Bone Weaver

  • Review
By – December 8, 2022

Aden Poly­doros’s ambi­tious dark fan­ta­sy nov­el, Bone Weaver, han­dles heavy themes of cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty and an intense series of encoun­ters between humans and crea­tures from Slav­ic and Baltic folk­lore. The expan­sive world-build­ing is based around Polydoros’s research into Russ­ian and Baltic myths and folk­tales, which he stud­ied while inves­ti­gat­ing his family’s genealogy.

Poly­doros first intro­duces us to the shel­tered but lov­ing Toma, who has the pow­er to pro­tect her undead fam­i­ly. Their domes­tic peace is ulti­mate­ly threat­ened by a rev­o­lu­tion led by a for­mer sol­dier of the Tsar, who has stolen the mag­ic of the heir to the throne. A tra­di­tion­al, road-trip style adven­ture ensues, star­ring Toma, Mikkhail (the lost heir), and Vanya (a mag­i­cal­ly gift­ed witch). As they inter­act with mag­i­cal crea­tures, the three get to know one anoth­er and form a friend­ship that enables them to face off against the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader, Koschei.

Although the book is tri­umphant in its char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of its three main char­ac­ters, it at times fails to rec­on­cile the dif­fi­cult his­to­ry on which it is based. The vil­lain, Koschei, is framed as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader who wants to dis­man­tle the monar­chy of the coun­try, but the pro­tag­o­nists do lit­tle to inter­ro­gate his char­ac­ter or motives. They deduce only that Koschei must be evil and strict­ly self­ish. The lack of nuance is at times shock­ing in a nov­el that asks read­ers to con­sid­er how their per­cep­tions of oth­ers can be wrong. While Vanya crit­i­cizes Mikhail for his com­pla­cen­cy with­in the empire and his role as a per­se­cu­tor, more sym­pa­thy is afford­ed him than Koschei. Mikhail does make an effort to repair the dam­age done by his empire, but it’s a res­o­lu­tion that feels rushed. Nonethe­less, Polydoros’s world-build­ing will entice many to re-expe­ri­ence clas­sic Russ­ian folklore.

Isla Lad­er is a jour­nal­ist and Eng­lish MA stu­dent with a bach­e­lors in polit­i­cal sci­ence. When they’re not writ­ing, they are per­form­ing com­e­dy, read­ing Table Top Role Play Guide­books, or explor­ing alley­ways for for­got­ten furniture.

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