Saturday, 4 July 2020

Book Review: The Bone Fire by György Dragomán (Gothic / Magical Realism)

Title:
The Bone Fire

Author: György Dragomán
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: 23 February 2021 (2014)
Pages:
480
Format:
eBook - EPUB
Genre:
Gothic / Magical Realism
Source:
ARC via NetGalley

 


In the aftermath of a revolution that has plunged her country into chaos, thirteen-year-old Emma’s small corner of the world is shattered after her dissident parents' death in a car crash. Before she can make sense of her new circumstances, an older woman arrives to claim her, alleging to be her grandmother. When the two travel to what will be her new home in a distant town, Emma is mystified by her guardian, a woman who can read fortunes in coffee dregs, inflict and heal pain at will, and even control the minds of her enemies; she also shares her home with the ghost of her dead husband. But Emma soon learns that there are other reasons her grandmother is treated as an outcast by her neighbors. Like a witch’s apprentice, Emma learns to accept the logic of her grandmother's secluded life, and as she uncovers the older woman's story—from the traumas of the Second World War to the Holocaust and the reeducation camps of the communist system—Emma comes to see that sometimes a reality shaped by magic is the only means of finding freedom in the face of terror, manipulation, and fear. In The Bone Fire, Hungary's literary star introduces an indelible young heroine, weaving together old-world mysticism and contemporary politics to uncover the soul of a war-scarred land and its people.


The Bone Fire is a book about which I cannot quite decide on my feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate what the author was trying to achieve with the blend of political drama and hints of old-world magic. However, I felt disconnected from the events and characters throughout, perhaps partly because of the way everything was related one-step removed from direct action. The whole time I waited for some overreaching plot element that never came, making this more a series of scenes than a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. It's a book where I enjoyed key moments but was left cold when reviewing the piece as a whole. As such, I am giving this three stars. If you like magical realism and are interested in life during and after communism, it's worth checking out, but this was not a story that captivated me, and not to which I would ever feel the need to return a second time.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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