Review: The Map of Bones

The Map of Bones
The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books, a part of Gallery Books, for sending me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review**

“There is no compromise…just surrender in stages.”

The Map of Bones picks up right where Ms. Haig left off in her previous novel, The Fire Sermon, in an post-apocalyptic, dystopic-world that is refashioning itself quite differently in the wake of a nuclear holocaust. Much like its predecessor,The Map of Bones is not a fast-moving novel and readers who are looking for something with the brisk pacing of, say, The Hunger Games, will find themselves disappointed. That being said, I think this story needs to be told at its slower pace; there’s an eerie, haunted feel to the entire world that is best reflected by a slower-moving novel.

However, as with last time, this slow pace also exposes some problems in characters. In my review of The Fire Sermon, I noted that our protagonist, Cass, exhibited little-to-no development over the course of the novel, and that still rings true here. Yes, no one can understand what Cass is going through, not only as an Omega — or, “lesser twin” — but also as a Seer. Clearly this situation has a profound effect upon her psyche, but I would have wished the psyche developed in a noticeable arc, especially when this is book two of a planned trilogy. It’s time for Cass to start moving beyond (a) “this is an inherently unjust system” and (b) “none of you are seers, so you don’t know what it’s like.” These are not new psychological issues for Cass, so it’s time to push past and bring the next step.

Also like last time, Cass’ traveling companions are more interesting that Cass herself. I particularly want to highlight Piper, who somehow manages to consistently provide humour to the ever-present gloom of the novel, and also great insight. The quote which I used to start this review is spoken by Piper, and it is my favourite from the novel. I’d happily read these books from Piper’s perspective, even while understanding the necessity of Cass as the narrative voice.

So, yes, there are consistent issues I have with this series thus far, but Ms. Haig writes with such a firm understanding of her ashen world, that I cannot help but find myself drawn into what’s happening. This series is providing a wonderful exploration into the idea of “difference.” I think of the line from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast that says: “We don’t like / What we don’t understand / In fact, it scares us,” and this line may as well be the backbone of Haig’s trilogy thus far. Something different may not be easy to understand, which has a tendency to scare people; the unknown can be entirely terrifying, especially to those without complete knowledge or who feel a lack of control of a situation as a result. And when such feelings boil over, fear and resentment lead to hatred and, in the case of these novels, to war.

Perhaps this is what I like best in Haig’s novels, especially even more in The Map of Bones: she does not shy away from showing humanity at its darkest. She does not sugarcoat or ease the depraved acts often committed by those with absolute power. While I cannot give this a full five-star rating, I can say that I am eager to see the conclusion of the Omegas’ struggle against the Alphas in this trilogy’s conclusion.

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