FICTION
The Bone Charmer
Page Street. May 2019. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781624147371.
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Gr 7-10–In Midwood, a town in the country of Kastelia, Bone Charmers conduct bone readings, including annual kennings for every 17-year-old whose family can afford it. Candidates with a clear reading receive an apprenticeship that is best for them and for Kastelia, and the richest of them are matched with a romantic partner. Those who were not matched or who lack financial resources are leftovers, given the apprenticeships that remain unfilled. Saskia does not want to be a Bone Charmer like her grandmother or mother, Della, but as the Bone Charmer for Midwood, Della must not consider Saskia’s wishes, despite seeing multiple paths for her. When Saskia is matched to train at Ivory Hall with quiet, mysterious Bram as her mate, Saskia breaks one of the bones used. In a parallel time line, Della infuses the bones with extra magic, and Saskia is paired as a tutor and matched with her love interest, Declan. Regardless of which future Saskia chooses, her and Della’s lives are both in danger. Told in first person, the plot moves quickly and a romance between Bram and Saskia is sweet, but the two deaths in the novel feel expected. Character arcs are predictable or underdeveloped. Shields succeeds in addressing the socioeconomic inequality in Kastelia, which readers will find analogous to real life.

VERDICT Although the resolution of this story feels too tidy, plot threads are closed enough to satisfy readers while still leaving room for a sequel. Purchase for large public and school libraries where fantasy circulates well.

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