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.