Nettle and Bone

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher
Genre: fantasy
I read it as a(n): hardback
Length: 243 pp
Her Grace’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Marra is a princess of a small, unimportant kingdom that has the misfortune to also have the best harbor in the world. To keep the kingdom safe, her eldest sister is married to the prince of the Northern Kingdom. When she dies without a child, Marra’s next sister is married to him. Marra is sent to a convent where she will be out of the way but that doesn’t prevent her from learning a dark, centuries-old secret.


To save her sister and her kingdom, Marra sets off to kill her brother-in-law with the help of a scary dust-wife, an addled and wicked-but-doesn’t-want-to-be godmother, a quasi-suicidal warrior, a dog made of bones, and a demon-possessed chicken. It is exciting for everyone.


I loved this book so much! It was a great dark fantasy that read very similarly to something Neil Gaiman might have written. That is never a bad thing.


The story was exciting with lots of references to traditional fairy tales made along the way. There’s a little Goblin Market, a little zombie apocalypse, a little tatterskin, a little Sleeping Beauty, just a little of everything mixed into a fun and original tale.


I definitely plan to read anything else by this author and strongly recommend that everyone else do the same.

Favorite lines:

  • It was a cruel spirit that would punish starving people for what they had been forced to eat, but the spirits had never pretended to be kind (4).
  • He was a good dog. He had excellent bones and even if she had used too much wire and gotten it a bit muddled around the toes and one of the bones of the tail, she’d think that a decent person would stop and admire the craftsmanship before they screamed and ran away (21).
  • Then again, peasants and princesses all shit the same and have their courses the same, so I suppose it’s no surprise that babies all come out the same way, too. Having thus accidentally anticipated a few centuries’ worth of revolutionary political thought, Marra got down to the business of boiling water and making tea (36-37).
  • …the baby emerged into the world, looked around, burst into tears. “You get used to it,” the Sister told the infant… It was bloody and wrinkly and reddish gray and looked like the sort of thing you would drive back to hell with holy water (37).
  • The flat stones made for uneven footing. … They rattled and slid underfoot, talking to each other in stone language, saying all the words they had been saving up until the next time a human walked across them (66).
  • The old woman had not struck her as religious.
    But I could easily imagine someone making a saint out of her, a hundred years hence. Maybe some of the saints were like that, too – cranky, old women with strange gifts (77).
  • “How did you get a demon in your chicken?”
    “The usual way. Couldn’t put it in the rooster. That’s how you get basilisks (82).
  • “Enough of this place,” said the dust-wife. “Everyone have their souls still? Shadows still attached? Then let’s go before that changes” (97).
  • What did the abbess used to say? That our own flaws infuriate us in other people? (132).
  • Nothing is fair, except that we try to make it so. That’s the point of humans, maybe, to fix things the gods haven’t managed (181).
  • Injustice and the desire for revenge age the body, but they keep the soul going halfway to forever (199).
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