ARC Review: Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken

Special thanks to Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Silver in the Bone (Silver in the Bone #1)
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 4 April 2023
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)


#1 New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Bracken cements her status as one of the top fantasy authors writing today in this stunning series opener inspired by Arthurian legend and fueled by love, revenge, and pure adrenaline!

Tamsin Lark didn’t ask to be a Hollower. As a mortal with no magical talent, she was never meant to break into ancient crypts, or compete with sorceresses and Cunningfolk for the treasures inside. But after her thieving foster father disappeared without so much as a goodbye, it was the only way to keep herself—and her brother, Cabell—alive.

Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian vanished with a powerful ring from Arthurian legend. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.

As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother….


Brutal violence, blood and gore, a massacre including child death, parental abandonment, physical abuse (off-page, discussed by characters), death of a guardian

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: I buddy-read this with Leslie & Julie and found that it was a great book to read with them as there were lots of theories to share and other elements to discuss, and we all ended up feeling the same way about it. This book got off to a rocky start and despite wishing that the world-building was stronger and the pacing was less erratic, it’s still a story that I think is worth sticking with because I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships. Plus, with all the tense action and surprising twists that come at the end, I’m excited to see where the story goes next.

Before diving into my review I do want to make note that this book was a lot more bloody and brutal than I expected. There was a lot of violence and gore (for YA) and the author doesn’t spare details, especially in that final bloodbath. You can find all CW/TW with the synopsis content above!

“Choose me, because I choose you.”

The plot is pretty straightforward and easy to follow even when plans go awry. I think Bracken set the bleak, hopeless and foreboding atmosphere very well and this also ended up being a lot creepier than I expected. To be fair, I am quite the scaredy and it doesn’t take much to creep me out but the author does conjure up some pretty horrific imagery and props to her for being able to do that so well! There’s a heaviness and tension that permeates the pages and doesn’t let up all the way through to the end; in fact, the author ramps up the tension with a few surprises, heart-pounding twists and turns in the plot and character arcs, and I was kept on my toes trying to anticipate what happens next.

“When you desire something, you must fight for it tooth and claw, or not at all.”

“We’d been raised at the knee of jealousy, fed by the hand of envy, and sheltered under the roof of greed.”

That said, as I mentioned earlier, this had a bit of a rough start as we’re thrown straight into the story with no explanation about the world but it felt as if we were expected to already have some kind of knowledge about it (if that makes sense). It took me a while to get my bearings in this world and I still have more questions than I do answers by the end, which is why I think the world-building was the weakest part of this. To be blunt, it’s not well executed. There’s a fair amount of info dumping and combined with the uneven pacing, some repetition and inconsistencies in the Arthurian lore and magic system, I have to say I was a bit disappointed by it. While I noticed more inconsistencies in the events of the twisted Arthurian lore, it was the magic system that confused me the most because the explanations are vague and poorly explained. I’m still unsure what the difference is between the Cunningfolk, sorceresses, druids, and Hollowers, nor do I really get how the different magical abilities work—is everyone born with an ability and what determines that? It was interesting to read about all these elements but it needed more clarity!

“The problem with siblings, I decided, was that they spent years gathering up all these little knives of observation and learning exactly where to slip them between your bones.”

What saved this book for me were the characters and their relationships. The story is told from Tamsin’s perspective and she was honestly a little unbearable at the beginning! She’s rude, irritable, and full of bitterness and anger, which made her act horribly to everyone she encounters, often with little provocation or good reason. This attitude does continue well into the story but she does experience some decent character growth! Her attitude change felt a little abrupt at first but she doesn’t miraculously become this good kind person overnight; she struggles to control her fatalistic/pessimistic outlook and bitterness but that made me appreciate the sincerity of her growth more.

“I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to know that you’re meant to be something else than what you are—it gnaws at you every day, even if you refuse to acknowledge it, until there’s a void in you that nothing but the truth will fill.”

Besides Tamsin, we have a fairly large retinue of side characters and most of them aren’t very well fleshed out but I do think there’s room for more to happen in the sequels! I hope it does because I want to know more about Emrys, Caitriona, Olwen, Neve, and even Cabell. While their interactions weren’t always smooth as a group, especially when they first meet, I loved how they ended up forming a tight bond that I hope will only get stronger in the second book. The bad-ass girl-power vibes at the end of the book were so good and I’m sensing the strong potential for the found family trope in the future, and I’m totally here for that. ✨

He took another big gulp, and gagged.
“Feel better now?” I asked.
“Better? No. Radioactive? Yes.” Emrys gave me a look of deep disblief. “Do you actaully enjoy drinking that?”
“Yes,” I said. “Though I take it black, with no whining.”

This also has a romance that I ADORED—the nemesis-to-lovers/hate-to-love vibes were strong in this one and if you love that trope, you’ll definitely enjoy the dynamic between Emrys and Tamsin! Emrys was a pretty interesting side character and love interest who was essentially the “sunshine” to her “grump” but I’m not quite sure how to feel about him or whether he’s really trustworthy. There’s so much mystery surrounding his backstory and though what we learned about him hurt my heart a little bit, I’m curious to see what his real motive is! That said, this plant boi had some fantastic chemistry with Tamsin and their biting banter was so good! I found myself laughing at their interactions even at the most inopportune moments and it brought some delightful levity to an otherwise dark story. I really can’t wait to see what happens with this relationship in the next book!

“I’m afraid she has a natural predisposition toward surliness,” Emrys said, his tone suddenly as warm and smooth as bourbon, “but it’s all part of her unique charm. And, really, what’s the point of being civilized when you could be interesting instead?”

Overall, despite a rough start, I think this was worth having patience with and sticking it through to the end. I do wish the pacing had been better and the world-building stronger but after all of that action in the last 30% I feel like I need to get my hands on the next book ASAP, please!

Do you like Arthurian retellings? Is Silver in the Bone on your TBR or does it sound like something you’d like to read?

13 thoughts on “ARC Review: Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken

    • I think that’s a good idea if you’ve been on the fence. It was enjoyable but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped it would be, you know? Still, after the ending, I’m definitely keen to see where the story goes in the next book!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That ending definitely has me curious about the sequel haha. I do agree that pacing and world-building were the biggest problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I’ve seen the book cover floating around on social media and, though I’ve only now read 2 reviews for it, the first one I read also expressed disappointment with the story. So, I’m sorry to see it wasn’t as much of a hit as you hoped. Hopefully the next one you read is better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Celeste. This was my first experience reading this author’s book and while it wasn’t as great as I thought it’d be, I’m glad there were still enjoyable elements. I’m definitely eager to see where the story goes in the next book, so that’s something at least? Lol, hopefully the author will have improved on the elements found lacking, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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