Sofi and the Bone Song / Adrienne Tooley / Book Review


Sofi Ollenholt, daughter of Musik Ollenholt, has always known her destiny. She will follow in her father's footsteps, join the Guild of Musiks, and compose her own epics to perform before all the land--all without the aid of magic. Anyone can produce good art with the right Papers. Only a Musik can produce greatness. But before Sofi takes her father's place, she has to audition for his Apprenticeship. It should be easy for someone as dedicated as Sofi, for someone who has spent all her life preparing. But Sofi wasn't prepared for Lara.

Lara wasn't raised on music. She has never composed a song, never even played the lute before. But when she picks up the infamous Bone Lute for her audition, the song that she plays comes out perfectly. Almost as if by magic.

When Sofi's father dies the same day of the audition, Sofi knows something is wrong, and without his title to inherit, she has nothing left--nothing left except an inkling of suspicion and the girl she believes cheated her out of her destiny.



I liked this book. It got off to a slow start, for sure, and I wasn't sure I would like it because of that. My reading experience dragged on a little bit, but I persisted because I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the characters enough. And those two things grew on me as more was revealed about the world and the characters living in it. It wasn't a fast read even when I got into it, but perhaps it is worth it for all of the careful revelations in these pages.


Lush Reading The worldbuilding--the larger world itself, that is--might not be lush, but Sofi's much more intimate world is. Well, lush might not be exactly the right word. Her world is austere and deprived, rife with ritual and self-inflicted pain. It is the essence of asceticism, dark and gloomy and full of an intense undercurrent of want. But it is built up so well, so wholly, that it feels full and real and encompassing, as dreary as it might be.

Cruel Character Sofi is cruel. She has the potential from the very beginning for cruelty in her austerity, her meanness. Once things start to go her way, she dives into that potential for manipulative cruelty. She isn't always cruel, and she isn't only cruel. And she does thaw a bit as the story continues. I do appreciate a character who has the capacity for such pettiness, though, especially as the lead. Characters like Sofi don't often get the spotlight, and I like that she does.

High Conspiracy I can usually see an author's hand before she plays it, but here, the intricate plot points near the climax were so well hidden from Sofi--and from the reader, who was following along with her--that they really did only come out as Sofi was learning them. And I loved that. I loved being immersed in Sofi's world and Sofi's story well enough that I could get lost in the convoluted twists of character and backstory at play here.


Though there were nooks and crannies in this conspiracy that I didn't see coming, the stakes involved here were fairly standard. This book starts with a competition--Sofi's one chance to get the life she wants--and as soon as those stakes are set, there is a trajectory in place. Sofi can't win the competition. Sofi can't get the part. And that sets up everything that comes after. And that's all fine. It's just not a particularly interesting plot line when everything falls so neatly into line. Predictable Plot Stakes

One of my personal peeves is when fantasy authors use complicated, linguistically off-putting names for the sake of fantasy. The characters here (thank goodness) don't have these stereotypical names, but the towns, countries, and other places of interest all feel a little too fantasy in this regard--to the point that the awkward-to-pronounce names distracted from the story a bit. These names, especially in this story that didn't need that particular fantasy crutch, felt a little too try-hard. Fantasy Names

The height of the emotional and interpersonal conflict in this book is pushed even higher by bad communication. And I hate that. It makes sense with Sofi--Sofi is, after all, a mean-spirited loner type (with no hate intended toward her)--but I still hate this type of conflict. I hate when the conflict could easily be solved with honest and open communication. It's a personal peeve of mine. That's all. Communicative Conflict



Fans of Rachel Hartman's Seraphina will appreciate the intricate and layered worldbuilding in this book. Those who liked the dangerous song magic of Kate Constable's The Singer of All Songs will like these new bone witch lute players.


Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date: April 19, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley and Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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