Review of All The Murmuring Bones by A. J. Slatter

Author: A. G. Slatter

Publisher: Titan Books

Page count: 368pp

Release date: 8th April

For those new to Slatter, she writes horror, fantasy and urban fantasy - I particularly recommend Vigil - under her full name, Angela Slatter. She is not new to this writing business. And the thing that I’ve noticed throughout her work, is her inventive use of mythology and fairy tale to create something new and exciting.

In All the Murmuring Bones, she tackles the mer-folk, selkies and well-known fairy tales surrounding those myths.

In this novel, The O’Malley’s are a family who have dealt with the sea including associated industries for centuries. They are intimidating and powerful and always get their way.

At the start, they took ownership of the land by Hob’s Head, near Breakwater, built a tower which soon became a large estate and called it Hob’s Hallow. They were making lots of money, ‘grew rich from the seas’ but never drowned and ‘swam like seals’. Until their fortunes changed and their family stopped growing.

Aoife is the remaining “omega” and matriarch of the family; Miren her granddaughter.

And Miren is trapped. She is expected to marry well within the extended family and bear three children. She has no choice in their future, but Miren wants more.

This is predominantly Miren’s story, about her desire to escape destiny and it rattles along, aside beside the fairy tales in the family history volumes where secrets are revealed.

We never quite know when this is set, but clues such as whalebone corsets and meerschaum pipes plus a travelling acting troupe suggests an early Regency period but certainly darker than you would find in any Austen novel. It also feels distinctly Irish given the character names. And more importantly, it’s incredibly authentic, lending more strength to the theme of feminine power, fighting expected roles and craving independence. Certainly Adrian Fitzpatrick, a character we meet partway through, fits the stereotype of the early Nineteenth century villainous fop. Also, the character of Delphine who is an automaton in an acting troupe can be seen as a metaphor for the lack of ‘autonomy’ – pun intended - of Miren and the other women in the narrative.

The prose is wonderful, and it almost feels like you are floating languorously amidst a sea of watery imagery and metaphor, enjoying the poetry of the language until you are sucked under, into the depths with a jolt.

This is a truly magical and beautiful book that tells a meaningful tale whilst still being thoroughly entertaining.

In her reimagined fairy tales, Slatter is becoming adept at weaving new stories within this mythology, and her name will inevitably become synonymous with fairy tales in the way that Angela Carter has become known.


Interesting fact:


meerschaum pipe is made from the mineral sepiolite, also known as meerschaum. Meerschaum ... German for "sea foam") is sometimes found floating on the Black Sea and is rather suggestive of sea foam.[1]

Return to BSFG Home Page