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The Bone Houses

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Seventeen-year-old Aderyn ("Ryn") only cares about two things: her family, and her family's graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don't always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as "bone houses," and legend says that they're the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published September 24, 2019

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About the author

Emily Lloyd-Jones

10 books1,447 followers
Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. She currently resides in Northern California.

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5 stars
5,587 (30%)
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109 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,545 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,065 reviews38.1k followers
July 5, 2022
Spooky, heart throbbing, can you hear it? BA BOOM! BA BOOM! THUMP! THUMP! Those kind of perfectly written, well-crafted thriller stories with adorable characters always make me feel alive! So I toss around 4 and 5 stars and finally I decided to be good-hearted grader (or I could find somebody wearing Ryn’s costumes for Halloween at my door, chasing me with her axe) and clicked to 5 HORRIFYING STARS!

I think I made the best choice for my Halloween week by reading this epic, fantastic journey, with the sweet touch of Welsh folklore and urban tales introduces a rough, strong, invincible, brave heroine Aderyn (let’s call him Ryn), the gravedigger!

Ryn meets her first BONE HOUSES- dead people who don’t die and wonder around the forest at night time- when she was a little child, following secretly her father to the forest without listening his warnings. That day, her faith changed and she started to follow her father’s footsteps, choosing his carrier for herself. (Can you imagine a heroine who buries dead people and uses her axe efficiently to crush the skulls of Bone Houses, yes, you found one, Ryn is unstoppable and merciless!)

Her father goes to work for mine but he never returns. When their mother passes away, not so decent law abiding citizen uncle start to live with them (we cannot say he takes good care of them, he is so occupied with his gambling and loaning money from village’s one of the rich and powerful man Eynon who is also big asshole! Very same guy threatens three siblings to evict them for the house left them from their family!) and of course he also leaves the house and nobody hears from him.

Ryn lives with her brother and little sister, taking care of them, isolated from the life and mostly connects better with dead people than the living ones.

She lives to slay the creatures and finally she meets with the map-maker boy Ellis (who gets lost by a lost map and finds himself to be killed by a bone house but thankfully Ryn and her magical axe solves the problem. She saves his life!) is also reserved, orphaned, lost (literally and mentally), thinks the real people are more dangerous than the creatures. Their loneliness, relation issues with other people, passions about their jobs ( Ryn expresses herself by digging the soil and Ellis tries to find his way and his identity in life by drawing new road maps.), their weirdness, isolated natures and finally grieving ( Ryn misses her father and their special connection marked by the half spoons –her father takes the half and tells her, he will come back to unite them- her death mother and Ellis suffers from his parents’ absence who he never met.) make them MATCHED MADE IN HEAVEN.

Now they come together to start their journey to find the cauldron which is the source of dead-bones and destroy it to save the village from the attacks of them.

So I loved the detailed, gore, dark, stunning writing. I visualized all the parts on my head and scared shitless. The impeccably written action parts were heart throbbing, terrifying but also very entertaining. I felt the blood pumping into my veins and pure adrenalin rush so I jumped up and down, screamed, dropped the book and started to run, then I got bored from the real life as I saw my husband and friends yelled at the soccer game on the TV so I returned back and bit my fingers during my reading. (Not nails! My manicurist will kill me if I do!)

So urban tales, magical folkloric elements, some Welsh some Eastern cultural elements perfectly mixed with horror genre. And of course Ryn is my favorite kind of badass, straightforward, stubborn, free, self-confidant, witty, entertaining character with her awkward sense of humor.

I also loved Ellis. He seems like a little overshadowed by Ryn because she is so powerful character. But his emotional side, loneliness, loyalty, suffering from physical and mental injuries do not make him vulnerable, these attributes make him adorable and quite a great fit for Ryn. (They complete each other and best part is Ellis accepts and loves Ryn’s antics, quirkiness.)
I highly recommend this especially to the horror genre fans!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,476 reviews29.6k followers
October 11, 2019
fy nghalon cymreig mor hapus ar hyn o bryd // my little welsh heart is so happy right now.

i can count on one hand the amount of mainstream novels that have incorporated traditional welsh influences into their stories. welsh folklore and culture - particularly northern welsh - is rich and magical, so i am beyond happy to see a story represent it (this even mentions the legend of beddgelert, which i may have lowkey freaked out about. lol).

and i think its these influences that i hold dear to my heart which helped me fall in love with a story about zombies. zombies are so not my thing. but this comes from a place of myth and legend, rather than something from horror, and it makes all the difference. it feels more like the opposition in a fairytale and not like something you would find in a nightmare. i really appreciate how emily lloyd-jones took that approach and told that aspect of the story from that kind of perspective.

at the end of the day, i know this might not be everyones favourite book. the characters could be considered a little one-dimensional and there are some moments that might be forgettable. but seeing a culture i love be represented is a truly wonderful feeling, so this gets all the stars from me!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Holly (Holly Hearts Books).
366 reviews3,022 followers
October 29, 2019

Here is why this book worked for me in every way possible:
It’s a fantasy set in medieval times, at least that’s how I pictured it but I picture everything in medieval times because hello. Nice to meet you. You must not know me.
You have a small village that is fenced in by Iron because zombies lurk in the dark wood beyond it, you’re following siblings, the main character is a gravedigger which I found interesting as fork, you have a friends to lovers dynamic which is my preference. The love interest is glowing with Hufflepuff aura. You’ll want to carry him in your pocket at all times.

