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All the Murmuring Bones

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Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren's freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.

337 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 9, 2021

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About the author

A.G. Slatter

4 books208 followers
AKA Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter is the author of All The Murmuring Bones (Titan Books, purchase links below). That will be followed by The Path of Thorns in 2022. Both are gothic fantasies set in the world of the Sourdough and Bitterwood collections.

In February 2021, Tartarus Press published The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, the third mosaic collection in the Sourdough world series. In March 2022, The Bone Lantern (a novella set in the Sourdough world) will be published by Absinthe Press (an imprint of PS Publishing).

Angela is also the author of the supernatural crime novels from Jo Fletcher Books/Hachette International: Vigil (2016), Corpselight (2017) and Restoration (2018), as well as ten other short story collections, including The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, A Feast of Sorrows: Stories, and The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories. Vigil was nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

Angela is represented by Meg Davis of the Ki Agency in London: meg@ki-agency.co.uk

She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, two Australian Shadows Awards and seven Aurealis Awards.

Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction. Her work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, French and Romanian. Victoria Madden of Sweet Potato Films (The Kettering Incident) has optioned the film rights to one of her short stories (“Finnegan’s Field”).

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships. In 2016 Angela was the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth. She has been awarded career development funding by Arts Queensland, the Copyright Agency and, in 2017/18, an Australia Council for the Arts grant. She teaches for the Australian Writers’ Centre.

She is also the author of the novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (Tor.com) and Ripper (in Horrorology: The Lexicon of Fear).

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,056 reviews
Profile Image for Juliet.
Author 83 books10.8k followers
March 17, 2021
A beautifully written, very dark fantasy (at times verging on horror) by this award-winning writer. The language is evocative and powerful, and the story pulls no punches. The classic elements of gothic fantasy are there - a strange old house, a family with dark secrets, and various eldritch manifestations. But there is nothing cliched about All the Murmuring Bones - it's outstandingly original in both ideas and storytelling. The folkloric tales that are sprinkled through the book give the story and characters added depth.
Profile Image for Renaissance Kate.
236 reviews123 followers
February 4, 2022
2/4/22: Currently only $1.99 on Kindle! Highly recommend picking it up!!

While this book was not what I expected, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. 1st person POV is usually hit or miss for me, and in this case A.G. Slatter nailed it. I absolutely loved Miren’s character and the opportunity to experience the story through her eyes. I would categorize her as a morally gray character, but one whose choices I understood and whom I saw as a kind-hearted young woman striving to do what was right.

I would describe this book as both “dark” and “gothic”, but otherwise its description does not do it justice. The synopsis only describes the first third of the book, perhaps even less. While Miren’s grandmother provides the catalyst for the story, there is so much more beneath the surface of this tale (pun intended) that isn’t mentioned in the description. Because of this, I’d encourage you to pick it up so that you can see just how well the layers are built upon the information provided upfront. AtMB is very much a character-driven story, and each new twist and turn only enhances the story further as Miren’s choices propel the plot forward.

This book involves magic, but it isn’t nearly as important as the family legacies, myths, and creatures that make up Miren’s world.
Her backstory and relationships within her family hold an otherworldly essence of their own, especially given the folklore passed down through the generations. In addition, Miren encounters various sea creatures along her journey that Slatter incorporated into the story in unique ways. And yes, this book has its gruesome and unpleasant moments, but I couldn’t help remaining hopeful as Miren sought to unravel mysteries of the past while fighting to create a future of her own.

I would have liked to see some of the side characters fleshed out or incorporated more, from the travelling troupe of performers to Brigid and even to the green-eyed man. I’m also a huge sucker for romance, so I would have liked for Slatter to dive deeper into Miren’s relationship with Jed. Lastly, I wish the climax and the downfall of the villains could have been slightly more drawn out and dramatic. That being said, this book still has a great cast of side characters both good and evil, and each one was woven in well to fit their part in the story.

In the end, I truly enjoyed this book and how I found myself looking forward to reading it before bed. Although it’s a standalone, I will likely pick it up again in the future and will also be on the lookout for A.G. Slatter’s future novels, starting with The Path of Thorns coming in 2022.

parent death, sibling death, child death, infant death, death of a loved one, parental abandonment, abuse, torture, suicide and suicidal thoughts, incest, forced marriage, violence, gore, sacrifice, murder, imprisonment

Thank you to Titan Books via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
258 reviews78 followers
June 6, 2021
'Mark my words, Miren, the O'Malleys are on the rise.'

I REALLY liked this one. I didn't speed through it like I do some books but I loved the writing, the setting and even Miren.

'One for the house, one for the Church and one for the sea.'

When Miren's grandfather dies, her grandmother Aoife, the last true O'Malley, decides to marry her to her distant cousin to help refill the family coffers. Knowing that her reservations against the match will go unhindered, Miren plots her own way out of the union and goes in search of family elsewhere.

'Hard to know, too, how many burn who are genuinely those who can hex, and how many are merely inconvenient women.'

All the Murmuring Bones is my first Gothic novel - and there's no doubt it falls into that bracket. There are:

- Not one but two delapidated mansions
- Damsels in distress (though they're perfectly capable of getting themselves out of distress)
- Ghosts, walking dead and other monstrous, fantastical creatures
- Some rather iffy male protagonists
- Discussions of both Church and witchcraft
- Death and murder
- Darkness and isolation
- Cold, dreary weather

All that seems to suggest a rather dark tale. And whilst it's certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, it doesn't feel as malevolent as some I've read (Prince of Thorns and The Traitor Baru Cormorant, for example). I had every faith that, whilst Miren was capable of ruthless acts, her heart was good and good would win in the end.
'Other families might have stories of curses, cold lads and white ladies, but we have old gods, merfolk and monsters.'

The story is set in an Irish-inspired secondary-world where small witchcraft is possible and mermaids, kelpies, ghosts, corpsewights, shapeshifters, vampires and automatons exist, not to mention other creatures I'd not heard of like nuggles and tangies. Their presence is not considered exceptional by the characters but nor is the world particularly changed by their presence, resembling pretty closely what I imagine 18th or 19th century Ireland to have been like. Likewise, the magic we see, by and large, seems to be small trivialities of growth and production, that are little explained and, whilst certainly important, not the be all and end all for society at large. I enjoyed the balance, feeling it added spice to an already interesting world without overwhelming it.

'Why do they all think me harmless? He might be a good judge of men, but he's an appalling one of women.'

