Friday, June 17, 2022

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (author), Amara Jasper (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250824776, April 2022

When we first meet Marra, she's building a bone dog in a barren, haunted wilderness. That's not where her story starts.

Marra is the third of three royal daughters, the youngest, the least apt, both socially and politically, but she loves her sisters and her mother. We don't hear much of her father, the king, mainly because it's the queen who has the good head for politics, and he lets her handle things.

Marra is heartbroken when her oldest sister, Damia, is married off to Prince Vorling, heir of the large and powerful Northern Kingdom, which has designs on their little harbor-focused kingdom--because of that very valuable harbor, through which so much valuable trade flows. But Damia dies far too soon after the wedding, and in mysterious circumstances, and after a year of official mourning, the next sister, Kania, is married off to him. Marra is sent off to a convent, she assumes because she's useless and will be happier there. Her mother loves her, but she hasn't lost track of the fact that Marra, too, is a royal princess. She's being kept in reserve.

Over the ensuing years, Kania is pregnant too often, has miscarriages--and finally gives birth to a daughter. At the christening, Marra discovers that Vorling beats Kania when she's not pregnant, which is why she stays pregnant as much as possible. Kania believes it's because he did beat Damia when she was pregnant, and killed her.

Marra returns to the convent, and starts trying to find a way to kill Vorling and save her sister.

She doesn't find it quickly; she's thirty by the time she's in the haunted wastelands building a bone dog. A dust-wife set her three impossible tasks--make a dog of bones, make a cloak of nettles, and bring her moonlight in a jar. Then she, the bone dog, the dust-wife, and the dust-wife's demon-possessed hen, set off for the goblin market, to acquire "what they need," which produces several surprises. With a warrior named Fenris, their party is almost complete.

None of them has any real expectation of surviving their plot to kill the prince, but Marra is, whatever her lack of other talents, quite devoted to her family, and ridiculously persistent. Along the way, there are not one but two fairy godmothers, the ghosts of dead kings, and all manner of magic to contend with.

At thirty, Marra is long past teenage angst, and if underestimating her own importance, is very secure in who she is. And she's the youngest of the party, I think the youngest character with a speaking part. The dust-wife is cranky and down to earth. The fairy godmother Agnes is bubbly, friendly, easily distracted--and when focused, she is, like the dust-wife, absolutely badass. The warrior Fenris is nearing forty.

This is a story about adults, for adults.


I bought this audiobook. 

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