Cover Image: Wake the Bones

Wake the Bones

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Member Reviews

Wake the Bones is such a cool, unique novel. I really don't think I've read anything like it before. The only similar-ish thing I can think of (and even then it's kind of a stretch) is Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford.  I've been reading a lot of horror lately that deals with eco-horror as well as generational trauma passed down from mothers to daughters, and everything I've read has been so good, including Wake the Bones. Elizabeth Kilcoyne's writing flows like poetry, and reading her words made me feel like I was sinking into a beautiful, velvet blanket because of its smoothness and warmth. Her characters are interesting and complex, especially Laurel and Christine, who were particular standouts for me.

The twist around the 80% mark was one that I didn't see coming, and my jaw dropped when I got to it. And then the big reveal at the end that shows what happened to one of the characters is one of the cooler, more unique wrap-ups to a character than I've seen in a long time. Overall, Wake the Bones is absolutely wonderful, and I highly recommend it!
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A huge thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

// Content Warnings: mental and physical abuse, violence, suicide, dental trauma, guns, postpartum depression, drug usage, animal death, blood, and abuse by an alcoholic parent //

Please educate yourself on the content warnings for this novel before reading, as I may have missed some in my review.


// Quick Statistics //
Overall: 3.5/5 Stars
Characters: 3/5 Stars
Writing: 5/5 Stars
Setting: 3/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 Stars
Memorability: 4/5 Stars


// Quick Review //
I find it very difficult to review this novel because I am not quite sure how I feel about it. There were many intriguing aspects that I loved but there were also many things that I didn’t enjoy about Wake the Bones.


// Other Information //
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count: 320 pages
Release Date: July 12, 2022
Series: None
Tags: Fiction, Young adult, Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Urban fantasy, Gothic


// Review //
Wake the Bones is an unsettling yet beautifully crafted tale of sacrifice, love, and magic. Full of hidden horrors, the novel follows the story of four young adults navigating a farm that holds an evil power set on their destruction.

When I first started this novel, I was absolutely in love with the characters. They were beautifully written. Laurel, Isaac, Ricky, and Garrett all help out on Uncle Jay’s (Laurel’s uncle) farm and have been friends since they were little. The main character, Laurel, lost her mother at a young age and now her whole world is changed drastically by the reveal of true wickedness that has invaded the land she loves and tends to. The relationships between the characters were obvious at the start. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed and adored them. Isaac and Garrett’s and Laurel and Ricky’s relationships were written very well and colorfully.

A great aspect of Wake the Bones is that not only is the plot driven by a devil-like threat, but also the character’s inner struggles. Isaac struggles to be himself in the small town the story describes. Although he would like to be with Garrett, he wishes to leave while Garrett wishes to stay and live the life he has thus known. Similarly, Ricky and Laurel’s relationship is along the lines of the enemies-to-lovers trope. Both of these added tensions to the scenes that already felt suspenseful.

However, I felt that the character development was somewhat lacking. The story contains magic but also takes place in a world fairly similar. Laurel is somewhat aware of the powers she has, but her friends disregard the validity of her claims… until the second half of the novel. They all of a sudden believe in magic? It felt unrealistic and like it came out of nowhere. Also, though Laurel was already used to having magic, she claimed to be incapable of having control of her powers. Except, when she has to use them in a life or death scenario, all of a sudden she becomes an expert in using the earth to fight off a demon? And it is not as if there was a time skip between her being unable to control her powers and not; this takes place on the same day. I would have liked to of seen her fail a little bit before getting a hang of using her magic. It would have been more realistic and made more sense.

I was absolutely in love with the first half of the book. The suspense beautifully built up and made me anticipate when Laurel would finally fight the villain of this story. The first half was solid and well-paced, unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the second half. All of a sudden it felt rushed and did not flow well, or make sense. A big reveal occurs yet there is hardly any time before Laurel is fighting with the ‘devil’. The twist and turns really had no effect on the story because there was no time to see the characters react and adapt to them. This made major parts of the novel lose their emphasis.

Overall, there was a lot of potential and good aspects, but the novel fell short in the second half. However, I still enjoyed reading Wake the Bones and would recommend it to those looking for a paranormal novel full of exciting characters, a rural setting, and a similar feeling to Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
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The author did an amazing job with the setting descriptions. I was able to conjure vivid image of the setting in my mind as I was reading and the author’s description made me feel like I’d lived in the small town where this story took place. Similarly, the atmosphere of the small town and the interactions of its inhabitants were well written, realistic, and relatable. I appreciated how author wove all of these things together to create a somewhat unsettling setting that focused on its tenuous relationship with nature. I also really enjoyed Laurel’s character. She was a well written protagonist, with the right amount of conflicting feelings, strength, and personality to make for a genuine character. 

