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By These Ten Bones

By These Ten Bones

4.1 12
by Clare B. Dunkle

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There's hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it's time.

A bone-chilling tale of werewolves and love, set in medieval Scotland

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver's daughter, Maddie.


There's hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it's time.

A bone-chilling tale of werewolves and love, set in medieval Scotland

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver's daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves.

There is an evil presence in the carver's life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This spine-tingling tale by the author of the Hollow Kingdom trilogy features a plucky heroine, a stranger with a dark secret and an angry mob. War has diminished the field of eligible bachelors in Maddie's medieval Scottish village, so when a handsome and talented young woodcarver comes to town as sidekick to a peddler, she's instantly interested. No sooner than he arrives, though, strange things start happening. Maddie fends off a menacing creature during the full moon, the young man is grievously attacked by something with sharp claws and a baby is born with "the mouth of a beast," and soon dies. The superstitious villagers have various suspects-the folkloric Water Horse; a vicious creature who lives in the loch; Lady Mary, the cronish lone inhabitant of the ramshackle castle; and finally, the carver's peddler friend, Ned, who has a taste for drink and a sharp tongue. Ned's murder (and subsequent decapitation) adds a gruesome element to this Beauty and the Beast variant. Maddie knows the identity of the real culprit, and must be willing to risk her life to end its threat. Her devotion to the carver, who is nearly mute and devoid of personality, isn't convincingly established, and the title-an allusion to the fingers of two hands-is also a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, Dunkle creates a menacing atmosphere for this chillingly good tale. Readers will cheer Maddie on as she wrestles-and conquers-her deepest fears. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A mysterious young wood carver and his unseemly drunken employer have arrived in Maddie's small Scottish town. The girl is drawn to the silent, artistic man and his beautiful handicrafts. Circumstances compel Paul to stay in the village longer than he intended, and Maddie takes advantage of the time to win his trust. She learns that his name is Paul, and she learns some about his travels, but she knows there is something major that he is hiding from her. What is this sudden, strange illness which comes upon him? Why does he move around so much? What does he need from the man who came to town with him? As time goes on, Maddie comes to know his secret. But what she will do with that knowledge, and what it will mean for her, her family, and her village? Clare Dunkle's novel is set in a time of strong superstition. The violence of Paul's secret is, in many ways, more empathy-rending and less disturbing than the violence of some power-hungry townspeople. This story is disturbing, but its conclusion is satisfying. 2005, Henry Holt, Ages 12 to 16.
—Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Maddie lives in a feudal Scottish village with a nearly abandoned castle by a loch. After an itinerant old man, Ned, accompanied by a mute woodcarving boy, stops to trade for a time, her nightmares of bones and ruin are soon followed by a mysterious attack on the boy, Paul, who is found bleeding, raked by claws, and feverish. The villagers attribute the attack to the Water Horse, which is believed to rise from the loch to wreak havoc periodically. Maddie eventually pierces Paul's silence, which is voluntary, and his secret, which is not. Paul is a werewolf, chained on nights of a full moon in remote locations by Ned to keep him "safe" from himself and others. Ned is executed, but not before revealing to Maddie that the only cure for Paul is for a willing victim to be killed-eaten alive. Maddie knows what she has to do and crawls to Paul, transforming and slavering in his cave, only to awaken at home in her bed, finding that both she and Paul have survived and will live happily ever after. The moody setting lends a romantic and mysterious air, as does the cover art and the age-old theme of self-sacrifice, which will appeal to fans of the genre. If the plot seems unnecessarily convoluted, the integration of historical details of medieval village life and beliefs provides interest. Fans of Patrick Jennings's The Wolving Time (Scholastic, 2003) will likely enjoy this one, too.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just as in the old ballads, true love defeats horror when magic strikes a Scottish village. The handsome traveling woodcarver who's come to her tiny community fascinates Maddie. The village's belligerent leader, Black Ewan, shanghais the carver's drunken companion to help with the harvest and Maddie is pleased that he and his friend will be around for a while. But that very night, a ferocious beast attacks the village, and the carver is found bleeding and feverish. The villagers think the carver heroically fought off a monster, but Maddie suspects the more sinister truth: The handsome and likable youth is afflicted with a terrible curse. The only cure, the dismayed girl learns, is almost more dreadful than the disease. The archetypal romance and blend of Christianity with paganism fits well among these lovingly described medieval Scots. The carver, less fawningly described than the heroes of Dunkle's previous books, is correspondingly a richer and more compelling character, and Maddie's initiative is endearing. (Fantasy. 12-14)
From the Publisher

