Epeolatry Book Review: Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste


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Title: Boneset and Feathers
Author: Gwendolyn Kiste
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Broken Eye Books
Release Date: 3rd Nov, 2020

Synopsis: Boneset & Feathers is a novel of witchy folk horror by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Gwendolyn Kiste, in which a young woman must re-ignite her magic against the threat of the dreaded witchfinders.

First let’s talk about the beautiful cover. The orange, yellow, and red illustration fit the book’s autumnal release date, and the novel’s setting. It’s an artistic rendering of something brewing, and it evokes a dark, nostalgic feel. The imagery within the pages is reflective of the cover—fiery, magical, and contemplative.

Boneset & Feathers is a novel by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Gwendolyn Kiste. For disclosure, she’s my writing mentor, but this review was neither requested nor compensated. I read her books because she’s a great writer.

Written in first person, Odette (the main character) offers a somber narrative, She’s portrayed as a young woman who though wise beyond her years, is baffled, saddened, and conflicted with her persecution. Why would villagers fear a petite, pretty young woman who can heal, guide, and teach? Ah, but we all fear what we don’t know, which is the heart of Kiste’s tale.

At 161 pages, the action moved along, offering plenty of internal and external stones of conflict to throw at poor Odette. Readers expect a good struggle and unwittingly look forward to it because a story without it leads to boredom. Conflict keeps to J.N. Williamson’s (prolific horror writer and 2003 recipient of the Horror Writer Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award) first commandment of writing, “Thou shalt not bore thy reader.”

I often think about deficiency in characters, where something is amiss and it gets in the way of their quest. For example, the unfortunate looking beast in love with a beauty, or the happy little hobbit who must save the world from the big bad orcs. Consider Kiste’s opening line: When the first crows fall from the sky, the villagers know I’m to blame. We quickly learn that Odette is the last witch in the village, and subject to a literal witch hunt. Birds are falling from the sky, a haunting child visits her, and Odette makes mysterious trips to the graveyard. She’s an orphan; her family has been burned at the stake, and so with no one else to turn to, she feels alone. For me, the story was about acceptance, more to the point, about not feeling accepted in your own home, and trailing loneliness. Quite a deficiency for dear Odette who wants to fill her empty void with family and friends, leave the darkness behind, and share her helpful knowledge with the local villagers. She has a relatable quest, and I think we can all identify with it in some way. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that with this closing line– “Let us begin,” I’ll say, and the birds will sing in tune—Kiste’s ending left me quite satisfied.


5/5 stars

Available from amazon.

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