I like Miren, a lot. She's a hard one to gauge to start. We see the world through her eyes yet we're given little inkling as to her thoughts or plans which certainly keeps us on our toes. As the story progresses, we see she's capable of great kindness and cares for those she considers within her purview. At the same time, she's capable of quick, ruthless action when threatened - something I admired in her, having spent too long shouting at soft characters who just can't bear to make the killing blow at the eleventh hour. She's smart, though distrustful; quick to suss out lies, and willing to dish out her own when she feels it necessary. There's little 'how on earth did she not see that', and lots of 'huh, now that she mentions it...'.

'Perhaps I'm free and do not know it. How will I ever know?'

Slatter treats her readers like adults. She doesn't pander to false tension or obvious twists but lays out a tale where both good and bad happen (and sometimes both at once) and it's up to you to judge if they balance. I found her writing beautiful and her descriptions evocative. I enjoyed the short tales she includes (some of which, she says in her acknowledgements, are drawn from Sourdough and Other Stories) and the journey she takes us on in the early pages through the history of the O'Malleys and their home, Hob's Hallow. The pace is slow and it takes over half the book for Miren to arrive where she means to go and for the action to pick up; there was never a doubt that I'd finish though. I wasn't sure what the denouement would be but I wanted to join Miren on the journey.

This is not a book to read when you're tired and it's dreary outside - this book would probably depress you further. But it is a book to read and one I throughly enjoyed. It's a little darker than my usual go-to reading (both in terms of light and sentiment), which, along with the pace, is probably why I gave it 4 stars and not 5, but I'm glad I have read it and I'd read more by Slatter (whether writing as A. G. or Angela).

This book was provided free of charge by NetGalley in return for an honest review.

If you liked this, you might like:
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1) by Juliet Marillier Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) by Mark Lawrence
Profile Image for Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨.
1,062 reviews615 followers
March 7, 2021

This book suffers from one big flaw - false advertisement. I started this book thinking I was going to be getting a gothic fairy tale. It became clear very early on, that while it was gothic, it was definitely no fairy tale. There were no fairy tale elements, hardly any magic (and the little there was, was inconsequential to the story). So this was really just a big disappointment.

👎 What I Disliked 👎

Pace: It took soooo long for this to get started that it actually never really did. The beginning dragged on and on with no direction in sight and I was close to DNFing this numerous times. I felt bored.

Plot: As far as I can see, there's no plot to this book. It's character driven and plotless. That does not appeal to me at all, I need a plot to get me engaged. At least just a shadow of a plot. I couldn't even find that.

Premise: The actual premise of this book was so different from the advertised premise, which made me so annoyed. I found myself skipping pages just to see if the promised premise - of a gothic fairy tale with mer people - would ever materialize. It didn't.

Characters: There were absolutely none of the characters, that I cared by in any way. If you're going to write a character driven novel, at least make the characters somewhat likeable.

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,911 followers
July 12, 2021
Angela Slatter happens to be one of my favorite dark fantasy authors. So careful, so lyrical, and absolutely brutal when the occasion requires it. And it DOES require it here.

I'm used to peculiar girls and peculiar women doing small things to help others, little magics, great injustices performed on them. This is Angela Slatter, after all. A full long life in the Bitterwood series usually means a bitter existence. But there's also the revenge to think of, and I loved the revenge.

This new book of hers takes it easy and slow, building on an old family and a decaying lineage with a dark secret. Very gothic, and later, quite mythical. Merfolk, mystery, kelpies, curses, and blood.

I'll be honest. I loved her short stories and novellas a bit more than this longer tale, but it has all the feel of the other stories with a rather more extended feel. But what it gives up on carefully crafted emotions and situations, it does gain on plot.

This is definitely one of the classier novels of the type.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,830 reviews358 followers
May 31, 2022
Each May, I try to read a book or two featuring mermaids and occasionally mermen. It's my version of MerMay. This dark fantasy tale was very entertaining, mimicking both the fairy tale and the gothic romance, switching between them at will. Just when I thought I knew where things were going, hey presto! The author would send me back the other way with a new bit of knowledge to try to fit in the puzzle.

You know the old saying, when something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true? The good fortune of the O'Malley family is one of those things. Sure, they've been successful, but at what cost? Miren O'Malley has always been told that her parents died when she was a baby, but when her grandfather dies, she searches through his papers and discovers letters from her missing mother. Then her tough-as-nails grandmother makes it clear that Miren will be marrying her cousin, Aidan, a cruel man who has made it clear that he enjoys hurting her.

But grandparents have trained Miren too well and she is not some helpless waif. She is a determined young woman with talents, wits, and her grandfather's ivory handled pen knife. Her parents are out there somewhere and if she's clever, she'll find them and evade Aidan.

Lots of twists and turns, complete with ruthless mer, creepy ghosts, and horrible family members. Since I got only one MerMay book this year, I am glad it was this one!
Profile Image for Kristina.
254 reviews71 followers
June 6, 2021
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting but I enjoyed it all the same. It was slower paced and character driven which I think worked well for a gothic fairytale. Miren was clever and could be classified as morally gray which I loved. She tried to do what was right but she was willing to do whatever was necessary to survive. The fantasy elements do take more of a secondary role in the story which may bother some readers. Overall, I thought this was a very dark, atmospheric, and smart read. If this sounds like something you would like, definitely pick this one up.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,200 reviews178 followers
October 22, 2022
Определено свежо мрачно фентъзи. Атмосферата и вмъкнатите приказки и кратки истории са увличащи, авторката използва похвата на старите истории като тези на братя Грим, което само допринася за удоволствието от прочита. Героинята не ми стана симпатична, но беше логичен и интересен образ. И да, авторкатa се отнася с читателя с уважение - а не като с усилено инфантилизиран young adult.


П. П. Това всъщност не е никаква готика, анотацията подвежда. Тъкмо затова много приятно ме изненада, предлага доста повече.
Profile Image for ✩ Yaz ✩.
486 reviews1,200 followers
January 30, 2021
3 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you NetGalley and Titan Books for providing me with an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

There’s an old woman, though, with plans and plots of long gestation; and there’s the sea, which will have her due, come hell or high water; and there are secrets and lies which never stay buried forever.

All the Murmuring Bones is considered to be a dark gothic fairytale following the O'Malleys, the once-powerful family.

The O'Malleys' prosperity is the fruition of the bargain with the Merfolk: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation.

However, the O'Malleys' bloodline faltered and their power and wealth started to decline as they ceased to do their part of the bargain. Every new generation of the family stopped offering a child of theirs and in turn their own bloodline is on the verge of extinction

It wasn't until Aoife O'Malley made up her mind about restoring the O'Malley's glory through her granddaughter, Miren.