“Dunkle creates a menacing atmosphere for this chillingly good tale. Readers will cheer Maddie on as she wrestles—and conquers—her deepest fears.”—Publishers Weekly

“Readers with a taste for fantasy rooted in folklore and history, and a stomach for grisly horror, will happily roam the mist-shrouded Highlands of Dunkle’s latest creation.”—Booklist

A Bank Street Best Book
A NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age

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Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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By These Ten Bones

By Clare B. Dunkle

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2005 Clare B. Dunkle
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9092-9


In the far northern hills of Scotland, a gray castle stood by a narrow lake, or a loch, as it is properly called. Some castles are grand and beautiful, but this one was not. It was too small to be grand, for one thing, being the simplest type of castle. It had no moat, although its builders knew it had a natural defense: the waters of the loch at its back and swampy ground to the front. It had no palisade enclosing a fortified courtyard or lofty battlements. It was merely a large, rectangular stone building three floors high, with narrow windows through which an archer could safely shoot his foes. Carved into the rock floor of the lowest level was a primitive dungeon cell, no more than a hole, and resting above the highest level was a wooden roof that no longer kept out all the rain. A round tower clung to one corner, housing a rough spiral stair.

The wide doorway that opened into this tower lacked a door. No guards stood there, and no watch-dogs barked. A clan chief had once lived here with his family and warriors, but he had lost this valley in battle long years before. A strange old woman occupied his castle now, to the disgust of those few of his distant kin who still farmed the fields nearby.

A girl just old enough to be thought a young woman stood inside the tower doorway and wished that the castle still had a door to close. She was dressed in the plainest of blouses, a drab skirt that tied with a lace, and a voluminous woolen wrap that looked like a long, narrow blanket. This blanket, looped around the waist and pulled over one shoulder, was the most important clothing of the day. Hers was checked and crossed by lines and squares of yellow, gray, and brown. If it was somewhat better made than the blankets her neighbors wore, this showed only that the local weaver had his preferences. Maddie could be considered a strong favorite of his: she was his only child.

Maddie herself was not particularly striking, neither tall nor short, thin nor heavy. Her straight brown hair and brown eyes did not attract attention, and if her round face was not ugly, it also was not beautiful. At least, it was not beautiful at the moment. When she smiled or laughed, her whole appearance changed. But Maddie wasn't smiling now. She was anxious and afraid.

She had almost stepped out of the shelter of the castle tower before she saw the strangers. Four men she didn't know were walking along the gravel shore of the loch, leading two pack ponies. The first two men were small and dark, dressed as her own men dressed, wearing knee-length shirts, wrapped in blankets checked white and black, their legs bare down to their sandals. The last two men were foreigners in tunics, breeches, and boots. One of them was old, and the other was young.

Maddie shrank back into the gloom of the tower. She saw strangers very rarely. Once or twice a year, summer Travelers came through, selling or trading their craft goods. These men might be Travelers, or they might be wandering bandits, and their arrival frightened the girl. Four men were enough to do great harm in a settlement as small as hers.

The newcomers paused on the path by the grim old castle, but they didn't come toward it. The place was obviously abandoned. The path to its gaping doorway was overgrown with weeds, and the big war galley moldered on the shore nearby, its sides staved in so that it couldn't be sailed. Instead, they followed the path through boggy ground toward the low, humped houses of the settlement. Maddie could see her relatives there pointing and calling each other. A crowd began to gather. The men unstrapped their packs and started taking out their wares. They were Travelers after all. There would be new things to see, and no one would die this day.

The last stranger lingered on the stepping-stones through the bog, studying the neglected castle. Maddie stared at his odd clothing and wondered where he came from. He was tall, and his face was lean and beardless — probably, she decided with feminine disdain, because he was too young to grow a beard. He looked, however, as if he might be somewhat handsome, and he had the appeal of being completely unknown. Curious and interested, she stepped into view, but as soon as the young man saw her, he turned away.

Feeling slightly disappointed, the girl retraced her steps. She hurried up the steep, uneven stones of the spiral stairway and darted through the tower landing into the great room beyond. "Lady Mary," she called, "Travelers are here."

In the far corner of the dusty hall, gloomy with its few slit windows, a tall, bent old woman pushed away her embroidery frame and looked up from her work. Lady Mary inhabited one small part of the place just as a hen might nest in a tumbledown barn. Throughout the three floors of the castle were cobwebs, emptiness, and whispering echoes, but here in one corner of this great room were a gentle-woman's bed and furniture.

