Flewelling, Lynn: The Bone Doll’s Twin

How far would you go in your devotion to a prophecy?

I’ve been curious about Lynn Flewelling since noticing various comments on the web recommending my work to readers of hers and vice versa. So The Bone Doll’s Twin offers me a chance to find out just who these people are bracketing me with.

I start with the cover quotes; the book comes highly recommended by Robin Hobb and George RR Martin. So far, so promising. What about the blurb? “So long as a daughter of Thelatimos’s line defends and rules, Skala shall never be subjugated.” Not so promising, I think, as I read on about kings, queens, wizards and prophecy. Is this going to be just another threadbare tale cobbled together from well-worn fantasy themes? I open the cover to read the author’s biography and find Lynn Flewelling citing an encouraging diversity of favourite writers and influences and reassuring evidence that she’s held a variety of “real” jobs.

Reading on, it’s not long before I’ve discarded my personal bias against prophecy based stories. Yes, there’s an overarching prediction sent down from on high but as human nature inevitably dictates, everyone is trying to manipulate it in their own way. The king unwilling to be supplanted by a female claimant is ruthlessly cutting back all such shoots on the family tree while those in service of the gods opt for equally desperate measures to protect his remaining rival. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, since I certainly don’t want to dilute the impact of the intriguing and chilling first forty or so pages.

The story continues in the same uncompromising vein within a convincingly realised world. We follow the consequences of these initial actions on the adults involved and on the central child. Even those supposedly on the side of good labour under a burden of fear, suspicion and guilt as a result. That might sound potentially grim but that’s not the case. Rather, I’d say the story develops with an honesty that makes for compelling reading. Everyone has their reasons for their behaviour, as well as their vulnerabilities prompting them to selfish or ill-considered acts. While the usual concerns of the fantasy writer are touched on, for instance, why don’t wizards just rule the world, such elements are an integral part of the narrative. You can find contemporary resonance if you like to look for such things, with the issue of sexual equality of opportunity running below the surface as a theme but again, this is essential to the story, not simply grafted on to satisfy contemporary sensibilities.

This is the first book of The Tamir Triad and as I approached the end, I wondered how the author would deal with the inevitable problems of splitting the multi-volume narrative. I am happy to report the break point leaves me with a satisfactory sense of an episode completed and pleasant anticipation of the next, rather than fighting a disappointed urge to turn a non-existent next page.

So how do I feel about being bracketed with Lynn Flewelling now? Mightily complimented, I’d say.

This review originally appeared in The Alien Online.

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