18-year-old Miren O'Malley is the last O'Malley daughter and her grandmother has kept her in isolation to keep her pure for the marriage mart. Abandoned by her parents when she was little, Miren cares little about restoring her family's glory and detests the matrimonial project her grandmother is forcing her into. Especially if she is engaged to an ambitious and greedy man like Aidan Fitzpatrick who wants nothing but to assert his dominance and take the reins of Miren's life.

Miren begins to suspect the mystery surrounding her parents' deaths, if they are actually dead, and it set in motion Miren's journey towards uncovering the dark truths and mysteries tied to her family.

Whatever soul I might have, O'Malley though I might be, it is mine and I'll not sell it at any price.

I think the premise of this book set my expectations way too high that I found myself sorely disappointed with how the story turned out.

It wasn't that the story was not good or did not have great potential... but it's just that the story lost me many times.

It was a struggle to get through some chapters and when I am getting less invested in the story and more focused on getting through some pages to see what happens later, that shows that there wasn't much that I enjoyed.

There were some gripping moments but they did not make up for the overall boring experience that I had with this book.

It had an amazing potential if it were not for how heavy and erratic the flow of the story was. There were some really heavy chapters to get through especially the earlier ones. I was expecting more fantastical elements within the story, it felt disjointed with the story.

It felt to me that the author neglected creating a connection between the heroine and the reader and thus I was not really into the heroine's journey.

But I have to praise the eerie and dark atmosphere the author creates because I liked that.

I think it's fair to give it a 3-star rating.
Profile Image for Kahlia.
540 reviews37 followers
March 16, 2021
I read a collection of Slatter’s short stories several years ago, and her masterful prose was enough of a reason for me to request All the Murmuring Bones on Netgalley. Some of these stories (or similar stories inspired by them) appear in this book, though you don’t need to have read them to follow along.

Miren’s story starts with the death of her grandfather, and the subsequent discovery that she’s about to married of to her despicable cousin, in order to save the family’s fortune and continue the family name. It takes a while to get to know Miren, but as the reader spends more time with her on her journey, her strength, determination and resilience shine through. This is a quietly but deeply feminist novel; while Miren doesn’t loudly proclaim her right to equality, she does whisper it to herself, repeatedly. Meanwhile, the inherent danger that comes with being a woman, and the chaffing caused by a lack of agency permeate this story. The side characters are less well-rounded, perhaps with the exception of Miren’s grandmother, a terrifying but also pitiable woman who has fallen victim to the same insidious family politics as Miren is about to be subjected to.

Additionally, on the atmospheric front, Slatter absolutely delivers. All the Murmuring Bones contains all the hallmarks of a gothic novel – murderous mer-people, ghastly ghosts, terrible weather, and plenty of family secrets to be uncovered. Warning: Miren (and many of her family members) did not have nice or normal childhoods. There is also a dash of magic – Miren doesn’t consider herself a witch, but with a drop of blood and a few words, she can make even the most barren garden bloom.

Admittedly, while this book contains all the hallmarks of the gothic genre, it doesn’t necessarily pursue the traditional narrative structure of the gothic novel. This is a character-driven, atmospheric novel where the focus is on the journey, rather than the destination. Miren’s goals are typically short-term, survival-driven, and the plot jumps from location to location as Miren continues to flee danger. There’s not one creepy, rundown house, but two, and no one ghost or mer haunting Miren’s travels, but several. The result is that All the Murmuring Bones feels a little aimless, lost adrift at times (much like Miren herself). There’s a lot of stuff happening, and it’s hard to tell what’s important and what’s just there to create a macabre feel.

Despite these occasional misgivings, I really enjoyed All the Murmuring Bones overall; the journey was definitely a rewarding (if occasionally horrifying) one.

Note: I received an ARC from Titan Books. All the Murmuring Bones was published on 9 March 2021.

This review is also available @firstbreathsreviews.
Profile Image for Emma Cathryne.
442 reviews72 followers
March 5, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book felt like it was trying to be a lot of things: a dark fairytale, a gothic horror, a feminist commentary; but didn't really quite succeed at being any of them. It won the most points for me with regards to the fairy tale aspects: A.G. Slatter is certainly a stunning prose writer, and a lot of the language here was lovely. My favorite parts were the ones that leaned the heaviest into the folkloric themes, such as the short interludes of stories from Miren's book and her encounters with various creatures.

However, it was less successful with its gothic atmosphere and even less so with its feminist message. The first half of the novel and the second half of the novel felt like funhouse mirrors of each other: exploring one dark, mysterious house is fun enough but it gets a little repetitive when the protagonist rolls up to the second one. I also took a lot of issue with the "feminist" messages going on here: EVERY single other woman in this novel besides the protagonist was villanized, demonized, or set against Miren in some way. Furthermore, my BIGGEST pet peeve in novels is when fatness is used as a way to degrade female characters in comparison to the protagonist. Both Nelly and Brigid are described as larger than Miren (who we are reminded frequently is beautiful, tall, and slender) and are implied to be at various times villanous, cowardly, shallow, and overall lesser people than our protagonist, even if Brigid gets a rapid and somewhat confusing redemption arc. It really rubs me the wrong way when a novel claiming to be feminist not only lacks ANY (obvious) women of color but also puts down every other woman in the vicinity in order to put the protagonist on a pedestal. Generally this book had a lot of really interesting ideas, but the world-building beyond immediate locations felt frustratingly vague and the characters and themes left something to be desired.

TW for gruesome infant death in particular
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,071 reviews7 followers
August 15, 2021
3.5 stars

This was a slow burn fantasy interspersed with may little folktales that hinted at the story direction. I must say the folktales were my favourite part.

The story also had a subtle gothic feel to it and to be honest I think had this been ramped up a bit it would have pushed my rating to a full 4 stars. I am not a fan of the horror/gothic genre, but the elements presented in this story were perfectly setup for my taste.

I also think there were many distinct plot lines that could have been explored more, so the fact that they were all squashed into one story felt like a lost opportunity to create a richer story.

We have a family that for generations ruled the sea. With seemingly boundless money and business savvy the O’Malleys were a powerhouse of commerce. But they were fiercely protective of their privacy, preferring to marry within the extended family than bring in outsiders. Because there are dark secrets kept hidden.

Each generation must sacrifice a child to the Mer folk that eagerly wait with sharp teeth to devour the soft morsels brought their way. But a break in this tradition has the family fortune dwindling and Miren is the last of the O’Malley line that can produce a child to restore the family to its former glory.