This book hit me in all the right places. It has the grim, it has the Huff, and a pet goat companion named Goat.
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
364 reviews946 followers
June 18, 2020
“There was a young woman. She was a fearless creature – a girl who would chase death into the mountains. With only an axe for company…”


MEET MY NEW FAVOURITE DARK AND SPOOKY FAERY TALE!!! (don’t ask me why I read this in the middle of June when it’s a perfect autumn read lol) Emily Lloyd-Jones is well on her way to becoming a new favourite author of mine, even joining the ranks of Laini Taylor because of her beautiful and lyrical writing style. SHE NEEDS TO WRITE MORE BOOKS ASAP!!!


This was a fabulous fantasy standalone filled to the brim with adventure, mystery, danger, adorably sweet romance, strong family dynamics, creepy woods and … zombies. I know, I know. I was hesitant to pick up a book about zombies too, but honestly, it’s worth it! They aren’t the brain-eating kind of zombies à la The Walking Dead. Rather, they’re actually reanimated cadavers walking around the forest. I viewed it more as the work of necromancy, rather than anything else. Here, these reanimated cadavers are termed as “bone houses” (I wasn’t exactly a fan of this terminology in particular, but that’s just a personal preference).

“She retreated to the forest the way some people took refuge in chapels. It was soothing in a way she could not wholly describe: The stillness and the vibrant greens, the sense of life all around her – hidden, yet still thriving. The call of birds high up in the trees, the earth freshly tilled by moles and gophers, the soft mosses.”

This book is heavily influenced by Welsh mythology, which was new for me! I’m more familiar with British, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse folklore, so I jumped at the chance to experience Welsh for the first time. Now, I have no idea how to pronounce these names, but I loved the various creatures of Welsh folklore and all of the Welsh names. It gave the story such an authentic vibe. There’s just something about Wales that’s always been so spooky to me. I’ve read enough tales of ghost hauntings and supernatural sightings in Wales that the author couldn’t have chosen a more perfect setting for this book.

“Home was taste and smell and sensation. It was not a place.”

In terms of the actual mythological creatures included, some were the tylwyth teg (faery folk), the pwca (shapeshifting spirits), and the afanc (lake monsters). None of these are explained to the reader though because the characters grew up with them and don’t question their existence. However, we learn what these creatures are as the characters encounter them along their journey. The story starts off in the normal village of Colbren with not-so-normal creatures in the woods and then gradually descends into a magical world with a plethora of the fantastical beings that the characters grew up hearing stories about. (now, if only that could happen to me … :P)

“She reminded him of the ocean – beautiful, with enough salt to kill a man. He suspected it would take a knight or a hero of legend to impress one such as her.”


Ryn is a strong, spunky and compassionate gravedigger, who took up the position after her father passed away. She is also trying to save her family home as she, her brother, Gareth, and her sister, Ceri, try to keep it afloat financially with no adult family members left to take care of them.

“Monsters were unrestrained, unbound, and beautiful in their destruction. They could be slain but they would never be truly defeated. And perhaps, even back then, Ryn thought that if she could love the monsters – then she could love those monstrous parts of herself.”

In addition, bone houses have begun to leave the forest for the first time, attacking innocent people in the village, and no one knows why. Ryn knows it’s her responsibility to take care of the bone houses and to ascertain that they aren’t able to hurt any of her fellow villagers, a responsibility that she takes up admirably.

“To him, home was – it was letters slipped between the pages of a leather-bound book and the white wildflowers that grew beneath his bedroom window. It was honey over warm porridge, the scent of wet stone in the spring rains, and the humming of cooks in the kitchen.”


Ellis, is a newcomer, passing through the village. He is a sweet, kind, and loyal mapmaker, on a quest to discover who he truly is. All he has is questions about his origins and can’t seem to find anyone with the answers that he seeks. That is, until he meets Ryn.

“She was not sure why this place affected her so, but it did. It was every old tale, every bedtime story, every glimpse of wicked wildness she’d seen at the edges of the forest, every monster and every hero. And she wished so badly she might have shared it with her father.”


Together, they agree to collectively go on a journey to find the illusive Castell Sidi, in order to discover how to defeat the bone houses and to find anything they can about Ellis’ parentage.

“That was the problem with pain, he thought. It refused to be quieted. It devoured, the way flame consumed wood. It took and it took, and all he could do was lie on a mattress of straw, torn between boredom and fear. Fear that this time the injury would not let up. That this time the pain would finally conquer him.”

Ellis also lives with chronic pain in his shoulder, and as I live with someone who suffers with chronic pain too, I thought that it was genuinely great representation of what she goes through on a daily basis. Some days, the pain is doable and she can go about her daily activities. Other days, the pain is so debilitating that she’s bedridden, feeling unimaginable agony and misery. I thought that Ellis’ experiences throughout the book were a really accurate depiction of what I’ve seen her go through over the years, so I really appreciated this aspect of Ellis’ life, as well. It’s very rare to see in a YA book.

“She knew what it was to cling on, to grasp those small fragments of memory and try to live in them. Even if it meant not living at all.”


