I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Publisher: Titan Books
Published: April 2022
This isn’t a story about how the princess marries the prince, it’s about how she kills him.
After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.
Seeking help from a powerful Dust Wife, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.
On her quest, Marra is joined by the Dust Wife, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.
Nettle & Bone was my first T. Kingfisher book but now I’m sure it won’t be my last. This incredibly original, captivating, funny book completely captured me from the very first page and was easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.
Marra is a third daughter, sent to live in a convent while her older sisters marry a prince. The simple convent life is one that perfectly suits Marra, who profoundly dislikes court life and struggles to keep up with the intrigue and politics, until she realises that her sisters have been suffering abuse at the hands of the prince for years and no one seems intent on doing anything about this. Which clearly leaves only one option: the prince must die, and Marra will kill him.
This is the start of a fantastical journey across kingdoms to find a way to kill a prince as Marra seeks out a powerful Dust Wife (I’ll leave you with the pleasure of discovering who she is) and completes three impossible tasks to convince her to help. What follows is a weird and wonderful quest, accompanied by a motley crew including a dashing fallen knight, a reluctant fairy godmother and a hen possessed by a demon.
I adored every minute of this, so much so that I read most of it in a single sitting, and didn’t manage to get through the whole thing in one go for reasons entirely out of my control and will. Nettle & Bone delivers all the classic tropes of a Fantastic QuestTM in such an original way that it feels like reading something completely new and like meeting an old friend at the same time. There is found family and a delicious slow-burn budding relationship that I was definitely on board with. I can easily see this becoming a new comfort book!
I loved the characters and the settings. Both felt extremely vivid and the worldbuilding worked perfectly, clear enough without ever overtaking the main narrative. Each character felt really unique, with many layers to their personality, and I loved seeing them all slowly unveiled. There are references to serious themes as well (for example, partner abuse is a rather prominent one), included seamlessly and handled with great care and tact. The whole thing is covered in a generous layer of humour like icing on the cake in a way that reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride, incidentally another book I loved (and one of my all-time favourite films!).
Overall, this was a delightful read, pure pleasure from the first page to the last. A must-read for this year!