Full of old tales, a desperate journey to escape, witch magic and kelpies, this was a pleasure to read.

The author spent more time on creating the right atmosphere and developing the main character than the fantasy element so if you are not a big fan of fantasy then I think this is a great book to dig into.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,316 reviews432 followers
July 29, 2021
I've been in a bit of an unfortunate mental state this year.
Nothing over and above what we're all going through, mind you.
The depression, exhaustion, burned-outedness, all of the other stuff, it's not dispersing and it's having a terrible side effect on me: I have not enjoyed the books I've recently read, which was especially disheartening when the four books I'd pre-ordered with wonderfully high excitement all got here and I didn't connect to any of them.
I haven't enjoyed reading at all.
Which makes me sad.
And the spiral spirals.

I'd put All the Murmuring Bones on hold the minute we got it in the library but had to wait awhile because there were other people already on hold for it. My turn to take it home finally came up mid-June.
I'll admit, I let it sit on our ottoman for a week, maybe ten days, because of the whole inability to read joyfully thing but one day, I went outside to the hammock and brought this with me.
Can I just tell you how incredibly relieved I felt to be interested in the story from the first page?

I don't know if it's Slatter's writing style, if it was the comfort of being back in this world, or if the story just struck the right way in the moment and I'm not sure that I care, I was just happy to be happy reading again.

Quick summary:
Orphaned Miren O’Malley’s grandfather dies and her grandmother immediately puts into play a plan to restore their family's former glory but at the price of Miren's freedom and the freedom of Miren's future children. Finding evidence amongst her grandfather's papers that her parents may still be alive, Miren is determined to escape the crumbling family estate, an arranged marriage to a spiteful and cruel cousin, and her pinched little life to discover the truth about her origins.

It seems a little grimdark at times, there's a lot of supernatural murdery stuff happening in and around the landscape plus there are decrepit family manors and burnt rooms that hold the memory of dead babies but, ultimately, it's a softer story, a little quiet and dreamy, filled with herb gardens and plant-witchery, about family and belonging and why it's not so great to make deals with hungry, sharp-toothed sea people.

If you've read any of Slatter's short story collections or her novellas, you'll recognize bits and pieces throughout this story; I let out a squeak of excitement when the Weeping Gate was mentioned. If you haven't, though, this is an excellent place to start.

Thank you, Angela, for this gift that you didn't know you were giving me even though I suspect every author secretly hopes this is exactly the gift they're giving readers. You made reading lovely again.


...it's not a secret anymore.
Profile Image for Lizzie Stewart.
331 reviews195 followers
August 21, 2021
All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter is a seaside gothic, full of murder and incest and secrets. Miren O'Malley is the last of a long line of O'Malleys, a once prosperous family, who made their fortunes by striking a deal with the sea - the first child will be for the family, the second for the church, and the third for the water. For too many generations, however, there have not been enough children for the sacrifice to the sea and their blessings have dried up. Miren is left destitute in an empty manor with her elderly grandparents, having lost her parents to fever at only 3. When her grandmother tries to marry her off to a distant cousin, Miren has to decide what she wants for her own life - does she want to be an O'Malley or does she want to claim the name of her deceased father and create her own path?

A ghost-filled, watery, eerie story, All the Murmuring Bones was a perfect summertime gothic.

4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books463 followers
February 7, 2021
I was intrigued to read this book because I love a good gothic novel. Sadly, I didn't find what I was looking for here.

Lovers of ornate prose will likely really enjoy the writing style of this book which is very detailed and vivid, but I tend to prefer writing that's a bit more sparse and to-the-point. I'm also a very plot-oriented author, and this book's plot moved extremely slowly, picking up only in the final quarter. In terms of genre, the book did something a bit strange with the traditional gothic setup of a plucky heroine exploring morbid family secrets in an Ominous Mansion: we start the story in one Ominous Mansion before moving to a second, and although both of them come with interlinked history and secrets, it felt a bit frustrating to move from investigating and uncovering the secrets of one house, to investigating and uncovering the secrets of another, right when in most books you'd expect to be getting some real answers. In terms of theme, gothic novels from JANE EYRE to MEXICAN GOTHIC have used their dark secrets to comment upon the power of a single lonely woman when facing oppressive social structures, but because this gothic novel is set in a secondary world, I didn't really feel that this book had much of relevance to say.

Except for the General Feminist Themes - which I wound up feeling at best confused by.

Perhaps the book's greatest flaw is the lack of connection I felt with any of the characters, who all seemed rather indistinct and unpleasant. Miren, our protagonist, is a cold fish of a character who repeatedly does dubious or downright horrible things to other people, unless they are women. The world of the story felt to me like one in which evil is always repaid for evil. When an estranged friend tries to magically attack Miren, Miren responds with her own magical attack. Men are evil to Miren, so she kills them in return. Everyone in this book does terrible things, but the only characters who get serious development are the female characters, and the only characters who get anything approaching grace from the protagonist are the female antagonists. For just one example: at one point when Miren is talking to a group of women (in this world, women have magic and men are incompetent) who have been trying to use their small magics to bring fertility back to their village's barren fields, it's just casually mentioned that they were about ready to make a human sacrifice of some random young man. Stuff like this left me with the distinct impression that in this book, only women matter, while the men were treated as dismissively as my least favourite male authors treat female characters.

In the end, it's revealed that Miren's mysterious mother (for whom she has been searching the whole book) has herself perpetrated a crime of power and oppression. Miren determines to set things right, but after a whole book celebrating women who use their power and agency to get what they want regardless of who is hurt in the process, any deeper message rings hollow.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,006 reviews2,598 followers
April 13, 2021
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/04/13/...

I have several of Angela Slatter’s books on my shelves, but this might be the first full length novel I’ve read by her, and what a wonderful surprise it was! All the Murmuring Bones is an enchanting tale of hidden magic, of dark secrets and mysterious creatures of the sea, and at the center of it all is a fiercely independent young woman who uses her wits and resources to go on a journey of soul searching.

Set in the 19th century on the Irish coast, the story follows protagonist Miren who is last of the “true” O’Malleys, an old family which has long held sway over the local community. But even as their wealth has dwindled over the years and their ancestral home of Hob’s Hallow stands in near ruins, the O’Malley name still much power and influence. For this reason, Miren’s grandmother Aoife has arranged a marriage for her in the hopes of restoring the family’s fortunes. However, while her intended Aidan is a wealthy man, he is also from an offshoot of the family who has always lusted after the O’Malley name and estate, so for him the union will be nothing more than another business transaction.

