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Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher – ARC Review!

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Marra might not make a very good Princess, or a good Nun, but she is a sister, and a vengeful one at that. Marra’s first sister died months after entering the Northern Kingdom and marrying their prince, now, Kania, her second sister is his bride and, although they don’t always get along, Marra will not tolerate her sister being hurt or worse, killed. She knows no one is coming to Kania’s rescue, so Marra will just have to save her herself, but she will need help. A powerful gravewitch, a strapping former night, a fairy godmother, a bone dog and a chicken possessed by a demon don’t make for the most convincing of groups, but they all know pain, and are more than willing to help Marra on her journey, even if it ends with them all dead in the process.

I read my first T. Kingfisher book last year and absolutely fell in love with her writing style & characters, so it was a no brainer for me to request this when it popped up on Netgalley. Marra is a fantastic POV to follow this story from, not only because she’s in her 30’s and it’s rare to see an MC that old (I’m crying as I’m saying this because I’m 32 and am not at all old), but because she is in no way prepared for this mission, and despite that she will do anything to protect her sister. She can be a little dim sometimes, but she is loyal to a fault and honestly, if I needed rescuing I would definitely want her to be the one doing it.

Alongside Marra are the gravewitch, an ancient and powerful witch who can commune with the dead & who travels with a chicken possessed by a demon. She initially sets Marra three impossible tasks as the price for her help, but when Marra completes the first two she knows that she will help her. Fenris, the knight she rescues from the Goblin Market after being told he would be needed to complete their quest. He is more than happy to die for the cause thinking it a respectful way to go out, but Marra doesn’t want anyone to give their life, least of all Fenris. Finally there is Agnes, Marra’s Fairy Godmother who is more adept at curses than blessings. They make for a bit of a crazy bunch, but their interactions are what really make the story. Every character has a part to play and their own strength and I loved that Marra was the youngest character in the book, the rest of our side characters range from their 40’s up.

Kingfisher takes the usual style fairy tale and flips it on it’s head. Our Princess isn’t trying to catch a Prince, but kill one, and let me tell you, these are the kinds of fairy tales I want more of. We start the story with Marra attempting to build a bone dog in a land filled with cannibals, but Kingfisher deftly takes us back in time to understand what is going on, why Marra is on this path and, although she’s on her way to kill a Prince, the story kind of lightens up from there. I adored the world building as well as the magic system. It’s all very fairy tale esque with fairy godmothers, goblin markets etc, but just quirkier and with a significant amount of wit.

At under 300 pages this is an easy book to fly though, made easier by Kingfishers stereotypical witty, sharp and flowy writing style. How she uses the introductions of new characters, as well as a smattering of plot twists to further the plot is brilliantly done and makes what could have been a dull journey into something more magical and humorous. Once again Kingfisher has made me fall in love with a bizarre bunch of characters who mostly succeed by accident, and if you’re looking for something a little different than your usual fairy tales, with characters that jump off the page and a magical world you want to jump into, well look no further.

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