Reading level: Middle Grade/YA
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Horror
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: September 2nd, 2008
Stand Alone or Series: 2nd in the Tales from the Sinister City series
Source: Advanced Reading Copy through Paperbackswap.com
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
This book looked right up my alley and when I saw it I had to pick it up. It is the second book in the Tales from the Sinister City series by Higgins. I actually hadn’t read the first book, The Black Book of Secrets, and didn’t realize this book was part of a series. The good thing is that you can still really enjoy The Bone Magician without having read the first book. Right now there are two more books in this series; The Eyeball Collector and The Lunatic’s Curse. I really enjoyed this book, it had wonderful characters and a deliciously dark and sinister setting.
Pin is a boy who watches corpses for a living. It’s not a bad job and it pays decent. With his mother dead and his father missing Pin is making due; living in a horribly dingy apartment in a city that is dark, foggy, and dangerous. Then while watching a corpse he is drugged by a couple of people who come in and raise the corpse to talk to it; thus he meets The Bone Magician and his young female assistant Juno. Outside of his job Pin has a mission, to prove that his father is not a murderer. Pin will get involved with a plethora of interesting characters along the way; The Bone Magician, Juno, the Silver Apple Killer (the cities requisite serial killer), and the horrible Gluttonous Beast to name a few.
This is a dark book, but it is deliciously so. The setting is foggy, Victorian, and darkly depressing…what I imagine the poorer parts of a city would have actually been like in this time frame. What really holds this book together are the strong flashes of wonderful kindness that are sprinkled through the darkness. For instance Pin, despite his horrible last year, is a surprisingly upstanding and responsible boy, with much depth to his character. Pin’s employer is also surprisingly kind; it is like Pin knows how to bring out the best in the people he meets…he is a bright spot in a dark city.
There is a dark mystery mixed throughout, as the city tries to figure out the identity of the Silver Apple Killer. We see the story from many points of view: some parts are taken from Pin’s Journal, some parts are from Pin’s point of view, some from Juno’s, some of the book is taken from newspapers, etc. I liked how all the miscellaneous sources worked well together to create an interesting story. I was actually impressed with the creativity and the craft it took to have all these journal entries, newspaper clippings, etc. brought together to makes this wonderful story.
Despite its darkness, the story is uplifting in the end. The book is creepy, but never really scary. It would be appropriate for middle grade and up. There is a lot of dealing with death in this book (since Pin does work for an undertaker) and a lot of descriptions of people living in abject poverty; but there isn’t really anything too graphic or inappropriate.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. I love dark stories with a dark fairy tale feel to them that are full of mystery; I also love that the wonderful characters struggle against all odds to bring kindness and light into the dark world they live in. This book made me eager to pick up Higgins other Tales for the Sinister City books. If you are a fan of The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney I think you would like this dark and atmospheric story. This story is a keeper for me and I hope to read it to my son one day soon.