In a twist of fate though, Miren soon discovers a secret revealed in a collection of her late grandfather’s old letters. Growing up, she’d always been told her parents died when she was a baby, which was why she was raised by her grandparents. But now, she has reason to believe her mother and father are still alive, living at a place called Blackwater. No one knows where that might be, but Miren is determined to find it and confront her parents on why they gave her up. Besides, she has no desire to lose her freedom or to stay at Hob’s Hallow—especially once she realizes the awful bargain her ancestors had struck to ensure the O’Malley’s prosperity, and that Aoife wants to Miren and Aidan follow in their footsteps. With the sudden death of her grandmother, Miren realizes she has no reason left to stay, and so she makes her daring escape.

What follows is a beautifully written tale, with as much adventure as there is danger. Slatter’s prose is flowing and practically flawless, descriptive yet also tinged with a thread of our protagonist’s wry sense of humor. For this reason, while the story frequently edges into darker territory, it still maintained an easy air that prevented the mood from becoming too heavy (and kept me glued to the page). Of course, it helped too that Miren was such a strong and likeable lead, and the injustices of the circumstances she faced made it easy to feel invested in her quest and cheer her on through her struggles.

On top of that, the author does a superb job at setting the scene, creating a vibrant setting populated by mythical creatures like kelpies, ghosts, merfolk, and more. In fact, the world-building is surprisingly well-developed, considering her delicate approach to the paranormal—not with a heavy hand, but giving just enough to give the reader a sense that these elements are as real to the protagonist as the world she lives in. It’s a kind of magic one can feel working from the very first page.

Miren herself is a character that feels very relatable. Although she is resourceful and intelligent, she’s not the most level-headed, her emotions often running close to the surface. Strong feelings are quick to flare up in her, which sometimes leads her to act impulsively, landing her in or out of trouble depending on the situation. The people she meets are also delightful, even the shady scoundrels and ne’er do wells. Truth be told, it kept things interesting, not knowing how Miren would react to the many random surprises or obstacles she encounters along the way, and these unknown wonders also served to drive home the fairy tale inspiration behind her journey.

All told, I found this novel captivating. Slatter knows how to hook the reader, and All the Murmuring Bones certainly held my attention rapt with its indomitable protagonist, artful storytelling, and rich atmosphere.
Profile Image for Gabi.
689 reviews117 followers
April 22, 2021
The book started strong with good writing, an interesting family background and a realistic MC with her own agenda. The first part was 4 stars for me.
The more the story went on, though, the more I had the feeling that the detailed explanations worked as a neon arrow pointing into the direction the story would take. I was hoping for a deliberate misleading of the reader to land a twist, but that didn't come. So at the end my reading experience was down to 2 stars. I still enjoyed mc and prose, but I would have wished for a little bit of unpredictability in the story.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,939 reviews776 followers
June 19, 2022
I read All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter quite a while ago and it's one of those books that have a thrilling blurb and cover and then end up not being as compelling as one hopes it will be. Still, it was readable, a nice dark story about what one would sacrifice for prosperity. I just wish I had been pulled into the story a bit more. Alas, this book was just not for me. But if you like dark stories with mystical beasts, then this book may be for you.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
143 reviews2,103 followers
March 4, 2021
Magical, beautiful and haunting!

All the Murmuring Bones follows Miren, the last, true O’Malleys. The O’Malleys used to prosper due to a deal made with the mur. However, after each generation, the family has declined due to the O’Malleys not keeping their side of the bargain. When Miren’s is confronted with one of these dealings, she decides to leave her village and goes on a wild journey.

Let me first start by saying that I love the fact that Angela Slatter uses folklore in this story. I am from a small island community, and I have grown up hearing similar tales. I appreciate Slatter uses folklore in such a unique and creative way.

The story overall is enjoyable to read. Slatter does a phenomenal job at setting the tone at the beginning of the novel by introducing the reader to the O’Malleys. Slatter repeatedly adds new elements and twists to the story to keep the reader engaged. Furthermore, I loved learning about the O’Malleys and its dark and complex history. By integrating tales of the selkie, mur and more, my mind was filled with wonder and magic.

The weakest aspect of this story is the character work. Miren and her grandmother Aoife are well realised and complex characters with an interesting story. Unfortunately, I did not feel like I needed to care much about any of the side characters. Furthermore, the second half of the book did baffle me a bit. The plot takes a turn, where the focus shifts to a “crime-related” incident, which almost made me feel like I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. Although some readers will appreciate this plotline, I thought that the sense of magic and wonders disappeared when the plot became more “crime” focused. Slatter ends this story on a positive note, which I appreciate.

Overall, I did enjoy the story. This book filled me with a sense of wonder and I love that Slatter integrates folklore into the story. The protagonist, Miren, is a great character, and I felt immersed in her journey. Unfortunately, most of the side characters lacked depth, and I have mixed feelings about the ending. I would recommend this story to anyone that loves fantasy, folklore and enjoys magical and beautiful writing.

Rating: 3.75 / 5 stars

My thoughts on the audiobook: I read this book through audio, and I enjoyed the narration. I thought the narrator had a great voice and did an excellent job at differentiating between the different characters. I would be happy to listen to other audiobooks by this narrator.

Thanks to W. F. Howes and Netgalley for the audio arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
668 reviews91 followers
March 5, 2021
Thank you so much to Titan Books via NetGalley for the early digital copy of All the Murmuring Bones! This is a hugely atmospheric, dark fairy tale from A.G Slatter that I think most fans of lore and legends will love

Oh man, so far I think Slatter deserves every single of those literary awards, and I am extremely interested in her short fiction tales.
All the Murmuring Bones is all of the things in the description and more. Miren is the last of the O'Malleys and is absolutely not going to be controlled by any man, nor give children up to the sea. Reeling from the decisions made by her grandmother before her death, including an arranged marriage, Miren takes off to find her (presumably deceased, but not) parents.

Her journey is met with ghosts, wights, kelpies, Merfolk, and all other sorts of legend. All obstacles aside, Miren is Aoife's granddaughter and has a basic knowledge of witchcraft, and she is of an absolutely fierce line of women. I liked the theme of the men having a semblance of control throughout the family history, while the women truly and obviously ran things.

The story is addicting, with little short stories intertwined as Miren recalls or learns more family lore. There is murder and mystery and bargains to be made.

The book starts at Hob's Head, the family ancestral home, a sea side estate falling into disrepair. With wights on the main road and a family crypt, the setting and atmosphere are set. Her parents home of Blackwater is equally mysterious, but it's hard to go there without spoilers on the mystery so I won't. Lets say that just about nothing at Blackwater is as it appears, and I was just shocked at .. All of it.

