I found THE BONE CHARMER while wandering in a random Barnes and Noble and as soon as I read the first page, I was hooked. This is a beautifully written YA Fantasy that also offers a bit of humor. It also provides a unique perspective: a protagonist on two simultaneous paths.
In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.
On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.
What do you love most about board games and why?
What a great question! My favorite style of board games are Eurogames—things like Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, and Castles of Burgundy. They tend to be well-thought out, beautifully designed, and extremely re-playable. But I think what I love most is the bonding that happens when you play with friends and family. Board games have a way of revealing personality—it’s instantly clear who the cooperators and peace-makers are and who are the cut-throat-win-at-all-costs types. Not that people necessarily approach real life like a board game (I would definitely not still be happily married if that were the case!). But it does expose an approach to problem solving that helps get to know each other on a different level, and that part does translate to the real world! Plus, it’s just a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Indeed it is–I also love the games where everyone has to collaborate together and solve a mystery. THE BONE CHARMER also contains quite a few mysteries, and it’s one of the few stories I’ve seen where the protagonist has their own dual narrative. How did you know this needed to be part of Saskia’s journey, and what was the hardest aspect of composing her split narrative?
I’ve really wanted to tackle a single-protagonist/dual narrative story for a long time! There’s something so fascinating about contemplating how different choices shape someone’s character in fundamental ways, and I loved getting to really play with that in this story. However, it took me a few years of the idea percolating before I finally figured out how to pull it off. (At least I hope I pulled it off!). The hardest part was making sure Saskia’s two timelines were distinct enough that they were equally entertaining and that they each pushed her growth in different directions. I wanted Saskia to feel true to herself in both versions, but for it to still be clear to the reader that she was learning different things and growing in different ways in each timeline.
Not only are both timelines entertaining, but they complement each other very well. You’ve also mastered pacing with both–when reading, I didn’t feel that anything was too hurried, and I was always engaged. I also loved how Saskia has to grapple with choice, and the challenges that come with the freedom she craves. In what ways do you think readers might relate with this struggle, and is this something you’ve experienced for yourself?
I think we’ve all been in a situation where our choices come back to bite us, and we wish we could have seen down the path far enough to know we should turn back immediately and make a different decision. However, I think that’s part of life, and one of the things I wanted to explore with Saskia’s story. Our freedom comes at a price—it means we’re going to make some wrong turns along the way. And even if we could see further down the path, we still might not be able accurately predict how things turn out. Besides, our mistakes make us who we are—in both good and bad ways.
Very eloquently put. What are some of your current projects?
I’m working on finishing up edits for the sequel to The Bone Charmer (currently titled The Bone Thief) and then I’m planning to start a new fantasy in an entirely new world. In a non-writing capacity, my biggest project right now is a huge family move from Washington State to the Washington D.C. area. It’s exciting, but I’m very tired!
For Breanna Shields’s other books, go here.
This post can also be viewed here.