Mistress of the Dancing Bones by Thomas Alexander

Mistress of the Dancing Bones by Thomas AlexanderThis fantasy novel skilfully unites vampires, ghosts, and other supernatural beings without falling into monster of the chapter syndrome.

Daughter of a vampire noble, and destined to become a vampire herself, Ashia Boucher lives a life of privilege. However, when her unseemly interest in the magic of her mother’s people is discovered her future is cast in doubt. Rather than accept a mediocre life, she accepts the position of translator offered by Etienne Dusang, the most feared of witch hunters. But the renegade vampires Dusang hunts are only the tip of the threat against the land.

Alexander’s portrayal of a society ruled by vampires, and explanation for how it came to be, are both interesting and plausible. This is especially true of the several species of vampire.

It is therefore slightly unfortunate that Alexander chose the existing term ‘nephilim’ for his vampire nobles rather than inventing his own. The unfulfilled expectation of a divine nature detracts from what is the otherwise excellent idea that noble vampires use a euphemism for their condition,

Although the novel is as a whole fast paced and maintains immersion, some areas of the book do suffer from a reliance on exposition rather than demonstration. Particularly in the earlier parts of the book, the introduction of a new character is often accompanied by the narrator listing their history, character, or lineage to themselves.

Both Ashia and Dusang are well-rounded characters, defined more by personality than their respective powers. Alexander also makes good use of the contrast between Ashia’s sheltered naïvety and Dusang’s ancient cynicism.

The named supporting characters are similarly interesting, giving most scenes a feeling of occurring within other narratives.

However, Alexander’s diversity does slightly desert him when showing the broader picture. The various fiefdoms and races often have similar names or only the most basic of national characteristics, sometimes making it hard for the reader to see the differences that obviously obsess the characters.

The only real flaw is the ending. Ashia’s story builds with greater and greater speed and tension, then the book ends with a single sentence that does not resolve her immediate situation. This abruptness could the reader feeling this is only the first part of a novel rather than the first in a series.

I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking either vampire or traditional fantasy fiction.

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