Mary Holland writes social fantasy and science fiction. She has degrees in sociology, art photography, and library science and she has worked as a corporate librarian in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz mountains in California with three cats and one husband. She can be found at www.mary-holland.com.
The Bone Roadby Mary Holland
A divvy, a dying woman, and a promise
Rhona has the divvy gift; with only a touch she perceives which babies are sterile Shun, destined to be killed or outcast. The people of the Deom depend on the divvys for survival, but it is a hard and brutal gift. As long as Rhona’s mother was alive, Rhona had followed the old ways, but now her mother is dead and/p>
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A divvy, a dying woman, and a promise
Rhona has the divvy gift; with only a touch she perceives which babies are sterile Shun, destined to be killed or outcast. The people of the Deom depend on the divvys for survival, but it is a hard and brutal gift. As long as Rhona’s mother was alive, Rhona had followed the old ways, but now her mother is dead and Rhona is free to live her own life. She has one last obligation to fulfill: honor her mother's dying wish to find a woman named Selina and offer her help.
Rhona has no idea who Selina is, but the best way to find anyone on Deo is to travel the Bone Road, the trade highway paved with the remains of their ancestors. And follow it Rhona does, accompanied by her young son Jak, straight into a twisted conspiracy of vengeance, death, rebirth, and the mystery of the Riders, men who never die and are bent on closing the Bone Road forever.
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It's been a while since I really mourned the end of a book, but The Bone Road is one that I will. I don't want it to be over yet, though I'm so glad it ends. It is a nice, tightly wrapped stand alone book. Do those seem to be getting rarer these days, or is it just me? Either way, I've found a new author to follow. Holland's writing is wonderful. The world-building is elaborate and the characters are extremely fleshed out. I absolutely loved, loved, loved, loved Jak and Matteo—wonderful male characterisations. Rhona and Ani are strong, self-assured women. In fact, I think Rhona is my new role model. Her steadfast determination do the right things while refusing to succumb to social pressures was both honourable and a little enviable. This is fantasy for grown-ups. Now, it's not light fiction. There are some real social injustices to be considered here. The classification of people into Wid, Zeosil and Shun is very reminiscent of a caste system and those in the lower tiers fair poorly. The reader is forced to face some of humanities crueler tendencies, but it is worth it because you also get to cheer for those fighting the good fight. I'm always a little wary of fantasy books in which characters are trying to change society for the better. Experience has taught me that what this ends up really being is an attempt to remake their fictional world into a moral mirror of the West. I was thoroughly pleased and immensely satisfied to find that Holland created a world and characters with moral quandaries different from our own, in which right and wrong were still identifiable to the reader, and was then willing to leave them alone. I cannot say enough good things about this book. There is a generational shift in the middle and it slows down considerably for a little while while the reader gets aquatinted to the new main characters. But it picks back up after 2-3 chapters and keeps the pace brisk after that. I have no hesitation about recommending this book. It's fabulous.
TW: RAPE The people of Deo are divided in two moieties, the Wid and the Zeosil. All of them must, by tradition, pay their debt by producing a child. The thing is, Wid can only mate with Zeosil, and Zeosil with Wid, otherwise the child will be born a Shun. If a Shun baby is lucky, it'll survive past 3 days and grow-up as an outcast, infertile and unable to pay the debt, scorned by all, believed to bring bad luck. Rhona is a divvy: she can touch a child and sense whether it's a Wid, a Zeosil, or a Shun. She is travelling along the Bone Road, the road that encircles all of Deo, when her mother dies - but not without extracting a final request: that Rhona should help her friend Selina. A dangerous task involving the Rider. This is confusing to Rhona, since the Rider is a story told to frighten children into behaving themselves: a creature who jumps onto the back of a misbehaving child and forces it to run till their forces are spent and they die, the Rider will then jump onto the back of another misbehaving child. What follows is an intricate story of forbidden love, adventure, a perilous mission, and one of the best world buildings I've ever seen written. The Bone Road is one of those stories you read and you can tell the author did not decide to rush any aspect of its writing. It's a fantastical story devoid of plot-holes, with an amazingly detailed society. Just so you can have an idea, it's one of those books that comes with a glossary and makes you think, "Oh... one of those where I'll spend 3/4 of the book going back and forth because I have no idea what this term means anymore." Instead, the book is so skilfully written that the reader can skip right past the glossary and understand everything as if they've lived within that world all of their life. The world felt real. The characters felt real. The events that were so fantastical that even the characters had trouble believing in them, felt real. The dialogue was natural and believable, the plot was tight - and even when there was a change of POV (something I'm notorious for disliking, sorry!) the pacing didn't even flag, because every character was interesting. The villain was masterfully conceived, really, you have to read it to believe it. He made everything within the story that much more urgent, his motives were fully fleshed. You'll find no half-hearted fantasy clichés within these pages, I can promise you that. And I'm sitting here hating myself, because when it comes to bad or mediocre books I have plenty to say, but what can you say about an excellent book?! I love fantasy and the majority of this type of fantasy is written by male authors - it's good, I'm not bringing up a battle of the sexes here - but, as a woman, it's just so, so gratifying to see delicate issues being treated with the respect they deserve. Up there I placed a trigger warning for rape - yes, there is rape in this book, but it's not just a convenient plot point, and it's always treated as it should - with the utmost respect for the victim, and no forgiveness, no excuses, no pity for the perpetrator. The whole issue of consent, the whole way sexuality was treated in this society was so powerful to read. I wish all fantasy books were written like this! If you love fantasy books with exquisite world building, a detailed society, compelling characters, an addictive plot and rational, pragmatic characters, ruled by common sense, GO READ THIS!! As soon as I finished it I bought Mary Holland's Matcher Rules, and if it's even half as good as this one was, it must be amazing. I was actually sad when I went to the author's page on Goodreads and saw only two books listed. So many mediocre writers keep churning out dreadful book after dreadful book, and Holland has given us only two... But if they're all as good as The Bone Road, I guess I should just be thankful and hope she writes more, no matter how long it takes her, because however she's writing, she's doing it right.
Book exchanged for an honest review:The people of Deo or Deom are separated into three classes:The Wid, The Zeosil, and The Shun. There is only one tradition they all follow~The Bone Road belongs to The Deom. The Wid named Rhona, who is divvy gifted(one who knows about health or sickness), seeks to honor death request made by her mother little did she know the trouble that would follow in this task. Rhona is now free to claim her choice of partner~Matteo the Shun. Both of them have waited a long time. Both are willing to fight for this chance. Rhona's son Jak acts like a proper Wid grown but is still very much a child. Jak doesn't want to see Shun baby be buried in a Landers grave. The Shun baby is taken to Cold Creek Refuge and named Anile. Anile is keeping a secret from everyone. Landers are starting to claim the land and taking tolls from all who pass. The Nobile are greedy land owners that are obessed with sireing sons over daughters yet no one knows why. Will Rhona honor her mother's death request? Will Rhona and Matteo partner? What is Anile's secret? Will Deom learn the truth of Nobile's? Your answers await you in The Bone Road. Very interesting read. Very impressed by how the author wove her tale of different classes that needed to come to a better understanding of one another. The part of the story that impressed me most was Ani's story. Ani clearly is divided and determined in her mind about her vengeance. Yet she wants a place to belong and call her own. I will definitely check out more works by this author.