Leaving Lady Mary to consider these unexpected tidings, Maddie hurried back down the stairs, pulling a fold of her checkered blanket loose from her waist. She draped it around herself as a shawl and brought one long edge up to veil her hair. Picking her way across the stepping-stones, she followed the path the strangers had taken through the swampy ground by the loch.

On either side of the girl rose two lines of high hills, great, green undulating walls that defined the narrow valley. Just now their steep slopes were swathed in misty tatters of cloud. Trapped between those hills, like a long silver knife blade, lay the quiet waters of the loch, with the gray castle on its gravel shore and the flat, waterlogged bog land at its head.

The settlement lay beyond this bog on slightly higher ground, its fields spreading out around it and climbing the knees of the nearest hills. A small, shallow stream ran along its edge before vanishing into the bog and filtering into the loch. A dozen low turf houses, some longer and some shorter, were scattered across the muddy ground without any apparent pattern. Sheep and chickens wandered in and out of them, seeking their daily bread, and a few shaggy cattle grazed nearby.

Just now the little community was in a state of high excitement. The townspeople thronged the open land close to the bog to see what the Travelers had brought. Hooped milking buckets and harness ropes lay on the ground, along with fine silver knives and horn spoons. The old foreigner in breeches stood over a display of wooden ware: two-handled cups, butter makers, and small chests and boxes, their surfaces carved with complex patterns. Some diminutive saints stood on the grass beside them, their wooden faces serene.

Maddie spotted the beardless stranger again. He had unslung his own pack and laid it by his feet, but he was carving rather than selling. He sat on a boulder a little distance away from the crowd, ignoring it completely. He was fashioning a figure with a thin, curved knife, shaving off a bit here and there.

The wood-carver was grown to a man's height, and his shoulders were broad, but Maddie doubted he could be much above her own age. There was a fragile quality to his hands as they turned the wood. They were bone-white, the fingers long and slender. There was a fragile quality, too, to the hunch of his lanky shoulders. Shaggy black hair fell into his face as he bent over his work. Maddie watched him for a long minute, but he never looked up.

A quiet belch at her elbow recalled the girl to her surroundings, and she glanced back to find the old man watching her indifferently. His wrinkled face was none too clean, and his cloth cap was unspeakable, but it was perhaps better than the long, grimy gray hair that it hid. "You don't see what you want," he proffered in a thick accent, "tell me, and the boy can make it."

Lady Mary was by Maddie's side now. The old woman had taken a few moments to augment her attire. A fine damask overdress covered her plain linen dress now, and her white hair was tucked into a dusty black velvet coif. Elegant in a way that their chief's own family had never been elegant, and dressed in a style that the local people had never understood, she commanded immediate attention from the strangers.

"And what would my lady like to see?" inquired the old man, leaning forward, his faded blue eyes suddenly greedy.

"This carving work," observed the woman. "It seems quite unusual."

"It is, it is," agreed the foreigner, stooping and retrieving a little box with alacrity. "He does handsome work, the boy does, whatever your heart can wish. This here," and he ran his greasy finger over the interlacing pattern on the box top, "this is the finest style. Tapestries ain't the taste anymore, carved paneling is the thing. Last year we worked for the Archbishop of Glasgow, carving panels to his study. He begged us not to leave, says he can't find any to match the work."

The regal woman considered this unlikely tale, her eyes, like Maddie's, on the young man in question. The wood-carver didn't look up to acknowledge their interest. He kept right on carving his figure as if he were the block of wood.

"But what am I to do," sighed Lady Mary, "an old woman in my rustic hermit's cell? I have no place for paneled walls."

"You have a chest that he can carve for you?" suggested the seller. "Or a box that he could work?" She nodded, her thin cheeks flushed, and the pair walked away from the crowd to make the bargain.

Maddie stood where they had left her, feeling jealous. A weaver's family was far from rich, and she couldn't even dream of owning carved chests. Then she saw something strange.

Sensing the pair's departure, or perhaps seeing their shadows move by him on the grass, the silent wood-carver glanced up quickly to study Lady Mary. His lean face was the color of bones, and his eyes were the clearest, brightest green. There was caution in those eyes — intelligence, too — and he stared after the old woman hungrily, as if he were learning her by heart. One long, penetrating glance, and he was working at his carving again as if he had never stopped.

