The Bone Weaver’s Orchard: Sarah Read
Reviewed By Steve Stred
How did I let this book sit on my TBR for so long?
It even won the HWA Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2019 and I let it continue to wade in the pool of my TBR waiting for my eyes to fall upon it and pluck it from the water.
Much like Jonathan Janz’s ‘The Siren and The Specter,’ I watched as this book slowly made its way up my TBR and once read, nestled a small section in my reading brain where some of these scenes will never ever leave.
What I liked: ‘The Bone Weaver’s Orchard’ is a book that drips of dread and gothic atmosphere from page one until the end. We follow a young boy who has been sent to a boarding school. While he’s a bit old to begin “official schooling” he has been educating himself for some time.
Once he arrives, trouble seemingly follows him everywhere.
And it’s this dark shadow that trails behind that Read really uses to exploit the darkness that she’s crafted in this book.
I really enjoyed how the mystery of this place slowly unravelled and even though it was a short read, Read stuffed this full of intrigue and thrills.
This one’s a tough one to review and state the ‘why’ of loving certain things as they take place further into the book, and I wanna stay spoiler-free, but the layers that Read places throughout are fantastic.
What I didn’t like: The story dictates this, but I wish we knew a bit more about Charley at the beginning. It wasn’t so much that things were rushed, but he ended up at Old Cross and then it was right into the story.
Why you should read this: Read has really created a gloomy story, and as I mentioned, the various layers of history and mystery unravel and expand this story far beyond the stated 165-page count. Charley was a captivating main character and because of that, the story flew along.
The Bone Weavers Orchard
He’s run away home. That’s what they say every time one of Charley Winslow’s friends vanishes from The Old Cross School for Boys.
It’s just a tall tale. That’s what they tell Charley when he sees the ragged grey figure stalking the abbey halls at night.
When Charley follows his pet insects to a pool of blood behind a false wall, he could run and let those stones bury their secrets. He could assimilate, focus on his studies, and wait for his father to send for him. Or he could walk the dark tunnels of the school’s heart, scour its abandoned passages, and pick at the scab of a family’s legacy of madness and murder.
With the help of Sam Forster, the school’s gardener, and Matron Grace, the staff nurse, Charley unravels Old Cross’ history and exposes a scandal stretching back to when the school was a home with a noble family and a dark secret—a secret that still haunts its halls with scraping steps, twisting its bones into a new generation of nightmares.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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