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Review: Ivory and Bones by Julie Eshbaugh

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ivory and Bone
Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: FantasyHistorical
Hardback: 384 Pages
Publication: June 7, 2016
by William Morrow

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.


For a while, I couldn't decide whether or not to pick up Ivory and Bone. The synopsis doesn't give us much to go on other than what looks like a triangle—romantic or not, I can't say. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but it's difficult to do well given all the world building and characterization that must go into it. (Both are always important to a novel but especially so when your audience isn't familiar with the culture and setting.)

Unfortunately, Ivory and Bone didn't end up being for me. In particular, two narrative choices on top of poor characterization threw me for a loop:

Kol narrates the story to Mya while they're out somewhere in the wild and in danger. At least, that's what I'm guessing based on the little that we're given in the prologue. While the prologue invites intrigue, it doesn't do a good job setting up the reader for the scenario much less the 2nd person narrative. 2nd person is used to submerge readers into the story and make us feel like we're a part of it. Frankly, it's challenging enough to use without introducing the reader to a historical fantasy world. It didn't work at all for me here.

I'm not fond of the pairing of modern language with the prehistoric setting. It felt like I was watching a bad movie where the actors were trying to act in a historical movie but forgetting to leave their modern lingo behind. For an example of a YA historical fantasy series that aligns the dialogue to the time period, I highly recommend Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

I couldn't feel a connection to the characters. One reason is that the characters themselves fall flat. Outside of his immediate fascination with Mya, there is no substance to Kol. Though he describes his apprehension of hunting mammals, I understand his theory but couldn't feel his emotions. The other part of this disconnect goes back to the second-person POV. It weirded me out that Kol narrates this story to Mya and thus refers to Mya as "you" when describing her. On top of not being Mya, I wasn't given an opportunity to get to know Mya before Kol begins addressing her. To read this novel as a story addressed to Mya caused an immediate disconnect with the characters.

This novel didn't work for me because of the use of the 2nd person POV, the poor world building (language disconnect), and the lack of substance in the characters. If you don't mind 2nd person narration, you may enjoy this one more than I did. Otherwise, I recommend reading Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

DNFed 10% into the novel

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 1 star

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2 comments on "Review: Ivory and Bones by Julie Eshbaugh"
  1. I really am unsure of picking this book up myself. I'm on the fence about the modern writing because I think it would be a whole lot easier to read. I wish he would have peppered it in some to help set the story. I love reading Jane Austen retellings though.

    1. It's definitely important to make the book readable. I believe the modern language could have been toned down a bit though to make the dialogue suit the setting. (For example, the dialogue Tamora Pierce's Tortall books is entirely readable while adapting to the historical time period.)

      I love Jane Austen. The comparison was part of the reason why I picked up this book. If you do pick up this novel, let me know what you think, Amy!


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