Rimma lives in Heaven, as have many previous generations of God’s descendants. Heaven is a garden where two thousand people live, covered by a shield which protects them and keeps the broken world outside. Everyone living in Heaven thoroughly believes in God and abides by His laws, because they are his descendants.
When the shield protecting the haven starts failing and ultimately extinguishes, the questions come. What will become of this population? Is the world outside really dead? How are they going to deal with the savages out there? And how was the shield created anyway? And why does no one seem to be able to distinguish between Rimma and her twin sister Angel, even their own mother?
The idea behind The Bone Wall is terrific, and not just the twin thing. I have always been a fan of secluded communities which have their own belief systems and are utterly convinced that everyone else is wrong and is the devil, trying to corrupt them. Finding out the harsh truths of the world along with the main character is something I thoroughly enjoy.
So when I read about Heaven and all its automatic prayers and set laws which no one questions, like not allowing a single person over 2000 to inhabit the garden, I was quickly enthralled.
I found this post-apocalyptic world quite ingenious. The garden people are physically normal, they are self-sufficient and have no contact with the outside nor have any desire to know what is out there, since they firmly believe they are God’s descendants, protected from the broken world and chosen to thrive while everyone and everything else deteriorates. Outside, we have the Biters – people who are usually physically deformed and have a gift, called the Touch. Generally speaking, they can bend light and control fire, though there are other more powerful ones who can do much more. I cannot tell more without spoiling the story, but I can say that the descriptions are beautiful at times, and at others very intense, and raw. It is a very powerful and shocking narrative.
Now, the negatives…
I have to admit I found it a bit hard to get into the book. There is a balance not easily achieved between providing just enough backstory without overwhelming the reader with a pile of spewed information. That balance is different for each reader and writer. In my case, I wish I could have known a bit more of the reality of Heaven before everything started changing. How is it like to live under a dome? Where does the water they need come from? How is the air breathable? How do they have lampposts, when everything else seems so basic and there is no technology whastoever? How does the shield even work?
Who are the people in Rimma’s life? There’s two thousand people there and we only know of her parents and romantic interest Max.
Speaking of two thousand people… I had trouble contemplating a dome which houses that many inhabitants plus everything needed to survive, especially since we kept ‘seeing’ the same landscapes. For example, we are told the women’s quarters are in a 3 story house but not all of it is bedrooms. So in theory there’s hundreds of women sleeping in each floor. I simply did not get a feeling of such immensity.
While I could understand why we were not provided with more backstory when I got to the end of the book, the fact is there was always this feeling of something lacking. And I did not feel as much progression in the character development in the beginning as I had wished. I remember thinking that Rimma got too cynic too quickly, for instance. And then there was the lack of emotion. Even though the book succeeds very well in showing instead of telling a lot of things, there were instances which I felt thoroughly lacking, namely when it comes to emotions. Example: First of all, I don’t feel any connection between the main character(s) and her/their mother throughout the entire book, and I just don’t get how that is possible. Then, when Rimma’s father and boyfriend die, I didn’t even realize it had happened. I thought hey maybe they made it after all, or at least maybe there is a chance they are alive, because Rimma sure doesn’t seem that upset. I had expected a burst of emotion and it just wasn’t there. Then, when Rimma and Angel start going out, I had expected to be blown away with awe at all the things they had never seen, smelled or touched, but instead I felt like I was reading a somewhat detached report – the writing was very pretty but that was all; I did not get much emotion out of it.
The pace was a bit off to me as well. This could be a great fantasy epic; several years develop during the course of the narrative, but time lapsed way too quickly at times – sometimes months from one chapter to the next. On the other hand, while the writing was lovely and extremely vivid quite often, it did feel a bit too flourished and that it dragged on at other times, causing me to drift off.
I thoroughly enjoyed the middle of the book, even with the pacing issues. I felt I was there with Angel and Rimma and there were other very engaging characters. I particularly enjoyed Shy, even though we didn’t see that much of her.
There are many thought provoking things in the book and I appreciated the different ways of thinking and living – the descendants, biters and the two other groups we discover later on. The world broke, people changed and there are more ways than one to deal with it.
The language and magic concepts were quite unique and it was a pleasure to watch them develop. I was surprised on several occasions by the development of the story.
Ultimately what made me lower the rating is that I did not feel the sense of closure I had expected. During the course of the book, I kept hoping that certain things would be explained and when the end finally came it felt overly simplistic and rushed to me. I realize the symbolism behind it all is very powerful but, as I said in another review, for me to thoroughly enjoy a book things have to make absolute sense. And if I am kept in the dark for the entire book about why things happen the way they did or why the main character is this way and that, then I expect to be blown away in the end. That did not happen here.
Also, even though I understand it was necessary for the development of Rimma’s character, I found some violence a tad excessive, or maybe repetitive is a better word. It got a bit tiresome.
As I said in the buddy read of this topic, I felt that if only someone had figured out the magic and merged them back together I would be much content, not only because I would get more closure but also since there could be all sorts of conclusions to take from it, like it being an omen to how the broken world could be unbroken and a challenge to Priest, see if he can accept the entire woman, not just the nice part.
Read this book if you want to get to know a new fantasy world and characters. Even with all the flaws, I am sure it is one which will stay with me for a while, so I do recommend it.
Please feel free to check out the buddy read topic in Book Lair for this book.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for making this book available for free during a limited period of time.
Read from April 14 to 21, 2015