That being said, the secondary characters in this book fell flat for me. I also thought that the plot was a little slow in getting off the ground. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend for those who have enjoyed books like Small Favors
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Wonderfully witchy and spectacularly spooky! Laurel’s mother died when she was a baby, presumably throwing herself into a well to end her own life. But when Laurel drops out of college to remain on the tobacco farm with her uncle, strange things begin to happen. It’s up to Laurel, who can feel the death in scavenged bones, to use her magic to defeat the devil her mother left behind. Laurel and her friends, Garett, Isaac, and Ricky, must come to terms with the reality of magic with the help of a local witch, Christine, in order to save themselves and the farm.
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Thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne follows Laurel Early, a college dropout taxidermist with magic in her bones. She realizes she needs to save her town, and her friends, from the evil that killed her mother. Atmospheric and a bit claustrophobic, this book will take you on a ride.

I went into Wake the Bones knowing it had mixed reviews. I was hoping it would be a win, but I ended up having a hard time. At times it felt too slow, but other scenes felt like they were fast-forwarding through important development. The pacing felt a bit all over the place, where it could've been a slower, more dramatic build-up instead of a sudden reveal. I like what this book tried to do, and I think the story and Laurel could have been great had we been able to sit in the story a bit longer.

I'm interested to see what Kilcoyne does next!
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Disappointing. Sorry, this is about to just be a rant. 

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it fell so flat for me. The words themselves are strung together gorgeously there's just almost no story in this book? The relationships are shallow, the characters are flat, the conflict doesn't make a lot of sense. 

Also, the ending??? Still not sure what even happened. And like the author specifically leaves you guessing a bit but I didn't like it. 

The book feels like a fever dream in a bad way. The author does pretty well with the atmosphere of a sticky, dark Kentucky summer but I could have used more Southern Gothic vibes to bring this around. I love a Southern Gothic and, done right (think Summer Sons), they're usually dark and gorgeous and full of ghosts. This book had a devil that I never really got a handle on and a walking set of bones that I wanted to actually be creepier?

I think the premise of this book is SO GOOD. And I think with more work, this book could have been amazing. Maybe, trying to market it as YA was part of the problem since I think as an Adult book more darkness and depth would have been allowed for. 

The ending felt abrupt and nothing really felt resolved. There was the demon problem but all the characters have their own personal issues and not a lot of them really get resolved or even examined much to be honest. Laurel accept and learns how to use her powers as a witch(?) without actually doing anything. The side character who "teaches" her would have been great but is never fully integrated into the story. 

This book has so much potential. I wanted it to be another House of Hollow but it's not!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC!
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A lusciously written, fever-dream of a book that’s also spooky and quite gory, it tells the story of Laurel Early, a college dropout who returns to her Kentucky hometown only to find strange—and downright scary—things happening. 
Laurel has always felt like an outsider. Her mother, Anna, was found at the bottom of the well of their property was Laurel was young. It was deemed a suicide, and Laurel has never known the full story, but rumors around their small town dubbed Laurel “the devil’s daughter.” Since dropping out of college and returning to her hometown of Dry Valley, Kentucky, she helps her uncle on their tobacco farm and also collects animal bones to make into jewelry. Laurel also has a unique ability to see flashes of a creature’s death when handling their bones.
Laurel starts to encounter strange things: a decomposing deer corpse filled with flowers and grasses; a monster with a deer skull and animal bones that shouldn’t be moving but is fully animated, charging her car one night; jars that she thought were wine were instead filled with blood. 
Before long, Laurel learns the secrets of her mother’s untimely death—why it happened, who was behind it, and why they’re coming for her now.
Laurel’s circle of friends includes three young men: Garrett and Ricky, who are brothers, and Isaac. Garrett and Isaac are gay, and a subplot about their relationship as well as the challenges being queer in a small, conservative, rural town add to the novel’s themes of identity and belonging. 
Wake the Bones is perfectly Southern Gothic in that it’s dark, atmospheric, deals with heavy issues specific to the South, and is also highly descriptive (without going overboard; this is no Dickens or Tolkien). The narration sticks mainly in either Laurel’s or Christine’s point of view, but it also jumps at times to one of the boys’ POVs, and I don’t think this is done very cleanly. It could be intentional by the author to keep it a bit confusing and feverish, as there’s some bending of reality going on in the novel (possession and dreams and visions and monsters, to name a few). But it does make for a less straightforward reading experience. The narration is also a bit distant, which I usually don’t prefer, but in this case, it helps with a deep sense of unease.
I loved the juxtaposition between the beautiful writing and the gory/creepy content. I don’t usually go for gore, and I did end up skimming a few parts! But overall, it worked in this novel; it didn’t feel gratuitous. This is the author’s debut novel, but I think it’s one of the better modern/contemporary Southern/Gothic novels I’ve read. Too often, the novels published now that are labeled as “Gothic” are just using Gothic tropes and trappings. They don’t go deep into what makes a book Gothic (commentary on social issues and anxieties, for one), and they end up feeling flat to me. Wake the Bones absolutely uses both tropes and content to deliver a truly terrifying, meaningful text that examines themes of identity, belonging, home, heritage—all themes that I’m interested in exploring in my own writing. Kilcoyne also did a fantastic job with setting as character. Not only could I feel the oppression of a sticky Kentucky summer, but I could also feel the personality of the Early farm as well as the evil simmering around it.
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Laurel Early dreamed of leaving her rural Kentucky town and she made it …only to return after giving up on college classes in the city. She’s ready to settle back on the family tobacco farm and make a little extra money from taxidermy. 
Laurel’s return awakens a devil that has been sleeping since her mother’s death - the woods begin to shift, the tobacco is dying in the fields, and her bone pile manages to stand up and walk off. It’s up to Laurel to discover her mother’s legacy and tap into a magic she wasn’t sure she had.

