode to the horrors of the sea and strange, haunted families hiding secrets. I love the ambition of this particular story: it’s part apocalyptic SFF (the world in the grips of Sea Fever and society so torn that parents would trade their own children for a chance to be rid of the ocean’s monsters), part Gothic haunted house tale (complete with family mysteries, cruelties, and secrets), part frame story (Sophie is a tale-spinner), all tinged with a good dose of middle grade fantasy and horror. Salter’s writing is sure-footed and boundless; Sophie’s explorations take her to face down manic horses, glowing fish monsters, and haunted rooms. I truly loved the creepiness that permeates The Bone Snatcher, as well as the author’s knack for atmosphere, description, and action.
On the negative side, The Bone Snatcher falters because of these same reasons: it is too grand, too boundless, too ambitious at times. There is a lot going on in this particular novel, and not enough restraint with regards to answers or backstory. Because of this, it’s hard to empathize with the main character, or truly get a feel for the rules of this particular world. That said, the storytelling is so bold and imaginative that it’s hard to find real fault.
The Bone Snatcher is a delightful, deliciously creepy middle grade novel, and I highly recommend it.
Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
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