ALSO! Shout-out to the best character in the book: Goat, the zombie goat! :D

“And perhaps this was the truth about the dead. You went on. They’d want you to.”

I really LOVED this book and didn’t want to put it down for a second, but unfortunately…sometimes life has other plans. I’m now 2/2 in terms of five-star ratings for Emily Lloyd-Jones’ books! Unfortunately, I only have one duology left before I run out of material!!! :((( I truly hope that she’ll be announcing a new release soon!!! I HIGHLY recommend that you do yourselves a favour and give this underrated gem of a novel a go!!!
September 1, 2021

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THE BONE HOUSES is amazing, but I don't really think I agree with the comparisons to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and SKY IN THE DEEP-- if anything, it's like a cross between SABRIEL and THE BLACK CAULDRON. THE BONE HOUSES is a fantasy set in a place that seems to be based off Wales. Aderyn is a grave-digger who lives with her sister, Cerridwen, and her brother, Gareth. Their mother is dead, and their father and uncle have both disappeared mysteriously, leaving them all effectively orphaned.

Aderyn goes into the forest to forage, but is mindful of her father's warnings that dangerous things rove in the trees after nightfall, including the "bone houses": or, the animated dead. They only stay in the forest and they only come after dark, but lately, Aderyn has been noticing that they have been venturing closer and closer to the edges--until one day, they're out.

In the meantime, their village has been graced with the presence of an unusual boy: a map-maker with chronic pain, who won't tell them his surname or why he's come to their village. Aderyn meets him when she saves his life and they end up forging an unusual alliance. Both of them need to go into the forest to find a legendary castle in the lands of the faerie, and a cauldron rumored to give life.

So, this was fifteen different kinds of amazing. The writing was lush and gorgeous, and it set the scenery of the village and the forest perfectly. I was very impressed by how richly-imagined this world was, considering that it was relatively simple. It does for Welsh folklore what Naomi Novik did with Eastern European folklore in SPINNING SILVER and UPROOTED. The faerie legends and the nod to The Black Cauldron made me so happy, and the Medieval village setting was so well done.

Other things I liked about this book were the chronic pain rep (understated, but rare in fantasy), especially since Ellis was never painted as weak or as a victim. Aderyn is a strong female character who doesn't need to be brash or throw her weight around (just her axe, heh heh) to be respected. I loved her close relationship with her siblings and the family goat, and her slow-burn attraction to Ellis. The way she fought back against the injustice of the village lord who wanted to ruin her family in his greed, and the hero's journey she goes upon to find the reason the dead are rising, were both really empowering for the character and instilled her with agency. She was never passive or bland.

Anyone who likes strong female fantasy characters and Welsh settings should pick up THE BONE HOUSES when it comes out, especially if, as I mentioned before, you enjoy Naomi Novik's work, or enjoyed SABRIEL and UPROOTED. It has that same fun, folkloric fantasy vibe, with a gloomy, Gothic edge to keep things interesting. Apparently it's a standalone too, so no need to commit. ;)

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,388 reviews77.2k followers
October 9, 2019
This was a wonderfully atmospheric read, with lovable characters, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading a MG fantasy instead of a YA one. Either way, there's a lot of heart and hope here, and this was a lighter read that I would think the younger end of the YA spectrum would enjoy. Full review to come.


Buddy read with the lovely Meltotheany!

*Thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,545 followers
January 5, 2020

I gotta be honest, I hate zombies and absolutely don't care for them—they're pointless and stupid and an utter waste of time. But this book?

Emily Lloyd-Jones somehow managed to bewitch me into adoring this tale; a tale about the aftermath of the fall of a once glorious kingdom of magical beings, and what remains in the mysterious forest they used to live within; a story about a small village haunted by what was left behind by the king of the otherfolk, and a fierce girl fighting to protect her family and folk.

Refreshing and enchanting, the grace of this book completely took me by surprise, and I couldn't get enough! THIS playlist explains perfectly how The Bone Houses felt to me 🖤

Profile Image for Arini ~ Miss Casually Reading.
666 reviews1,499 followers
August 2, 2020
This should be a five star read!!!!

Because . . . ZOMBIES, which in this book we refer to as Bone Houses. And because strong heroines who dig graves for a living, cute soft boys who find comfort in books and drawing maps, as well as outstanding friendship and family/sibling relationship are (apparently) my kryptonites too.

Not to mention, all the Welsh folklore, the Halloween spooky vibes, our dear BONE GOAT the loyal protector, and the audiobook with its British/Welsh accented narration that’s just so splendidly done. The Bone Houses has mastered the art of being original and unique—at least to a degree.

I feel like I should be more lenient considering this is a standalone with only 350 something pages, but I can’t bring myself to.

My biggest problem lies with the pacing, which is rather slow, and the plot, which I hate to say is predictable. So many things happening, but very little that actually moves the plot forward. Like, I wanted more excitement than just our characters fighting off Bone Houses every now and then. :(

My favorite part was , and it almost got me teared up. This book is one of a kind, and for that I highly recommend it. However, since I’m a plot driven type of reader, The Bone Houses simply didn’t make the cut. I’m underwhelmed.

(Read as an Audiobook)
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews883 followers
November 15, 2019
3,5* - this started out really strong, I enjoyed the writing style, the characters and the plot itself. I even finished it in one day.

