The Bone Orchard
By Sara A. Mueller
Author’s website: saraamueller.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar
Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.
Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.
Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.
Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.
now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.
If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil—her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.
Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.
The Bone Orchard is set in a world where psychics, empaths, and other humans with strange abilities live. It’s a strange world where if there is an emotion or a feeling that is too strong, you can push it out of your mind and make it live in an artificial body next to you. This is the story of Charm, the owner of the Orchard House, a house for gentlemen to eat, drink, play cards, and have a good time. The woman that serves the rich men of Borengaurd with her other selves who represent a part of her that she doesn’t want to feel.
After almost fifty years of being ageless and living in Orchard House, the Emperor who took her from her homeland and who she came to love, dies. With the Mindlock implanted in her head, he orders her to find his killer and to kill any of his sons that take the throne, but still needs to put a person that will take care of the realm; if she does all this, she will be free to leave.
With her freedom dangling in front of her, Charm will do anything she can to complete the task given to her, but the emperor’s sons are evil, and they will kill each other and anyone who gets in the way of the throne.
Some books catch the reader’s attention through the covers, others with the summary of the story, that is how I decided to read the Bone Orchard. The summary caught my attention from the beginning and the idea of characters harvesting from a bone tree has been the most interesting and disturbing storyline I have read this year, but once I started reading, it was so much more.
I liked that the girls are somewhat copies of Charm and she does harvest the skeleton’s parts from the bone trees in her garden. Once she has a full body, the Lady of the Orchard house puts them in a special tank to grow a body around them. This storyline was so fascinating, the special abilities that Charm has to do this have to keep her company over the last Fifty years that she has lived in that house.
While Charm is the main character of the book, Pain, Pride, Desire, Justice, and Shame are their own persona. They embody that emotion or facet of Charm, and she doesn’t feel it if they exist outside her. All of them have a purpose and over time have become their own self. Pain became my favorite since the beginning as she was able to be our eyes outside the Orchard house and gather information.
This story is mainly a fantasy genre but the storyline of who killed the Emperor was a fun tread to follow and try to find out who did it. But most of all the idea of being free impulse Charm to do everything she could to find the killer, she might look heartless and cruel to others, but her close friends and clients could see she was playing a dangerous game.
The Bone Orchard is full of interesting characters apart from the inhabitants of the Orchard house, Hyacinth the seamstress that also smuggles contraband goods, Captain Oram the Captain of the psychic enforcement guards, and the gentlemen of the parliament who are Charm’s friends.
I always like stories that have characters with different abilities and this book has many. Some are normal in the realm of psychic powers, and others are strange and mystical.
I recommend definitely the Bone Orchard. It was a fascinating and entertaining story about this mystical land where many tragic things happened, but a woman will do all she can to get her freedom.