Wake the Bones / Elizabeth Kilcoyne / Book Review

After dropping out of college, Laurel Early just wants to return home, marry her high school sweetheart, and farm tobacco as her family has always done--with a taxidermy business on the side. But her sleepy little town won't let her forget where she comes from, won't let her forget who her mother was and what she did.

Her mother, the whispers say, was a witch, and Laurel might be, too. 

Laurel has been able to ignore the whispers, but she can't ignore the other signs. Things have changed since she left for college, and they're changing still. The woods are calling for blood, and the dead bones around the farm are waking. The devil has come calling for Laurel Early. He wants to court her like he courted her mother, and Laurel will have to unravel her mother's twisted legacy if she—or anyone else in this town—wants to make it out alive. 


I liked this book. It was a lot slower than I anticipated. It took some time to build itself up. I didn't mind that, but I know some might. It definitely isn't the YA standard.


  • Pleasantly Grotesque: This book is macabre in just the right way. Follow the trail of oozing blood into these haunted woods, and you will find macerated bone murals. Laurel is a taxidermist, making art from the bones she takes from the woods, and she might just have a bit of bone witchery to her blood. The haunting itself drips with dark images of eldritch horror--all in all, this book embraces the grotesque as it spins this new Southern Gothic side of Americana. 
  • Perspective Hop: Elizabeth Kilcoyne uses perspective shifts in the perfect way. Carefully switching between the cast of dead-end characters wonderfully builds suspense and foreboding. The characters are salt-of-the-earth, but they all experience life in different ways. And as their life starts to shift and change, that becomes all the more apparent as we get a chance to look through their eyes. 
  • Christine: I mean, what's not to love about a grumpy gas station witch? Christine doesn't fit in this town, but she doesn't mind taking up a spot in it anyway. She's unapologetic, but she's also apathetic. You've got to push for her witchy insight if you want it. The fact that ghosts come to her for help only annoys her; she's got other things to deal with than dead people's headaches. I think she was a great addition and a unique voice to add to this tale. 


  • Too Much Work Detail: Several years ago, I read and enjoyed Janet Edwards's Earth Girl, a sci-fi book featuring a team of student archaeologists excavating Earth's great cities after humanity's inevitable collapse. I recommended this book to my book club at the time, who also enjoyed it, though with one caveat. Many of the club felt that Edwards spends far too much time detailing the actual archaeological work--the dirt, the rocks, the meticulous provenance process. I had no such problem with the book, but then, archaeology is and has always been interesting to me--so much so that I studied it at a university level. Reading this book, I finally got a taste of what my friends meant about Earth Girl years ago. The details might not be excessive in this farm work, but they are indeed laborious. The sweat, the sun, the hornworms, the muddy boots--all of it sets the scene, but little of it was interesting to me. I'm sure others will have no such qualm, but it was just a little too occupation-specific for my tastes. 
  • Lack of Panic: In the moment, when bony eldritch horror is reaching for young souls, there is certainly a bit of panic. But after an escape, all that panic--all that sense of urgency--fades away. Nothing felt urgent outside of each spooky scene. Nothing felt rushed. The whole story felt like it was idling, lazy in the summer heat of the setting. I needed more of a sense of terror. At least one of the characters had to be feeling it, right? 
  • Old: This book is full of old themes and old souls. The characters don't feel young, burdened by adult problems as they are. They are, as Laurel's uncle often reminds them, adults. They're not spirited 17-year-olds posing as adults, and their story isn't snappy and fast like a lot of YA horror. This isn't a problem, per se, with Kilcoyne's book. It's a problem with the marketing. This book feels like an adult book. It doesn't feel YA at all, even though it is marketed as such. 



Fans of Rory Power's Burn Our Bodies Down will enjoy this new, twisted interpersonal drama. Those looking for another side of supernatural horror to their iconic Americana after Ann Fraistat's What We Harvest will enjoy this small town drenched in eldritch horrors. 


Publisher: Wednesday Books
Date: July 12, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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