Let's just say that the setting and atmosphere is absolutely first rate.

Bonus content: how to pronounce these Irish names:

Aoife: EE-fuh

Oisin: OH-sheen (Rhymes with clean)

These according to my Irish friend

If you like fierce women, witchcraft, lore, legends, murder and mystery and more, all drowning in dark fairy tale atmosphere, please check this one out!
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,248 reviews218 followers
June 6, 2021
A classic gothic horror story set in the author's brilliant Sourdough world. (You don't need to have read any of the previous Sourdough books to appreciate this one; nearly all the stories are standalone.) As with the other Sourdough books this one tells a story of women as keepers of magic and secrets and with power to birth but also bring death. And of course, it's about witches too.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
143 reviews2,103 followers
March 4, 2021
Magical, beautiful and haunting!

All the Murmuring Bones follows Miren, the last, true O’Malleys. The O’Malleys used to prosper due to a deal made with the mur. However, after each generation, the family has declined due to the O’Malleys not keeping their side of the bargain. When Miren’s is confronted with one of these dealings, she decides to leave her village and goes on a wild journey.

Let me first start by saying that I love the fact that Angela Slatter uses folklore in this story. I am from a small island community, and I have grown up hearing similar tales. I appreciate Slatter uses folklore in such a unique and creative way.

The story overall is enjoyable to read. Slatter does a phenomenal job at setting the tone at the beginning of the novel by introducing the reader to the O’Malleys. Slatter repeatedly adds new elements and twists to the story to keep the reader engaged. Furthermore, I loved learning about the O’Malleys and its dark and complex history. By integrating tales of the selkie, mur and more, my mind was filled with wonder and magic.

The weakest aspect of this story is the character work. Miren and her grandmother Aoife are well realised and complex characters with an interesting story. Unfortunately, I did not feel like I needed to care much about any of the side characters. Furthermore, the second half of the book did baffle me a bit. The plot takes a turn, where the focus shifts to a “crime-related” incident, which almost made me feel like I was reading an Agatha Christie novel. Although some readers will appreciate this plotline, I thought that the sense of magic and wonders disappeared when the plot became more “crime” focused. Slatter ends this story on a positive note, which I appreciate.

Overall, I did enjoy the story. This book filled me with a sense of wonder and I love that Slatter integrates folklore into the story. The protagonist, Miren, is a great character, and I felt immersed in her journey. Unfortunately, most of the side characters lacked depth, and I have mixed feelings about the ending. I would recommend this story to anyone that loves fantasy, folklore and enjoys magical and beautiful writing.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

My thoughts on the audiobook: I read this book through audio, and I enjoyed the narration. I thought the narrator had a great voice and did an excellent job at differentiating between the different characters. I would be happy to listen to other audiobooks by this narrator.

Thanks to W. F. Howes and Netgalley for the audio arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mike.
378 reviews92 followers
April 14, 2022
This was a very atmospheric, very dark (but not grimdark) book. It reminded me a lot of the feel of Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, though were those books had a very cold feeling, the feel of these books was very …. There’s not really a good word. Wet? Damp? Moist? Soggy? These books felt like a remote, cold coastline. Not a sunny beach; more like the coast of Labrador or Scotland. Cold and windy, with the taste of salt in the air, and hardy sea grasses clinging between the rocks.

Miren O’Malley is one of the last scions of the once-numerous-and-powerful O’Malley clan. It’s been reduced to her and her elderly grandparents, living in the decaying near-ruins of their family manor, and some more distant cousins that aren’t true O’Malleys. The book begins with the funeral of her grandfather, and with her grandmother’s determination to return the family to glory.

The foundation of the family’s power was a dark bargain the founder of the house had made with the merfolk of the sea: one child of the family per generation offered as a sacrifice, and prosperity and wealth for the O’Malley clan and safety for their ships. But with their numbers dwindling (Miren’s parents died when she was a baby) this bargain can’t be fulfilled and the family has suffered. The meat of the book is Miren’s flight from the marriage to one of her distant cousins that her grandmother intends to force her into, and towards the secrets of the O’Malley past and her own parents. Along the way she encounters riselka, kepies, selkies - all sorts of mythological oceanic creatures, in other words - as well as assorted ghosts and undead.

Interspersed throughout are small tales from the O’Malley collection of family stories. How factual they are is a matter of some debate, but by universal consensus there’s truth in all of them.

I’m always a sucker for a well-done journey of self-discovery, and that’s what this book is. Miren coming to learn of her family’s past, and her own; how she’s been shaped by her grandmother and her parents’ absence; and what she wants and does not want for her future. Mostly what she wants, what we all want, is agency: the freedom to choose her own path and not have one forced upon her.

Strongly recommended.
Profile Image for Jordan (Forever Lost in Literature).
806 reviews102 followers
March 5, 2021
Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

All the Murmuring Bones is a darkly atmospheric tale full of folklore and a captivating story about one woman as she charts her own new path from a rather grim life. This wasn't quite what I expected it to be, and if you're looking for a story with a lot of Mer presence, then this probably isn't what you're expecting either, but I still really loved this story for what it was and the inclusion of folklore and (supernatural) elements that made it deliciously dark and unpredictable and full of danger at every corner.

This is a tricky review to write because there's so much that I want to say, but for so many reasons I'm not sure how to say it, nor do I want to give anything away. It's not that this ia story full of twists and turns, but it is very much one meant to be experienced personally rather than told about. This story follows Miren O'Malley as she decides to take her life's path into her own path after some unexpected tragedies and the rather arduous, foreboding journey she takes to find answers about her past.

Miren is a woman that I grew to love and admire for a variety of reasons. She's a bit prickly, one might say, and is not exactly the most endearing person, but her self-imposed distancing of herself from others is a result of her upbringing where she needed to be strong and aware of those who may try to take advantage of her or her remaining family. I found her caution and determination to be some of the most compelling points about her--she is rightfully fearful of many things she encounters and other various threats that pop up, but she doesn't necessarily let this fear rule her in any overwhelming manner. Miren knows what she wants, she knows what she has to do attain, and she does not stop for anyone or anything. Her growth is subtle, but present, and I am grateful to have been able to accompany her on her journey that was beautiful and difficult and went to some exceptionally dark places at times.

