Paula Guran Reviews All the Murmuring Bones and Red New Day by An­gela Slatter

All the Murmuring Bones, A.G. Slatter (Titan 978-1-78909-434-3, $15.95, 368pp, tp) March 2021.

All the Murmuring Bones is A.G. Slatter’s (a semi-pseudonym of Australian author Angela Slatter) first novel-length work set in the Irish-flavored world of her acclaimed Sourdough and Other Stories and The Bitter­wood Bible. For fans of Slatter, that’s probably all that needs to be said to compel immediate acquisition. The rest of you, even if you were previously unaware of the author, should feel the compulsion as well: this is a magnificently written, smashingly good read. Although draped in gothic trappings (not one, but two looming mansions, one crumbling, one new; dark, dank atmosphere; the supernatural; enigmatic ancient family; etc.) the distressed damsel in question, Miren O’Malley, is no simpering victim. With her grandfather’s death, her grandmother Aoife decides Miren is – in order to restore the family’s riches – destined for an abhorrent future. The usually dutiful and obedient young woman rebels. Raised on family tales of “old gods, merfolk and monsters” – “Stories are history whether they are true or not,” she’s told – Miren is the last of a clan who once profited from the sea and a mysterious connection to it, but she’s more than content to see that arrangement end. She’s further impelled to escape when she learns the parents she’s been told are dead since she was a toddler may well be liv­ing on an estate called Blackwater. Miren is off on a quest to find them and unravel the secrets of the O’Malleys. Her adventure has the sheen of both legend and fairy tale about it as she encounters both the best and worst of humankind along with menacing undead, merfolk, and a kelpie. Slatter’s prose is as lustrous as jet beads against black silk. Readers will savor every word.

Red New Day and Other Microfictions, An­gela Slatter (Brain Jar Press 978-1-92247-991-4, $9.99, 48pp, tp) September 2020.

Although published last fall, it is not too late to mention Red New Day and Other Microfictions as a complement to Slatter’s novel. According to the author’s note, the 18 vignettes of around 500 words each were “written as part of the Daily Cabal web project some years ago.” They are certainly new to me. Each of the masterful mor­sels is a diminutive gem of clarity penned with an economy of words: “While she waits for the sketch to dry she picks about the tower, trying to find a trail, a story in the left-overs of a life. There is little enough and she realises the only truth here is that of the bones, for the bones remember every­thing.” These are mini-myths, small stories, and tiny fairy tales in which female figures – mortal or immortal, dead or alive – tend to get their due (albeit quite darkly) more than their traditional fictional forebears did. Petite bouchées, perhaps, but they still satisfy the most particular palate.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the March 2021 issue of Locus.

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