The summary I just gave downplays literally everything about the book: the creep factor, the atmosphere that holds true to rural Kentucky, the complicated mother-daughter bond, yearning to leave your hometown while I also aching for the familiar comfort it offers. 
This was a beautifully written story that walked a fine line between mature YA and general southern gothic horror. The most intense character in the entire story is the farm and while the characters never felt fully realized to me, I was invested in Wake the Bones because of the strong writing about the land itself.

Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Wake the Bones was released July 12, 2022.
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Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press and Wednesday Books for the opportunity to read and review an advanced readers copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own.

This book was just so... confusing. 

To start, I think Kilcoyne has a beautiful and poetic writing style. She was able to paint a beautiful picture of the Early farm and I thought her worldbuilding style was fantastic. Unfortunately, it was the characters and magic system that completely lost me.

The characters' personalities just didn't make any sense. Their emotions and expressions were all over the place and didn't read like real human beings. Their reactions to seemingly 'shocking' events was all over the place (at one moment they don't believe in magic, but the next they're relatively calm at the idea of a bone monster and raising the dead?). Some characters kind of have magic, some don't, and the development of their abilities is spontaneous and random. I think there was just too much happening here and this story could've been easily polished up and shortened into a more basic story. But finishing this one just left me wondering... what did I just read?
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To begin. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review (Spoilers below.

Overall it was a bit slow paced. Near the end it got moving then went back to being slow again.

The magic system is a little confusing. It went from 0-100 from Laurel not having any magic to being able to raise the dead.

With this I wish there was development with the villain. Maybe keeping with one instead of both Anna and the devil would have given the plot more room for other things.

Like how we go no development on Ricky and we had no time to care for him. The development of his relationship with Laurel is just there and is more believable that Issac and Laurel are meant to be together even though he and he Garrett are. 

In the end, I feel like this book had potential to be a really good horror story but it tried to do to many things.
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A fri me got an early copy and could not stop talking about this book. So I thought why not! It mixes some of my fave themes: southern gothic, horror, magic. The characters are well written and I connected with them. The story the author weaver was intriguing and I really enjoyed it!
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Thank you to NetGalley for early access to this title in exchange for a honest review! 

Really found myself getting immersed within this story. The characters were very well written and I wanted the best for all of them, because my goodness have they endured a lot! I personally found Laurel and Ricky’s relationship a bit too fast paced for my taste, but I understand the intentions the author had with it and I enjoyed reading about them and the growth of their relationship! Isaac for me really stood out as a character; he’s Laurel’s friend through and through and only wants to feel safe and exist freely. God, I want to give him a hug so bad!! 😭 I also really loved the author’s writing style; the haunting atmosphere was eerie and left me wondering what the characters were going to see and ultimately question next.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC. 

This book is a mashup of several different genres, mixing Southern gothic with horror with a coming of age story and a bit of magic thrown in.  This tends to impede a smooth progression of the plot

The author has a way with imagery that is at times beautiful and at times just plain creepy.

