I have not had the pleasure of reading a book by T. Kingfisher until now, and after finishing Nettle & Bone it is clear I have been missing out. Kingfisher’s darkness and horror have the right amount of sting before it is soothed away with humor and plain ol’ feel-good moments. This alongside the colorful cast creates an endearing tale about the lengths one will go for family.
Marra is the third daughter of a small kingdom that is desperate to secure itself against more powerful forces. She struggles to keep up with her savvy older sisters and finds that the complexities of royal duty go over her head. When her sister is married off to secure an alliance with another kingdom, Marra is sent to a convent to quell any potential competition (aka heirs) for the throne her sister now occupies. Thankful to be away from the court and royal expectations, Marra enjoys the quiet life she creates alongside the nuns. However, when Marra learns of the terrible fate her sister has endured at the hands of a vicious prince, and that she is being kept as a spare, Marra decides the only solution is to kill him. This is not a task that can be accomplished on her own, so Marra seeks out the help of a dust-wife, a demonic chicken, a knight, and a godmother to save her sister.
The back cover of this book had me thinking I would follow Marra as she attempts to accomplish three impossible tasks. However, Kingfisher pushes that storyline aside and makes magic happen by focusing on Marra’s story post-trials and her relationship with an unorthodox group of rogues. The entry into the story is a little confusing at first, but I got with the program quickly. Kingfisher does a fabulous job building up the story. Marra’s essence is captured beautifully amongst the backdrop of politics as her royal family plots to secure their kingdom’s future. It is amazing how well Kingfisher can set the scene and get buy-in to the world that is quickly getting built up around you. One of my favorite things about this book is that Kingfisher can make something substantial, like killing a prince, seem as trivial as swatting a fly away so we can go about enjoying the afternoon. This is the tone that Kingfisher sets and it makes Nettle absolutely delightful.
I was completely enchanted by the characters. Truth be told, I was sold on this book upon hearing there was a chicken possessed by a demon. Marra is joined by an endearing cast. Each person and animal is as weird, humorous, and charming as I imagined they would be. The grumpy and blunt dust-wife is highlighted by the proud demon chicken who rides upon her staff like the glorious figurehead of a boat. Marra and the dust-wife stumble upon a happy-go-lucky knight who has no reservations about the death sentence Marra’s mission has become. The godmother that joins the adventure is a bumbling bundle of amusement that sells herself short at every turn.
There is a lot to love in this story, but I gave my heart to Marra. She is timid yet unshakeable, out of place but also right where she needs to be. I admire her unwavering resolve to save her sister. It does not matter that Marra believes her sister hates her or that she had the ability to safely hideaway in the convent. Marra sees a wrong and wants to set it right. She may have been set aside and deemed unimportant, but Marra shines in her own quiet and unassuming way. She is nothing but her unapologetic self and it was so refreshing to follow a character who does not have to power up or change dramatically to accomplish her goal.
I am so glad I finally got with the program and experienced the brilliance of T. Kingfisher. Nettle & Bone is flawless, and I encourage you to make space on your TBR right away.
Rating: Nettle & Bone – 10/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.