Unfortunately around the last 100 pages or so it got kinda repetitive, predictable and romance heavy (it really wasn't that bad but still too much for my taste lol), which led to me giving it "only" 3,5 instead of the full 4 stars. I'd definitely still recommend it.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,423 reviews8,960 followers
November 19, 2022
After the death of her parents, 17-year old, Ryn, is left to run the family's graveyard, along with her brother and sister.

This may seem a simple task to you, they're gravediggers. How challenging can it be?

In their remote village of Colbren, however, the dead oftentimes don't remain dead; not exactly.

Allegedly, due a decades-old curse, the dead in Colbren can reanimate themselves and begin to walk again amongst the living. These walking dead are known as bone houses.

For the most part, Ryn is used to dealing with this issue. They don't cause too much trouble. They seem to stick to the forest and are fairly easily cut down if need be.

Recently though, the behavior of the bone houses is changing. They're venturing further into the village and attacking with a new ferocity. Ryn can't quite figure it out.

Around this same time, a mysterious young man, a mapmaker by trade, has come to the village. Could the two things possibly be connected?

Ryn is drawn to this new man, Ellis, and the two begin to get to know one another. It turns out Ellis was found in the very mountains that border the village. He is on a search for his parents. He wants to know where he came from.

They both have mysteries to solve and there's no better way to solve a mystery than going on a quest. Any Reader knows that!

Thus, Ryn and Ellis, along with Ryn's very faithful goat, head off deep into the heart of the mountains, where they hope to finally learn the truth behind the curse and their own lives.

The Bone Houses is a highly creative and engaging YA Dark Fantasy story. I loved the characters and the escalation of the plot over the course of the book.

It's hard to believe a story following a gravedigger and the walking dead could be beautiful, but in the capable hands of Emily Lloyd-Jones apparently it is.

The writing is lyrical and compelling, with just the right amount of humor, romance and horror elements woven throughout.

I fell in love with both Ryn and Ellis, but really it was Ryn's family goat who stole the show. We stan an animal companion element in any Dark Fantasy story, but it was particularly well done here.

Additionally, I love a quest. It was fun to go along with Ryn and Ellis on their journey, as they began to piece together the truth behind the bone houses the intensity of the story continued to amp up.

I also liked the secrecy and reveals revolving around Ellis. He had a super fascinating backstory and I loved how Lloyd-Jones chose to bring that all to light. There were some great reveals.

I picked this up in anticipation of this author's upcoming release, The Drowned Woods, which is releasing next Tuesday, August 16, 2022.

The Drowned Woods, although following a whole new set of characters, is said to be set in the same world as this novel. I wanted to be sure to have the backdrop of The Bone Houses prior to picking that one up.

Also, I have heard incredible things about this book, so I definitely wanted to get to it anyway.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this story and am happy that i made time for it!
Profile Image for Emily Lloyd-Jones.
Author 10 books1,447 followers
March 27, 2021
Eeeek. I’m so excited to share this book with everyone. There are folktales and magic and undead corpses shambling around. There is a teenage gravedigger, a mapmaker who can never find his way. And my favorite character is a goat.

EDIT: If you want more Welsh fantasy, please check out The Drowned Woods.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
880 reviews760 followers
March 3, 2020
3.5 stars

Surprisingly elegant and atmospheric, but definitely rough around the edges. Zombies meets ancient Wales meets myth meets....traditional YA trappings.

Concepts: ★★★★
Visual descriptions: ★★★★
Density: ★★ 1/2

The Bone Houses has one of the coolest concepts in YA—in a small town at the edge of the mystical mountainous woods, skeletons come alive at night and wander. They're called bone houses. That kind of an opener screams to be read.

Ryn is a gravedigger, and the tough-as-nails, chip-on-her-shoulder YA heroine that we've seen before. Her father was lost to the mountains, her uncle was lost to the wilderness, and her siblings are all she has left. The family scrapes it by on the edges of poverty in a very medieval-feeling way.

Enter Ellis, the mapmaker. Kind of strange that there seems to be an entire profession devoting to traveling mapmakers, but The Bone Houses runs with it. Ellis is an orphan boy trying to find his parents, and finds himself drawn to the woods where he was found.

Ryn and Ellis also find themselves drawn to each other and end up in the woods on a quest to a) learn more about the mountains for a map, b) learn more about Ellis' past, c) try to find out what happened to Ryn's dad, and finally d) to discover the heart of the woods and find a way to stop the bone houses from rising. (It's a complicated quest.)

There was potential for me to love The Bone Houses, but I never found myself crossing the divide between liking and loving. It was cool...but I wanted more of the magic, more of the bone houses, and wayyyyy less of the YA-standards: the romance, the tying everything up together in the end, the internal dialogues on identity that took up space that could have been used on plot, etc. Give me the weird and the unexplained magic and leave everything else behind—it just bogged the story down.
Profile Image for mimi (during exams).
291 reviews151 followers
August 23, 2022
The Bone Houses is not just a tale about zombies and magic.
It's a story about hope and love. About death and the suffering that comes with loss.
It's a story about living, for the one who doesn't know how to live.

