The Bones of Ruin (Bones of Ruin Trilogy)

Written by Sarah Raughley
Review by Paula Martinac

This historical fantasy twist on The Hunger Games transports readers to an apocalyptic version of 1880s London where darkly magical things happen. A circus tightrope walker, a young African woman named Iris, plummets from a terrifying height, dies, but then springs back to life. This death-defying power tortures Iris, who does not understand its origin and cannot remember anything except the past ten years of her life.

As Iris gradually discovers, there are others like her— “Fanciful Freaks” with superpowers that were transferred to them after an explosion at the South Kensington International Exhibition a decade earlier. They are all brought together in seven teams in a fight-to-the-finish Tournament of Freaks by a group of powerful men and women called the Enlightenment Committee. The Committee believes the world is ending and that the leader of the winning team will be able to guide the rebirth and renewal of humankind. Committee member Adam Temple holds the secrets to the past Iris cannot remember and lures her onto his team with the promise of revealing all.

The first half of Raughley’s debut novel spills over with dark atmosphere and exciting, almost cinematic fights. Iris is a strong protagonist with a compelling need to understand how the racist underbelly of British society stripped her of family and culture. But about halfway through, the story slows to a plodding pace with more repetition than forward movement. Weighed down by too many indistinguishable characters and “so many pieces in play,” as the character Adam notes at one point, the novel can be hard to follow and easy to put down.