The story is told entirely through Miren's POV, but interspersed throughout are small folklore stories that are essentially about the O'Malley family's history, especially in regards to their ties to the Mer. I loved how these stories were included and how much depth and layering they added to the world and story in general. Sometimes they were framed as stories being read by Miren's grandma, at times they were stories told by Miren to herself as a comfort, at times she told them to others, and in others she read them herself. If you like folklore stories and fairy tales, then I promise you will love this aspect!

This is one of those subtly creepy books where everything just feels... off. There's something abnormal about the setting and the people and you can't always put your finger on what it is, but you know that presence of unnaturalness is present and is as much a character in this book as the people are characters. If I were to compare it to anything, I would say that some of the feelings/vibes I got from this book reminded me of ones I got from Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (though don't take the comparison too seriously, as they are fairly different stories) and I think if you liked one, you will like the other.

All the Murmuring Books has a slow, careful narrative that isn't one you'll rush through because of the intense action scenes, but rather one you'll rush through because you just can't help but feel a desire to know what unpredictable and likely slightly disturbing thing is going to happen next. I will say that this book had a slower start that took me a little while to get into, but once I got a couple chapters in, I was hooked and wouldn't have stopped reading this book for anything.

Lastly, I wanted to leave quick note that I learned after reading All the Murmuring Bones. This story is apparently set in the same world that Slater has written other short stories in and some of the folklore stories we get in this book are drawn from her other stories. I hadn't read any of Slater's works prior to this and I don't think I had any issues diving into this one, so I wouldn't hesitate to read this book at all in case you have heard something similar. (The benefit is that it means I need to read more of Slater's work now!)

Overall, It's five stars from me! If you need a dark folklore-esque tale to round off the winter season (or any season works, really), then you should be sure to check out All the Murmuring Bones.
Profile Image for Joana.
50 reviews43 followers
May 28, 2021
Let me start off by saying this book is beautifully written. That is the reason I rated it three stars instead of two, because I loved the writing and I wasn't bored to death by the story (which, let me tell you, is an achievement in itself).

However, as many people have already said, this book is not what it promises to be; hence, my disappointment.
Absolutely NOTHING happens. There's some attempt of an actual plot in the first 20% of the book (when it still follows what was claimed in the premise), and then it drifts away to something that drags, and drags, and drags until the very end (seriously, until the last fifty pages). An end that is both predictable and anticlimactic.

And the truth is I wouldn't even call it a character-driven novel, because Miren O'Malley doesn't have a driver's license is so uninteresting as a MC and doesn't really get an arc of any kind. I like that she was sort of a morally grey character and that she had some darkish thoughts, but I don't think I can rescue anything else about her.

And oh, don't get me started on the fatphobia and the obvious lack of sorority. While it is true that Miren spends most of this story all by herself, the few interactions she gets with women are disappointing in so many ways... She has to always, ALWAYS, remark how the other women are stouter and fatter than she is, as if that was something inherently bad that makes them undeniably and unquestionably inferior to her. It baffled me that it was so unnecessary and uncalled for, and so easily removable. In fact, now that I think about it, the only good relationship with a "female" that Miren has is with an automaton. No further comments, Your Honor.
Profile Image for Kal ★ Reader Voracious.
547 reviews187 followers
March 14, 2021
You may or may not know this about me, dear reader, but I am addicted to mermaids and I love Gothic fiction. So naturally when Titan contacted me about this book I jumped on it so fast. All the Murmuring Bones truly is a "spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them." I adored this intensely feminist tale and watching fairy tales come to life in a way.
"Other families have stories of curses, cold lads and white ladies, but we have old gods, merfolk and monsters. I never doubted, when I was little, that these stories were true. Now, less a child, I'm not too sure."
The story of the O'Malleys is shrouded in mystery: to the public, to the reader, to our main character Miren. I absolutely adored how the book opens with a "fairytale narrator" feel, talking about the rumors and half truths; about a once prosperous family and estate have fallen into decay and dwindling numbers. There is a lot woven together in this tapestry of worldbuilding, half-truths and outright lies, which can make for a confusing reading experience at first.
"It's the name, you see, the name that carries value and no one's ever thought twice about making the non-O'Malley's feel bad about their lack."
In true Gothic fashion, All the Murmuring Bones deeply explores themes of purity and decay. The estate is in shambles as the O'Malley money dried up and their inexplainable luck wore out, and at the start of the book Miren and her grandmother are the only remaining O'Malleys in a once illustrious family.
"How many times can a line fold back on itself without bringing forth a monster?"
I know I mention this in my content warnings, but it bears mentioning here in the review: incest and blood purity are important to the plot and mentioned often. The incest is challenged/questioned by the narrative and Miren (not condoned in present but that's how it has Always Been in the past), but it is brought up frequently because the only True O'Malleys are the ones within the tight family tree - think of it along the lines of a monarchy family tree.
"There's an old woman, though, with plans and plots of long gestation; and there's the sea, which will have her die, come hell or high water; and there are secrets and lies which never stay buried forever."
Poor Miren is 18-years old and the fate of her family's legacy seems to be thrust at her feet. Once her grandfather passes away, her grandmother Aoife becomes determined to restore the family's past glory... by marriage and children. But the last thing she wants is to be married to a man, let alone the cruel one her grandmother has chosen. She wants her freedom and sets off on an adventure to reclaim some of her own past and set her own destiny, but things are never that easy.
"How can one run away when all the waters in the world are joined?"
I'll admit that I struggled quite a bit with the first quarter of the book: there is a lot of lore and information floated around, sometimes as fact but mere anecdotes, and I found myself rather confused about what was going on and the direction of the story. Once Miren sets off from Hob's Head the plot thankfully picks up and all those threads start coming together. Typical of Gothic fiction, All the Murmuring Bones has a slow start; however, for me I struggled not with the pacing but with how information is initially conveyed. This is very much a "Me Thing" and stylistic preference because I am a very analytical reader and like to understand things as I go.
"Like so many men, he takes good fortune for granted and only questions it when it is gone."
Power, control, and authority are central themes explored in the book. For Miren and the female members of her family it is a lack of that power and autonomy over their own lives; but interestingly there was a time in the family's past where women held the authority. (I do wish that had been explored a bit more, now that I think of it!) The book is intensely feminist and highlights the "invisible" work women put into running the home (and world) yet are taken for granted. It is no coincidence that the ones who have the actual power are women, but men claim the control.
"You claim what you can endure from your once-life and burn the rest."
While I didn't necessarily fall in love with any of the characters, there are some warm moments and I appreciate Miren's development in how she reclaims things from her past that mean something and discard the rest. About processing and moving beyond trauma, and her case generational trauma.
"The water smells awful, not like the sea off Hob's Head, which is clean and salty. This is contaminated by humanity; a greasy sheen lies across the brownish, brackish liquid."
The book is pretty atmospheric in tone and does an excellent job of painting a picture for the reader. There are more monsters than of the human (male) and merfolk variety, though. On Miren's travels she encounters some haunting creatures that made my skin crawl. The book itself isn't necessarily horrific, but it has its moments of fright.