A long time ago, a girl, a boy and a goat saved the small village of Colbre, in Wales, from the rising deaths. The Bone Houses, they called them.
They faced an army made of death knights, an encampment not willed to give up on their elders, a couple of monsters and the endless love of a long-lost father. But they did it.
The village was safe and magic was gone - for good, this time.
The boy discovered his origins.
The girl protected her siblings and her home.
And, in the meantime, they found each other.

Is it a legend? Is there any truth behind it? Maybe.
As I see it, it's a suggestion to not fear the long sleep of death because it isn't what they would want. The loss of a loving person can break someone and can be described as a living hell.
But you should always remember that you're alive.

She would carry the dead with her, but now she wouldn’t be burdened by them. They were a weight that would lessen with every step; not because the memories would fade, but because she’d be stronger for bearing them.
And perhaps this was the truth about the dead.
You went on.
They’d want you to.

3 stars
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,239 followers
August 29, 2019
Would definitely classify this as dark fantasy, what with the rotting corpses and reanimated dead and all, yet it's strangely funny at the most unexpected times. Reads like a YA version of The Black Cauldron and features a cast of fully-realized characters, including a fierce, axe-wielding female protagonist, a gallant map maker, and a loveable goat. A gruesome delight!
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
670 reviews1,025 followers
October 27, 2021
“The things that crawled from the lake were sinew and rotting flesh. They were silent, with hollow eyes and bodies that caved in. They were called bone houses.”

4 ⭐️

Ryn lives with her brother and sister after the death of their mother and disappearance of their father.
She saw her first Bone House coming out of the forest when she was just a child.
She frequently spends time in the woods, often protecting the village from the undead, using her axe.

When a new boy arrives in the village with a mysterious past, Ryn finds a way to make some money for her family. In the hopes that they can finally pay off her Uncle’s debts.

Ellis has never known his true family, but what he and Ryn uncover as they search for a way to break the curse that is causing the dead to rise is more than either of them could have imagined.

An imaginative, fairytale world with a bit of creep factor thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the journey with this story and the reveals that came out of it.
Profile Image for alana ♡.
637 reviews1,231 followers
November 22, 2019
“And perhaps this was the truth about the dead. You went on. They'd want you to.”

If you told me a book about zombies would leave me with tears in my eyes I normally wouldn’t believe you...but here we are. I've been in a bit of a slump lately when it comes to fantasy books, but when I came across this one and then found out it was a standalone I figured I didn't have much to lose. So, I gave it a go and I'm so glad I did. If you're looking for a standalone fantasy with great world-building, lovable characters, a goat that carries the story on it's back (not even kidding), and an epic adventure than don't let this one slip past you.

Aderyn, was one of the most lovable characters I've read this year. She will do anything for her family and is fueled by making sure her brother and sister are taken care of since her mother's death and father's disappearance. Her family's graveyard is struggling ever since the recent sighting of bone houses (think zombies), her rent is long overdue, and her uncle hasn't returned to pay his debts and help save Aderyn, her brother, and sister from losing their home. Yet all the while Aderyn's life is crumbling around her she's still determined to not let her siblings and her hometown struggle. With the help of a mapmaker named Ellis, they set off to find out the why the bone houses are wreaking havoc on the world and to hopefully break the curse around them once and for all.

The thing I loved most about this book was how so much of it centers around love, family, grief, and moving forward. There are so many great quotes and messages throughout this story that it seriously made me tear up, which almost never happens. I felt like this was a timely fit for my life given everything that happened in the last few months and it was so comforting to read this and hear that it's okay to move on when bad things happen to us, and more importantly that our loved ones would want us to. I loved Aderyn's family dynamics, her friendship and soft romance with Ellis, and her newfound appreciation for her sister's goat who came in clutch multiple times and saved everyone's lives. I mean really, anytime an animal is going to save the day I'm obviously here for it.

Favorite Quotes

“Home was taste and smell and sensation. It was not a place.”

“The anticipation of the loss hurts nearly as much as the loss itself. You find yourself trying to hold on to every detail, because you'll never have them again.”

“It was a risk, to love someone. To do so with the full knowledge that they'd leave someday. Then let go of them, when they did.”

All in all, despite feeling slumpy towards fantasy books lately I'm so happy I picked this one up. It definitely got rid of that feeling and has me excited to dive into more fantasy books this winter but also excited to check out more books by this author as well.

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Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
478 reviews37.2k followers
Want to read
March 20, 2019
Book: rising corpses and deep mystery and curses and mountains.

Me: Hmmmm ok ok keep going.

Book: '....standalone.'


*adds book to TBR*
Profile Image for Rachel Reads Ravenously.
1,787 reviews2,131 followers
October 2, 2019
3.5 stars

“The living had a tendency to make promises they could not keep.”

The Bone Houses was one of my most anticipated Fall 2019 books. While I didn’t love it, I did enjoy it and it was the perfect book to kick off October with.

The Bone Houses is a fantasy novel about Ryn, a gravedigger in a small town. When a bunch of bone houses (aka the dead) begin to rise and attack her village every night, she sets out on a quest with a map maker to save the town.

“I grew up thinking monsters could be slain.”
“And I grew up thinking people were the monsters.”