The display of wooden ware was unattended, and the curious Maddie stepped close. "I can give you a linen kerchief for this one," she offered, pointing to a small, two-handled drinking cup. The peculiar young man didn't look at her. "Or maybe fifty," she continued, but he didn't appear to have heard.

"Can I see what you're making now?" she asked, walking over and stopping in front of him. "A tree? Why a tree? What is it for?" He didn't slow his work, the small, pale curls of wood falling onto his knees.

"Let me look at it," Maddie demanded, reaching down to take the carving from him. He didn't let it go, but he didn't look up, either. All she could see of him was black hair. "I want to buy it," she said stubbornly, trying to pull it away, but those white fingers had a firm grip on the little trunk.

"He don't ever speak, miss," warned a matter-of-fact voice, and she turned, blushing deeply, to find the disheveled old man by her side.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she exclaimed and started to step away, but those long fingers released the carving and left it in her hands. She turned it and stared at the intricate detail and lyrical expression that could make even a tiny fruit tree seem a beautiful, wonderful thing.

"You want that carving, miss?" asked the old man. He took it in his own hand and studied it dubiously. "A farthing for it, or its worth in goods." Maddie shook her head. She had no farthing or goods. A weaver's daughter couldn't come home with a useless statue. But what a canny little thing it was, to be sure. The regret showed on her face.

"Ah, now," he grunted, relenting, "tell me this. Who brews a strong drink here?"

"Little Ian makes the water of life."

"That's fine. Here's a groat. Just take this empty flask to him and have him fill it for me, and you can have the carving."

Maddie started off with a will, but curiosity overcame her. She quickly turned and looked back. The wood-carver was staring at her. She caught a swift impression of that extraordinary white face and those piercing green eyes before he dropped his head to stare at his hands. All that talent, and so sadly afflicted. What a tragedy. She walked off to find Little Ian.

The old man took advantage of a lull in the crowd's attention to turn to his prized craftsman.

"You carving trees out of trees now?" he asked perplexedly. "What's wrong with you, boy, you gone daft?"

But the strange wood-carver didn't answer a word. His attention was elsewhere. He was watching the girl make her way through the bystanders until she disappeared.


Maddie brought the filled flask back to the old man and hurried off with her carving across the muddy ground of the township. Every house in the community was one room wide and several rooms long, built of thick earthen walls and a heavy turf roof covered with brown heather thatch. Long weeds straggled across the older roofs. No house had windows, and the walls grew a friendly layer of grass and moss. They looked less like works of human architecture than animal dens, snug and safe against the winter storms. They had no chimneys, and the bluish smoke that rose from the peat fires burning within percolated out through the thatch roofs here and there like steam rising off the back of a cow.

Maddie reached her home. The two family sheep sprang from the doorway at her approach and scampered off. She ducked under the low door frame and stayed bent, keeping her head under the thickest layers of smoke.

Inside, the house was dark and quiet, warm and welcoming, smelling pleasantly of burning peat. A small fire of coals glowed in the hearth ring at the center of the dirt floor. After a short time, her eyes adjusted to the gloom and the haze of blue smoke. Furniture emerged from the darkness. The big box bed stood by an interior wall, its sides and top covered with boards to keep off grimy drops of moisture. Low stools grouped companionably by the hearth. Wicker boxes and the large wooden meal chest stood against the far wall. Wooden bowls and cups tumbled together on a shelf. Long sticks made a framework in the corner for the chickens to roost on at night, and a straw bed waited for the little brown sheep. The kettle on its long iron chain hung over the fire, and her mother's cooking utensils lay nearby. Fish and meat dangled from strings and hooks overhead, drying in the dense smoke, and above them, rising to a peak all but invisible in the darkness, lay the roof, its ceiling of long, thick sapling poles covered with soot. Even the spiderwebs that hung in shadowy profusion from the rafters were a shiny, sooty black.

Maddie's father, James, wove clothing and blankets for the community. His loom occupied an area at the lower end of the house, with its own door for light. But a wall separated it entirely from the main living room in order to reduce the smoke and soot. The family had to go out of doors and back in again to get to the weaving room.

Having seen nothing he needed from the Travelers' wares, James was at work again, singing as he threw the shuttle back and forth across the web of the loom. Maddie's mother, called Fair Sarah for her honey-colored hair, had seen several things she did need. Now Fair Sarah stood in the storeroom, considering what to trade. Maddie put the little carved tree on a shelf near the box bed and went to help her mother.

