Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Bone Palace The Bone Palace
by Amanda Downum

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Mel Duncan

The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum, is the second of the Necromancer Chronicles, set two years or so after The Drowning City. Isyllt Isksldur, necromancer and sometime spy, is now spending her days as a kind of royal detective in her adopted home city of Eris?n. Her pleasant life of solving murders, drinking too much and pining for a meaningful relationship is interrupted one day by the discovery of a royal token on the body of a murdered whore.

Isyllt's self-destructive tendencies from the first book have grown worse, and though she is capable, powerful and well-respected by royalty and commoners alike, I found her very difficult to like and harder to sympathise with. Her negative traits, while making her a very well rounded character, make her a bad heroine, and a poor person to risk the fate of a nation on. It is almost a relief that she is completely overshadowed by Savedra, a transgendered royal courtesan, who is trying to her best to balance her mother's schemes with her relationships with the Crown Prince and his wife.

Savedra and Isyllt work in parallel to find out how the ring of the dead Queen connects to the murdered whore, the vampires who live in the city's lower levels, and the mad sorceress who refuses to show her face and works blood magic. Our two heroines are helpless to stop the villains of the piece, and instead must follow along behind them, dropping exposition as they go. I spent a lot of the book feeling like I had forgotten crucial piece of information, but it turned out I'd never been told it in the first place. Rather than growing organically, the drama of this story is led by the discoveries of the two women. Consequently, The Bone Palace reads like a police procedural in a traditional fantasy setting and the disconnect reduces the cohesiveness of the story.

Amanda Downum has a strong, descriptive style of writing. The city of Erisin and the Bone Palace below it are richly explored, characters unto themselves. Magic is neither pointlessly weak, nor a bazooka-macguffin, but layered and varied, and well integrated into the world.

While the prose is less purple than The Drowning City, I feel The Bone Palace is a step down overall, due to it's unlikeable and sometimes inexplicable characters, and a less organic plot.

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