There was a lot of amazing world building and imagery in this book, that’s my favorite part about it. Many parts of the book were written in such a way that I could see the landscape so clearly in my head. I liked that we had a strong female heroine and a sweet and respectful hero. The pacing was what made this a 3 star and not a 5. I had no problem putting the book down and sometimes struggled to get back into it. Otherwise, a very unique and solid story.

“The dead are dead.”
“But they don’t have to be.”

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Profile Image for Isabella.
558 reviews11.7k followers
October 14, 2020
With a wonderfully horrifying mix of the walking dead, Welsh folklore, soft bois, and ax-wielding female leads, The Bone Houses was just what I was looking for. With its eerie, atmospheric vibes, complex characters, strong family bonds and a quest to end a deadly curse.

I had so much fun reading this book and found myself easily getting lost in the pages of this book. If you're looking for a good book to fulfill your horror needs during spooky season, I would definitely recommend The Bones Houses!
Profile Image for Lia.
47 reviews65 followers
January 19, 2021

*sigh* That didn’t take long.

( NB: I'm aware that a lot of people enjoyed this book but it just wasn't for me, so please don't hate me. I like to think that I'm a nice person )

“A gravedigger, a mapmaker, & a curse”
You’d think that’d make for an interesting read but…

Aderyn is as plain as my grandmother’s knickers
No, even they have more character than her. She's your typical YA female protagonist:

✔️ Tragic past
✔️ Daddy issues
✔️ Violent weapon of choice
⭕ Personality?

Sadly that box is empty, unlike my tear ducts which are mourning the loss of money spent on this brainless drool….uhmm never mind that. *positive thoughts, Lia*
It’s drain cleaner now, mhmm😌

"Beautiful things are often poisonous or useless―”

You bring in some “mysterious” handsome stranger and we all know what's going to happen🙄
Oh, but don’t bother creating romantic tension or allowing them to have the slightest semblance of confict, or hesitation. Nope because that would be oh so terrible.

Not even in the span of 2 days, Ellis has developed “the feelings” for Ryn & wants to bare his soul to her!
The fumes from the insta-lovepoo are too much!😣

But he doesn’t do that until later in the book, thankfully or I would certainly have gone crazy! 😵
Honestly, everything about this book felt too rushed and too slow. There were scenes that lagged and I wasn't invested in the story at all.

The characters are poorly developed, the curse from the cauldron reminds me of ACOTAR and some bits of information bears resemblance to The Cruel Prince. This has fae history but WHERE. ARE. THE. FAE?!! 🧐 Hmmm ...
With all of that talk of fallen empires, rulers, and hideous creatures, I expected some of these things to come into focus!

This might’ve been better off as a series if the plot wasn’t so predictable. I'm especially talking about
I was excited about this concept:
"The dead were dead but they weren’t mindless.”

Zombies with brains, yayy… who wouldn’t want to see how that turns out?!
It got a few laughs out of me but overall I AM UTTERLY DISAPPOINTED.

My favourite part of the book involved scenes with the Undead goat named Goat. It is only through you, goaty, that I got through this so this star is for you!❤️

Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,333 reviews1,824 followers
September 25, 2019
It might seem obvious, or maybe not, but the overwhelming theme of THE BONE HOUSES, a story of a curse, magic, and reanimated dead, is grief. Of letting go of the past, whether that be from a loss or from a hurt or from an unknown beginning, and moving forward. Living.

She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.

My interpretation of the setting of this story is Wales, or a Wales-like place, because the mythology and folklore reference beings similar to the fae, to the Tuath Dé Dannan, and also the character names feel Welsh. Once there were magical beings in the world, and magic, but a battle saw it ended and, as time passed, the legends have become stories or morality tales. But in Ryn's village, the magic isn't all gone; the dead, or bone houses, still walk the forest. Though with few people brave enough to venture into the dark, few believe that even that much magic still lingers. It isn't until years later, her father lost, her mother dead, and at seventeen, working as a gravedigger, doing all she can to keep her siblings fed and with a roof over their heads, that something has changed. The bone houses are leaving the forest.

This was the problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren. Nothing stayed buried forever.

When the village is attacked, Ryn teams up with a recent arrival, a mapmaker, to journey to the mountains where the legend of the cauldron of rebirth was said to be last seen. If they destroy the cauldron, maybe it'll end the bone houses and break the curse.

"I'm a mapmaker."
"Why aren't you spending the night in the village?"
"I–I meant to."
"You're lost."
"I am not.""
"You're a mapmaker who cannot find a village.""
"I was using someone else's map."

Lloyd-Jones' story is lush, magical, and eerie. Beyond the mystical, it deals with grief, pain — both emotion and physical — and family; and not just the two legged variety. For all the horror and violence of the walking dead, Ryn is careful in dealing with them, respectful, even as she's forced to fight for her life against them. She struggles with the concept of what she has to do, with how it makes her a terrible person, and though we don't suffer through endless agonies I thought enough time was spent — or maybe it was just genuine enough — to make it a good argument. Even if there was really nothing else she could do.

She was a half-wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel.

There's a romance, a slowburn of one, and though you see it coming early on, it nonetheless still wows you as it unfolds. Gently, carefully, and sweetly. These characters were both very aware of themselves and each other; this felt real and believable. Infact, the whole story did. The family connections, the stillness and peace of the forest, the horror of what hides in the dark, the desperate things people will do when facing the death of a loved one.. it might have been wrapped up in the fantastical but it was all very real. Also I would die for the goat.

