The Bone Key: Tales of weirdness and horror

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSarah Monette The Bone KeyThe Bone Key by Sarah Monette

I’ve been seeing Sarah Monette’s name for a while but, for the most part, this collection of short stories was a blind purchase. The Bone Key deals with the exploits of Kyle Murchison Booth which are homages to M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft. Now I’m not familiar with the former but I can attest that Monette captures the mood of the latter with this book. Even the protagonist himself is similar to Lovecraft’s “heroes” although Monette improves upon the concept and provides us at the very least with an interesting character instead of simply delivering a verbose narrator who can’t hold a decent conversation.

There are ten stories in The Bone Key and each features an element of weirdness or horror. Unlike Lovecraft, Monette is readable even to the casual reader, although while she does improve on Lovecraft’s protagonist formula, Booth still isn’t one of the most sympathetic of characters.

“Drowning Palmer” was reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007 and I do agree that it’s one of the best stories in the collection. The reluctant hero attempts to solve a mystery, all through the lens of a high school reunion. “The Wall of Clouds” is another long story and while it utilizes some misdirection, it was executed in such a way that the ending was satisfying. I also enjoyed “The Venebretti Necklace” as Monette’s hero is paired up with a foil of sorts and the story works with the numerous build-ups.

Fans of Lovecraftian horror should give Monette a look. The Bone Key is a decent collection of short stories with an appropriate theme.

FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.


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CHARLES TAN, one of our guest reviewers, is the owner of the blogs Bibliophile Stalker and Comic Quest. He also edits Philippine Speculative Fiction. You can read his fiction in that publication and in The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Charles has conducted interviews for The Nebula Awards and The Shirley Jackson Awards, as well as for online magazines such as SF Crowsnest and SFScope. He is a regular contributor to sites like SFF Audio and Comics Village.

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