The characters and their relationshups aren't fully fleshed out, lacking depth.  As I enjoy character driven novels, it was difficult for me to get drawn into the book.  The most interesting character was a secondary one, who didn't appear often enough to revive my flagging interest.
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Wake the Bones is difficult to rate/review.  Kilcoyne has undeniable skill in writing beautiful, atmospheric scenes.  The descriptive language is immersive and intriguing; so much so that by the 30% mark I didn’t mind the relative lack of plot progression.  I was simply happy to keep hanging out with these characters.  However, by the halfway mark, we were already well acquainted with our characters and their intentions– yet the plot still didn’t move forward.  The increasingly creepy events/scenes were successful at building tension in the first half, but it ultimately felt that the author let the pressure leak slowly in the second half rather than going for the explosive “pop” that we seemed we were building up to.

Notwithstanding, readers who are fans of southern horror or gothic horror will find the imagery and setting especially satisfying.  Casual horror fans or occasional readers of spooky fare might feel Wake the Bones’ pacing is a little languid.

The audiobook was exceptionally narrated by Bailey Carr.  Carr has the chops to infuse emotion and suspense without overreaching the source text.  Additionally, her southern accents were authentic and accurate without the overblown theatrics that often accompanies a “Southern” US accent.
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Sigh. This book was...not it. I rarely rate books one star and I wanted to give this book a chance, especially with its creepy synopsis. But this was just...not for me. I feel like I don't know any of the characters; all of them seemed very surface-level. There was no depth of friendship between Laurel and Isaac even though they appear very close. How They all met is...non-existent? Like they just exist and hang out with each other because not much else seems to happen in their very small town. The world-building was okay, but it didn't pull me in. I thought there were aspects in which the author could have done more, especially in terms of helping the reader understand Laurel's past and how her present came to be. It's very washed over and it left me going, "Why?" I didn't know anything and didn't have any real answers once I finished the book. The magic? No idea. Why the bones do the things they do? No idea. Why does Laurel have "magic"? Gosh, I couldn't even tell you. Maybe this book simply went over my head and I'm looking into it too deep?

To be honest, I could have done with a book about Christine, one of the side characters in the book, though to be quite honest, everyone's lives, maybe except Garrett and Ricky's is just...sad. This book is not a happy one and really drags you around slowly.
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Thank you Netgalley and Elizabeth Kilcoyne for the opportunity to read the eARC of Wake the Bones!

I was very excited to read this debut, heard a lot of great things about this book and this story didn't just match the hype it surpassed it!  I was blown away by this complex horror story, from the unnerving cover to the eerie atmosphere and how wonderfully weird it is!  

I will post my review on Netgalley, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and Google play and Amazon
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I cannot finish this book. I really tried and I am sorry!

I made it 46% of the way through, per my e-reader. I do love Laurel's power of seeing how people died, the amazingly evocative swampy summer Kentucky setting, these Southern teens grappling with coming out and moving away and flunking out of school and coming home, or with never leaving in the first place. I love the tobacco, the animal hunting. We need more Southern fiction like this. (I recommend, for this niche, the works of Ashley Blooms.)

But the prose was so self-interested as to be almost nonsensical at times. The point-of-view shifts around sporadically; I felt like I wasn't able to dig my fingernails into any of the characters, with the exception of Christine, whom I liked a WHOLE lot but who wasn't around very much. (Maybe she comes up more later?) I couldn't bring myself to care about Laurel and Ricky, or even about Isaac and Garrett. Even the horror in the book, the bone monster, wasn't very scary, because it all felt so distant.

So I am tapping out. However, if you're more interested in setting and flowery sentences and ~vibes~ than in plot and character (not sarcastic!), I think this might be a better book for you.

I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This book wasn't for me. It had some great plot ideas - discarded bones coming together, a forest working together to prison a character. I DNF @ 50%. A very slow burn, so much description and I just didn't care to finish.
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There was not a lot of the paranormal or the horror elements. The story was teetering between the two without committing. My biggest issue, unfortunately, ended up being the characters. While they are interesting, I feel like this could have been better without multiple POVs.
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The only thing I love more than a good gothic is a Southern Gothic. Something about the scorching heat of high summer lends itself to the opposing moods of tediousness and unease, especially when ominous, otherworldly happenings are afoot. 

In the case of Wake the Bones, Laurel Early's existential ennui gives way to dread when she comes home from dropping out of college to find that dead things are not staying in the ground on her family's farm. Her magic that's always aided her work as a tobacco hand and taxidermist suddenly takes on a new light when her castoff bone pile up and walks away. A devil with old ties to the farm—and her mother's untimely death—has awakened, and he wants to consume Laurel. She must learn to harness her power to stop this devil from consuming her and everything she holds dear. 

This is a weird and wonderful read. I liked that we are thrust into the world, having to orient ourselves quickly to this strange and hardscrabble world. It is a very atmospheric story that pairs best with a tobacco-scented candle. I was confused and enchanted by this propulsive and haunting story.
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