Book Review: A LAIR OF BONES by Helen Scheuerer

Title in white on blurred teal image
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: first book

Blurb:

Book cover for A LAIR OF BONES: title in blue on dark image of bones and weapons and crowns

A deadly contest. A vaulting ambition. How far will one cyren go to win?

Mighty cyrens have ruled the ancient lair of Saddoriel for centuries. A cavernous fortress, a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and levels, powered by magic and music…

From the moment she was born, Roh, the daughter of an infamous criminal, has been despised by her own kind. Restricted to the Lower Sector and forced to work as a common bone cleaner, she has always believed she belongs above: where lies adventure… and power.

Opportunity arises in the form of the Queen’s Tournament, a treacherous set of trials that could see the victor crowned ruler of the entire lair. Up against the most cunning, dangerous cyrens in all the realms, does Roh stand a chance?

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

A LAIR OF BONES is a compelling start to a fantasy series with a dangerous tournament and a focus on friendships at its heart.

The competition works very well to show off both the cyren world and the values they hold dear. Cunning and a blind eye to trickery (so long as it’s not caught), as well as music as a thing to receive/listen but not create. Viciousness and ruthlessness. Plus they’re set at a variety of locations, which always helps show off a world.

Alongside the drama of the tasks, there is a story of two unlikely people in close proximity becoming allies and then friends. Roh and Odi (the human she is paired with) are from such different worlds. Odi has every reason to fear Roh, but is keeping secrets of his own.

I liked that there is no romance between them. For one, there’s a massive power imbalance between them (Odi being a prisoner and also being far weaker and a stranger to the world Roh needs to guide them through.) Plus, it’s so nice to read a YA fantasy that doesn’t include a romance. It feels different (and a relief) and it means friendships – those that are made, those that are strengthened, and those that break – are at the heart of this book. Which is a lot more emotionally compelling in my opinion.

Having read the prequel novellas beforehand, it was interesting trying to fit this book into the context of those stories. Several hundred years seemed to have passed, with a major set of events shrouded in mystery – ones that are more of a demanding mystery for those who’ve read the novellas, I imagine. I do hope we get answers to those questions in the coming books.

Unlike the Oremere Chronicles (the author’s previous work), this book is told with a single POV. It makes the book feel more intimate in many ways, focusing on one character’s personal struggles, rather than a world in danger with the scope of the multi-POV. It suited the story very well.

The book manages to conclude well, in a way that the primary goal and plot are resolved to a satisfactory degree, while also very much being the first book in a quartet. There’s a clear direction/expectation set up for the sequel, which promises to be interesting read (it has a quest – I love quests.)


Read my reviews of other books by Helen Scheuerer:

Curse of the Cyren Queen (this series):

The Oremere Chronicles (set in the same world):

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