"I grew up thinking monsters could be slain."
"And I grew up thinking people were the monsters."

This isn't my first read by this author (a fact I just realized while grabbing info for this review!) but it's definitely the first one that will follow me into my dreams. This one is going to stick with me for sure. And I can't wait to see what she writes next.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
March 26, 2020
THIS BOOK HAS A ZOMBIE GOAT. If that isn’t enough to convince you it’s worth reading, well…I don’t know what is. But here are a few more things this delightful book has to offer:

A kickass, axe-wielding gravedigger girl

A small town plagued by a curse

A quiet, mapmaking boy with chronic shoulder pain (omg relatable)

Dark forests, abandoned castles, and legendary monsters

Witty banter alongside profound moments

Did I mention the freaking amazing ZOMBIE GOAT???

This was one of those books that sounded good when I saw it all over various bookish social media platforms, but I hadn’t really prioritized reading it. Boy howdy, am I glad I decided to give it a shot, because, while it did have some small rough spots, as a whole it was an enjoyable read with a small dash of spookiness.

First off, a disambiguation: this book really isn’t horror. Yes, it has zombies, but it isn’t written in a way meant to scare; its focus is more on breaking a curse, dealing with loss, and fighting a corrupt noble. Aside from the descriptions of decaying bodies, which are a little creepy/gross but not very scary, it probably isn’t going to freak you out. If you’re afraid it’ll be too scary, don’t worry; if you’re looking for some good old-fashioned fear, this might not be the best place to get it.

Now, on to the review, starting with a quick synopsis!

Aderyn (“Ryn”) has a lot on her plate. Her parents are dead, she lives with her siblings, and they’re behind on rent because they can’t pay off their missing uncle’s gambling debts. Her job as the town’s gravedigger might be a good source of income, were it not for the fact that lately, the dead aren’t staying buried, instead coming back as zombie-like creatures known as bone houses, which has superstitious townsfolk opting for cremation instead. Enter Ellis, a quiet mapmaker of vaguely noble background, who is trying to map the area around Ryn’s village–both for glory and for personal reasons. When the threat from the bone houses reaches an unprecedented level, Ryn and Ellis team up to try and find a mythical city, hidden in the mountains, where the magic that keeps bringing the dead back to life supposedly resides. Yes, they’re an odd team–but they might be just the right team to break this curse and lay the dead to rest once and for all.

The first major perk of this book for me was how fast of a read it was. The pacing was quick, the writing was accessible, and even the printing was nice (not jammed too closely together on the page). I was able to tear through it easily in a matter of days, without feeling like it had actually taken much time. The action was constant; the slower moments were long enough to provide a break for the reader but not so long that they were boring. Honestly, the pace throughout was probably one of this book’s greatest strengths–and makes this an ideal book for when you’re bored at home while social distancing.

This speed was aided by the fact that the whole world was immersive and enjoyable to read. Steeped in Welsh mythology, the bone houses are far from the only magical things in this world, which also has fun things like pwca (ghost/fairy/forest creature things) and sea monsters. There is a recurring line of thought about the corruption of men, the consequences of when humans stopped trusting the fair folk, and how out of touch the nobility are with the dire state of small towns like Ryn’s, all of which helped create an intoxicating blend of whimsy and darkness that filled this dark fairytale.

The characters, of course, were a lot of fun. Ryn is a badass who hacks through bone houses with her trusty axe like it’s no big deal, who goes into the supposedly-haunted forest without fear, and who will do anything to help her family–even if that means leading a stranger through an abandoned mine and into the mountains on a quest that has killed anyone else who has attempted it. Her siblings, though only minor characters, have their own personalities; I was a big fan of Ceri, the youngest, who loves baking and her pet goat but also is the master of deadpan sarcasm.

As a perfect complement to Ryn, Ellis is sensitive but no less of a badass. He lives with chronic pain in his left shoulder, supposedly from an injury as a child that was never set right, but he rarely complains and always finds a way to fight through the pain, no matter how bad it is. He’s clever and loves the details and rules of mapmaking, and even though he occupies an odd spot socially, he still has aspirations of becoming something greater than his current station. Plus, I absolutely love his constant banter with Ryn; the two of them are quite funny together.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, once again, how much I love Goat. No, the goat doesn’t really have a name beyond “the goat,” and there is a reason for that (Ryn’s logic resembles a quote from a wonderful Pixar movie: “Once you name it, you start getting attached to it!”), but this weirdly loyal zombie goat, smelly and rotting and ferocious and stubborn, is most certainly the best part of this book. No amount of argument will convince me otherwise.

Though some elements of the plot were predictable–a certain small town that Ryn and Ellis come across early on was painfully obvious in its “secret,” and two big reveals near the end did not shock me nearly as much as I think they were supposed to–that didn’t bother me too much, because the author was still able to wring emotional value from them without being overwrought. The use of zombies to make the dead a physical presence–and to signify the persistence of family ties, even after death–allowed for a fresh exploration of different forms that grief can take and added deeper resonance to this story.

I’ll even forgive the little bit of romance this story had, because (a) there wasn’t much, so it didn’t overwhelm the plot, and (b) it was mostly about learning to trust someone and care about someone even when you’ve had so much taken away from you, and I kind of liked that angle.

