Flewelling, Lynn. 2001. The Bone Doll's Twin. Bantam. 524 pages.
Iya pulled off her straw wayfarer's hat and fanned herself with it as her horse labored up the rocky trail toward Afra.
Fantasy. The Bone Doll's Twin is a compelling, almost-always interesting fantasy novel about a corrupt kingdom, divine prophecy, and magic. The legend (prophecy) goes that as long as the kingdom is ruled by a woman (warrior-queen), then all will be well and right. But all is not right, as the reader comes to see, because a usurper--half brother? brother?--has claimed the throne and begun a deadly massacre. All of the king's female relations are being killed off one by one by one.
The Bone Doll's Twin is the story of a would-be queen who must--her very life depends on it--grow up disguised (by magic, by blood magic) as a boy. (This is the work of Iya, Arkoniel, and Lhel). Tobin, our hero, has no idea that he is a she. He does know that he is haunted by the ghost/spirit of his twin "brother." Though he knows (can't remember if he was told directly or indirectly) that his twin was a girl, the ghost is always a he, his brother. (In fact, Tobin calls him "Brother.")
It's a strange little story about witches and wizards and magic. A story about power and corruption. A story about staying alive and fighting for justice. In this book, the first of a trilogy, we witness Tobin's childhood. His mother is changed--emotionally troubled--by the death of one of her babies. Her mother is never the same after that. She spends her time making strange little dolls. One doll in particular is most precious to her. It is a strange doll, a faceless doll. It seems to bind her to the child that is no more. When his mother dies--suicide brought on by shock and fear--Tobin is forced to grow up even quicker. (He also inherits this doll; but he gives it a face.) His father neglects him for the most part--then sadly is killed in battle. And if he hadn't wandered across a strange old witch of a woman, his childhood might have been lonelier and even stranger. It also helps that he acquires a companion, a boy around his own age, Ki, to be his squire and go through all this schooling/training with him. I won't go into all the details--there are too many, and it's hard to know which ones would be spoilers--but Tobin begins training for the royal court he must one day enter. Those raising him, training him, know that it is just a matter of time before the young boy they all love so much--place such great hope in--is forced to leave his lands, his home, and begin living life at Court under the watchful eye of his (evil) Uncle-King and his followers.
I've left out so many things. I didn't mean to be so scattered. But there is no way I could really do this one justice in just a few paragraphs. The book is way too complex for that. (Which can be a good thing when you think about it.) If you like fantasy, especially if you like fantasy with wizards and witches and magic and magic spells, then you will probably enjoy this one. It's rich in detail. (There were a few scenes I wished for a little less detail.) Did I like it? Yes, for the most part. I wished for a little less detail on the intimate relationship between a young wizard (Arkoniel) and an ugly witch (Lhel) a woman with questionable hygiene.* I found the characters to be intriguing at the very least. I loved the relationship between Tobin and Ki--their friendship--and it was interesting to see how Brother influenced the action. The pacing worked well, for the most part, it kept me hooked and turning pages.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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