by Natalie Bayley
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Pub Date 31 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 07 Jan 2024
Aurora Metro, Aurora Metro Books
"I collected the first bone when I was twelve. This fact was not mentioned in court... Such a tiny little bone, more like a tooth. I only kept it to keep him safe."
Kathryn Darkling, imprisoned in Holloway, is facing death by hanging for her vengeance killing. Haunted by a spirit, she still hopes to perform the ancient black magic that will free her soul, or her struggle to punish the mighty will have been in vain. Will the love of her life come to her aid?
Or can she find a way to escape her fate?
Winner of The Virginia Prize for Fiction, Bone Rites is a dark, literary tale of love, loss and one woman’s obsessive fight for justice and redemption within a ruthless world.
“Completely gripping from the get-go, Natalie deftly builds such a complex story that has you rooting for a character you know you shouldn’t.”
– Literary agent Hellie Ogden, judge the Novel Prize
“We loved the chilling voice and strong sense of place her writing offers.”
– Author Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Blue Pencil Awards judge
“A delightful twist in the murder genre – a serial killer motivated by love.”
– Nicolas Mercier, writer, Call My Agent
Press release and publicist UnlockdPR
Author talk and book launch in Better red bookshop Newtown, Sydney. Australia in October 2023
Author talks in Coogee, NSW and in Brisbane tbc.
Blog tour Australia
Author talk and launch in Books on the Rise in London Jan 2024
Author talk in Kemptown Bookshop, Brighton Jan 18 2024
Author talk in other bookshops tbc Jan 2024
Netgalley and Edelweiss +
Blog tour with Love Books UK
Video interview with author on Youtube
Podcast interview tbc with Feminist podcaster
Average rating from 60 members
I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.
The author has created such an intense worldview by aligning us with Kathryn’s strange point of view. You know you shouldn’t support her actions (which are often gruesome) but you just WANT her to get away with it.
It’s set in Edwardian times, (and deftly researched- especially the First World War and the Paris opium scenes) but Kathryn reminded me of more contemporary psychopaths like Killing Eve or The Talented Mr Ripley.
The love aspect of the story is beautifully drawn and fully humanizes Kathryn.
I was initially dubious about the supernatural twist, but the author handles it well and it adds a great spooky atmosphere to the plot.
Will there be more from Natalie Bayley? I hope so.
A fantastic read, I couldn't put it down! I don't really like non-linear narratives but that is exactly what made this book so good. It sets you up to make judgements, and then takes you back to explore what led the protagonist to do what she did. The historical and medical aspects were fascinating, especially the role of women in medicine at the time. Add in the gothic themes and you get 5 stars from me!
All hail all kinds of toxic love!
"Bone Rites" is a strange book, one that starts with a storm after which comes calm. We meet Kathryn as a child, an older sister and untamed daughter, enchanted by medicine and grimoire from her father's library, dedicated to bone magic. She puts her fingers in it, just to get a taste, but what she doesn't know is that she will never get rid of that stain. Obsessed with her younger brother, with a friend and secret lover from medical school, and then obsessed with revenge, Kathryn becomes lost in sanity, not sure what is real and what is not. She becomes goddess, haunted by the loved ones, powerful as not many before, ready to destroy the world the second she hears her brother's whisper in the ear.
I wish a bit the fantasy plot was more relevant, and the magic part was explored more, but it would be a lie to say I wasn't interested in current one. It's impossible to categorize what genre Natalie Bayley wrote, but it sure is mesmerizing.
*Possible spoilers below*
I LOVED this book. I loved the style, the writing, the Gothic horror, the protagonist, everything about it.
Bone Rites is told through the eyes of a British noblewoman, Kathryn Darkling. Kathryn is a morally complex protagonist with a bit of a ghost problem. She wants to do everything possible to save her brother, especially because she considers herself responsible for his death.
I loved the “deathbed confession” style of writing in this book. I’ve always loved the unreliable narrator types, and Kathryn is a perfect example. Check this book out if you’re a fan of Gothic/magic/historical fantasy.
Thank you again to NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book.
Bone Rites is a beautiful novel, one that utilises its main character to delve into the many complexities and realities that come with being many things: a sibling, a survivor of war, a queer person, a women in a male-dominated profession. These four aspects are tied together with a bit of magical realism and a vivid historical setting to weave a tale that spans years and countries but never bores.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot for fear of spoilers - I think this book’s best gone into with minimal idea of how the story unfolds — but I will say that it knocked my socks off. The non-linear narrative works perfectly, building suspense and intrigue at a pace that’s not too fast or slow. The plot twists, while they were foreshadowed — I didn’t see any of them coming. The pacing somehow manages to be consistent despite a plot that varies in intensity — which is quite admirable. I think. And the plot — it has all these interesting themes woven in, like ‘Dulce et decorum est’ and women doctors during a time when they weren’t commonplace at all and the queer landscape of historical times and social injustice and the injustices of the justice system. And yet, this isn’t a novel bogged down by themes — the ‘heist’ aspects of it, the murders and tension, are only improved by our main character and the themes she embodies.
Bayley has a gift for crafting character and relationships, that much is obvious, and goes even beyond that — showing deftly how sweet relationships can quickly turn sour. Kathryn’s relationship with Freddie, her brother, was very reminiscent of my relationship with my own brother when he was younger, despite the historical setting of this novel. Jessica was so, so interesting to me, and probably my only nitpicky complaint about this book is that I wish we’d gotten a bit more of her — we only ever see her through Kathryn’s eyes, and never really get a sense of her own heart, I think. But I don’t think she was meant to feature that much, as her character does fulfill her required role in the narrative, so maybe that’s just a me problem. Kathryn’s friendships were also really unexpectedly sweet? Like, she often seems genuinely surprised when people care for her but she enjoys caring for them too, and that was really heartwarming to see. I think the author gave a really touching glimpse at intergenerational friendships even though those weren’t the focus of the story.
And, oh, characterisation and characters! Here is what sold my soul to Bone Rites: Kathryn herself. She’s incredibly nuanced and delightful- snarky, compassionate, morally grey, loyal and also questioning, daring and intelligent. This novel is told mostly through her and her relationship with one other character. Both of these maintain constant characterisation for characters who change a great deal through the course of the novel — not an easy feat! Kathryn is also… just so fierce and I wanted to root for her even as her morals began to delve more and more into the grey area.
The historical setting was beautiful, or horrifying, as need be, and extensively researched. I found myself screenshotting certain words or phrases for my own research. These details don’t bog down the story, but rather add to it, giving Kathryn and her story more depth and nuance than simply her narration does.
A well-crafted story of what it means to be human, Bone Rites is one of my favourite novels I’ve read this year. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys morally grey heroines, historical fiction, or ‘dark’ fiction of any kind.
I absolutely adored this book. I loved the unusual yet gorgeous writing and the gothic horror of it all.
The unreliable aspect of the narrator was perfect to add this sense of mystery and eeriness. This story felt like a fever gothic dream that was just perfectly crafted to leave you breathless.
Thank you again to NetGalley for giving me an advanced reader copy of this book.