Maddie had spent almost every day of her life near this house, within sight of this tiny township, absorbed in the activities and accomplishments of her relations who farmed there. Every rise of ground and every rock was as familiar to her as the expressions on all the faces she knew so well. For the most part, the girl was content that this should be so. She would raise her own family within the beautiful green walls of the enfolding hills. She would return the care her parents had given her, place grandchildren in their laps, and close their eyes in their final sleep. Then her parents would lie peacefully beneath the moss of the old churchyard while she prayed for their souls in the little stone church. Her children would grow up to care for her, and the cycle of life would continue.


Excerpted from By These Ten Bones by Clare B. Dunkle. Copyright © 2005 Clare B. Dunkle. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Clare B. Dunkle worked for years as a librarian. She lives with her family in Germany. Her first book, The Hollow Kingdom, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and was named a Publishers Weekly "Flying Start," a Bank Street College of Education Best Book, and a Locus Magazine Best YA Book.

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By These Ten Bones 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wordforteens More than 1 year ago
When I first read By These Ten Bones, it reminded me suspiciously of Little Red Riding Hood - the wood carver, the girl who falls in love with him, the werewolf curse infiltrating the town. That, thankfully, is where the similarities end. By These Ten Bones is a fantastic tale all it's own. It stands out in the giant swarm of werewolf paranormals that have hit the bookstores recently for one reason and one reason only: the werewolf isn't actually sexy. There is nothing attractive about him. The wolf won't protect you. He's not a nice, furry creature that runs around being adorable. He wants to eat you. And I loved it. I mean, sure, werewolves can be sexy. (Soulless' Lord Maccon, anybody?) But I'd rather have a sexy-human-who-happens-to-have-an-evil-angsty-werewolf-side. Not only is it refreshing, but it's angst-making. And I like angst. Angst is fun to read about. Or maybe I'm just weird. The writing in By These Ten Bones isn't anything spectacular - I laughed a few times, and I managed to get pulled in, but it's nothing memorable. The characters are interesting enough. One of the reasons I liked this story was because I was able to relate to Maggie. She wasn't perfect - not by far - and though she was attracted to the mysterious carver boy, she didn't fall head over heels for him, not at first. She got to know him and the more she learned about him, the more she liked him, until eventually the two were in love. (That's not a spoiler. Anybody can figure that out from the summary.) And I adored that. She did things that I would have done, and I respected her for that. By These Ten Bones is an entertaining read that crafts realistic and likable characters. It sucks you in until you want to know how the story ends - and by the end, though I had it figured out, I wasn't sure if it would go the way I thought. (It did, but I loved it nonetheless.)
CaptivatedByTheMoon More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time about 4 years ago. Clare B. Dunkle has taken the Were-Wolf story and created it into something of its own . I am currently reading this again, and am still captivated with it as the first time I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful book that i enjoyed a lot. I was so engaged in it that i read it in 3 days!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FairytaleKP More than 1 year ago
I must say that I was disappointed when reading this book. I very much enjoyed the Hollow Kingdom series by Clare B. Dunkle, but By These Ten Bones was a bit dull. It was a book that you sit down and quickly read and then set it aside and forget about it. I thought that the two main characters had zero chemistry and there was a lack of character development as well. I did not really feel for the characters and what was happening to them. Overall, I felt unfulfilled at the end of the book and it was a bit too happy ending. I very much wanted to like this book, but could not. I don't recommend this book, but I do recommend Clare B. Dunkle's the Hollow Kingdom series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first it was a little hard to get in to. Though once you get into it, it was GREAT! But, i have to warn you that in some parts it might make you a wee bit scared of shadows . So i recommend you read it in the day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I completely love this book! I read it on the plane to California- reading is the only thing that keeps me entertained on a plane- I read it in two hours, the plot and characters made me want more and more until the novel was finally finished. It was an outstanding read and I whole heartily recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
By These Ten Bones is a good story based on true facts with believable characters that one can easily see and grasp. I love this book and it is an easy, smooth reader. Anyone who reads it will be sure to like, if not love, it. Thank you, Clare!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up after reading the synopsis online. It was a very easy and fulfilling read. The characterizations are well done, and the storyline keeps everything moving at a good pace. Dunkle's take on the werewolf was not the normal one, but I found it more believable in some respects to myth. I enjoyed the myth about the water horse that ran through the novel. The time period this book was written in made the story believable as well. I found sections of the story nearing the end a little off target, but Dunkle brought everything back together in the end. This is the first book I have read by Dunkle, and I am looking forward to reading the Hollow Kingdom Series. I would recommend this book for young teens.