The Bone Roots

Angry Robot. Oct. 2023. 376p. ISBN 9781915202581. pap. $17.99. FANTASY
Witch Kada aids the people of her village with the power of the goddess Zemya’s bone roots—her own daughter Secha came from the goddess’s tree. Secha’s unnatural origin, however, leaves her vulnerable to the child-stealing fox that stalks her, and Kada will do anything to keep her safe. That gets harder when noblewoman Sladyana re-enters her life. Kada helped Sladyana pluck her own daughter from Zemya’s tree, but the fox stole her child. Sladyana wants Kada’s help to get her daughter back, and she won’t take no for an answer. Houston’s novel draws inspiration from Slavic folklore to create a world rich with gods and spirits. Middle-aged women like Kada and Sladyana don’t always star in fantasy, but this novel places them center-stage as complex characters who are sympathetic despite being at odds with each other. Similarly, the story prioritizes domestic stakes—familial love and community approval—that become epic through Kada and Sladyana’s emotional journeys.
VERDICT This Slavic-inspired fantasy from Houston (The Second Bell) will appeal to readers who enjoyed Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver but want to see older women characters experience love and magic too.
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