All things considered, I found The Bone Houses to be a highly worthwhile read. It will keep you turning the pages, it will make you smile even as you squirm at all the bones and rotting matter, and it will most likely leave you a little happier than you were when you picked it up.
Profile Image for Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction).
442 reviews6,505 followers
September 13, 2020
3.5/5 stars!

A super quick and enjoyable read for the autumnal season! I ended up falling into this one so easily. The writing flows naturally and descriptions smooth with little effort, with the dialogue between characters only solidifying the ease at which everything appears to be done. Each time I picked it up,unimaginable effort was needed to fall back in right where I left off.

I do have to admit this waned a little the further into the book I read. There were some instances that seemed as if the author needed to get from A to B and didn’t quite know how, evident through the characters sudden jumps of “figuring out” new facts. The inconsistency of it made me laugh slightly - one minute a character would figure out the entire back story of the other purely through finding some profound meaning behind their tone of voice...only for two of the biggest plot reveals to be glaringly obvious and yet apparently missed by everyone. When it comes to the writing too, I’ve seen/read trusted (Welsh) reviewers criticise the lack of research behind the Welsh mythology inspirations in the book - so while I love the folkloric/mythology atmosphere it has, I want to acknowledge its inaccuracies and think it’s worth looking into more.

That being said, I did still really enjoy this book. Sure, some things were questionable - the acceleration of a romance or a goat as a main character which I found to be random for the sake of randomness - but it still made for a fun read. The atmosphere is perfect for autumn, especially with topics such as gravedigging and the dead just being a standard part of our main character’s life. That combined with the “old story” feel and a dark, pervading sense of uncertain magic made for a fab book to curl up with on a chilly night.
Profile Image for kath.
75 reviews266 followers
March 27, 2020
What has adventure, slooooow burn romance, Welsh folklore (I need more of it now!), chronic pain rep, and hands down the best literary goat you'll ever become acquainted with? This. Book.

Oh hi, I absolutely loved this special, strange, magical little story and consumed it in it's entirety in one sitting. Emily Lloyd-Jones was a new author for me but her writing style has snagged my heart forever. Please excuse me, I must go acquire her other books immediately because, what a talent.

This book read like a story worn smooth by generations of retelling, with a heartbeat that wound with mine until I felt completely one with this magical forest setting and heartfelt character arcs of loss and grief and strength. Though it was a quick read, I wanted it to never end.

{4.5 stars}
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,591 reviews170 followers
October 22, 2019
Before picking up The Bone Houses, my thoughts were (a) pretty cover!! and (b) yet another zombie story. Well, I was correct about the cover, but The Bone Houses is far from an ordinary book about zombies! In fact, I'd classify this more as a fantasy story than horror, because while there are dead who rise, the story is really about the magical elements and the legacy left behind by the departed fae rulers of the land.

Ryn is a marvelous lead character, strong and dedicated to her family, not afraid to use her axe to defend her town and the people she loves from the dead who rise by night and come into the village. But why are the dead walking, and what do they want? These aren't your horror movie zombies -- there's no chowing down on the living, for one thing. And while Ryn initially believes that they're all on the attack, she soon learns that there's more to them then meets the eye.

Once Ellis arrives, he and Ryn form a partnership to discover what's really going on and find a way to stop it. There's more to Ellis's story than is apparent at first, and as he and Ryn share their stories, both trust and deeper feelings develop between them.
To love someone was to lose them. Whether it was to illness or injury or the passage of time.

It was a risk, to love someone. To do so with the full knowledge that they'd leave someday.

Then to let go of them, when they did.

I loved this book! The magical elements are well done, and there are some ruminations on life and death and the meaning of it all that are quite lovely. Plus, lots of terrific surprises and some truly scary action moments. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kat | Rustic Pages.
141 reviews252 followers
February 8, 2022
This book was such a fun twist on the usual zombie story! The zombies, or Bone Houses, come alive because of a curse that has been put on a nearby forest. Anyone who is buried there comes back to life at night, so the dead are a mix of both recent, traditional zombies and completely decomposed skeletons. In short, the two main character's goal is to stop this curse from happening because the dead are now wondering outside of the forest and into town, endangering the lives of their loved ones.

Let me emphasize for those of you who fear they are stepping into a horror; this is truly not the case. Though there is suspense, the focus is more on the myths, legends and fantasy side of the story, not on blood and gore. You will see other reviewers mention that it is closer to a fairytale and I would absolutely agree. I also loved the incorporation of Welsh folklore and this story inspired me to further study it once closing the book. As I mentioned before, this was a really unique take and though I wish I felt a little more connected to the characters, I still very much enjoyed the story!
Profile Image for Jillian.
79 reviews50 followers
April 19, 2020
So this book was way different than I initially thought it would be . It’s definitely an original story , it’s about a grave digger and a map maker but the dead rise every night but up until the map maker gets lost and comes into town they never ventured out of the forest. The grave digger agrees to help the map maker into the forest to some of the other outlining towns to ask about his parents . And let’s just say your in for some eerie surprises. It’s not exactly scary but definitely eerie. It’s an original story that may be based on some old fairytales or stories but it’s a good read I enjoyed it very much. Two thumbs up from this girl.
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