Overall I really enjoyed All the Murmuring Bones and once it really got going I had a difficulty putting it down. If this book sounds interesting to you and you give it a try but struggle a little with the start, try to give the book until 30% before DNFing it.

Content warnings: bsent and emotionally distant parents, abuse, body horror, captivity, death, gore, incest, loss of a loved one, murder, obsession with blood purity, sacrifice, sexism, suicidal thoughts, violence

ARC provided by the publisher for my honest review. This has not affected my opinion of the book nor the content of my review. Quotations are from an unfinished proof and are subject to change upon final publication.
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Profile Image for Audrey.
1,014 reviews158 followers
August 15, 2022
3.5 stars

The blurb is kind of misleading; don’t bother with it. We have a story that is sort of gothic, sort of mythology based, but not really those things.

It starts off really, really slow and boring. I nearly DNF’d it at 10 percent. You can skip the first couple chapters and not miss much. It takes place in Ireland in an unknown time period. The O’Malley clan was once a great and powerful but has now dwindled in size and wealth. Miren is the last direct descendant. (I just summarized a hundred pages there for you.)

Once you get through the dreary and unnecessary history of the O’Malley family, you can wake up as the story takes off. It’s largely unpredictable, partly because Miren doesn’t make the same stupid mistakes a lot of heroines in books do. It’s about a family full of secrets; the narrative is driven by uncovering one secret after another. There’s an occasional mythological creature, but it feels more like magical realism and historical fiction than fantasy. The second half is pretty gripping.

Audio narrator does pretty well; Irish accent. I do not understand the phonological system of Irish names at all.

Language: One use of s–t
Sexual Content: Present; not explicit.
Violence: A number of murders, some off-page. Description of a corpse.
Harm to Animals:
Harm to Children:
Other (Triggers):

*Reader’s Choice Nominee Fall 2022*
Profile Image for Tammy.
816 reviews135 followers
December 27, 2021
The nitty gritty: Dark and atmospheric, All the Murmuring Bones is an intriguing blend of fairy tale and mystery.

Love is a barbed hook and family the line to which it is tied. It digs deep, and sometimes trying to remove it entirely does more damage than simply leaving the obstruction beneath the skin for a scar to grow over.

All the Murmuring Bones is a beautifully written, atmospheric tale of an old family bound by a dark pact with the sea and the creatures who live there. Miren O’Malley is the last of the true O’Malley’s, an eighteen year old girl who longs to break free from her depressing life. The O’Malleys were once a prosperous family, but lately they’ve fallen into decline. Miren lives in a crumbling mansion called Hob’s Hallow with her grandparents, Aoife and Óisín, who raised her after her mother and father died when she was a baby. But when her grandfather dies, Miren discovers some old letters locked away in his office, letters that suggest her parents aren’t actually dead, but simply left her and escaped to a better life.

When Aoife declares that Miren is to be married to an imposing man named Aidan—a bargain struck to keep the family afloat—Miren knows it’s time to leave for good. Sneaking out of the house one night, she sets off on a journey to find her parents. But along the way, she’ll uncover even more dark family secrets that lead her to some hard truths about her heritage.

I really loved Slatter’s writing, it’s perfect for this dark, Gothic story that revolves around the mysteries of the sea and how it ties to the O’Malley family history. From childhood, Miren has been told stories from an old family book of fairy tales and she knows each one by heart. I loved the way the author incorporates theses tales—a story within a story—by interspersing them here and there. Even though the stories are grim and dark, Miren finds comfort in their familiarity and recalls them during times of stress and uncertainty. They also act as a way to reveal some of the family secrets along the way, and the reader is often left wondering whether the stories are actually real or not. There is a particularly grim family tradition that Miren discovers and takes action on, which is the foundation for the O’Malley family fortunes (or misfortunes!)

Miren herself is a brave, plucky girl who sees herself living a different life than her family expects from her, and I loved her desire to actually take action and change her life for the better. The story appears to be set in Victorian times, based on the characters’ clothing and also the attitudes of the male characters. So you can imagine that Miren has been raised to be obedient to her elders, especially men, and this didn’t sit well with me. So when her cousin Aidan decides to marry her as a way to get his hands on the Hob’s Hallow fortunes—spouting such ridiculous and rage-inducing statements as “I will plant my seed in you and you will produce children” or some such nonsense—I was thrilled when Miren proved to be smart and savvy and figured out a way to escape his clutches.

My favorite part of the story was Miren’s journey to find her parents. She runs into some very interesting characters that I came to love, including a troupe of traveling performers who help her escape Hob’s Hallow. A nice chap named Ellingham runs the troupe and the highlight of their show is an automaton who sings and from a distance looks like a real girl. I also loved a boy named Ben who may or may not be a werewolf!

On her journey, Miren runs into many different sea monsters and creatures, many of whom feature in her book of fairy tales. Miren is described as having “sea water running through her veins,” and so she has an affinity with the merpeople, rusalky, mari-morgan and kelpies she meets along the way. My very favorite character of all was a kelpie (magical water horse) who makes a bargain with Miren and becomes a trusted friend.

As wonderful as all the atmosphere was, though, I did find the overall story to be a bit fractured. I thought the plot was solid up until the time Miren arrives at Blackwater, the estate where she thinks her parents might be living. I loved the beginning and learning about the O’Malley family history. The Gothic sensibility is strong and worked so well for me. As I mentioned before, I especially loved Miren’s journey to find her parents, and although the pacing is slow in the first half, it didn’t bother me at all. But Slatter adds so many characters and side plots to her tale, that the main story arc veered off course at times. We are introduced to characters and elements that seem important at the time, but then they fizzle out and really never go anywhere. 

However, I did love the way the story ended. The author gets back on track and ties in an important bit of family history mentioned in one of the fairy tales in Miren’s old book and gives us a satisfying conclusion. Readers who love fairy tales and don’t mind a bit of darkness in their stories will most likely enjoy this atmospheric story.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

About the Author:
Profile Image for Christine Sandquist.
183 reviews59 followers
September 24, 2021
A phenomenal tale of generational trauma, the strength of folklore, and the reclamation of power and agency in a patriarchal society. Full review to come!
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