Book Reviews

Review: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

I was first told The Bone Orchard would have necromancy. And that’s 100% true. But also this book has one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen in a while. It’s like necromancy meets mind locks and re-animation. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.

Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.

Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.

now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil—her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.

Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: domestic abuse, pedophilia, assault, rape

Days after finishing The Bone Orchard, I’m still fascinated and impressed by the world building. The idea of re-animation and necromancy was enough to pique my interest. But Mueller goes a step further and has these bone ghosts that surround Charm – Pain, Desire, Pride, Shame, Justice, etc – and turns them into almost shades of Charm. Like pieces of her that splits off, that compartmentalize, that inhabit spaces surrounding her. And, finally, Mueller goes even further by introducing this idea of a mind lock.

A process which works with some sort of psychic ability and serves as a tool of obedience over someone. However this entire process is critiqued in The Bone Orchard as we find out how other societies treat psychics. Whether they revere them, honor them, or – like here – where they imprison them within cages in a semblance of protection. The Bone Orchard is an impressive feat of world building. At the same time, it’s full of court politics and secrets.


Charm not only has to figure out who killed the Emperor, but how she can find out how and why. The Bone Orchard works on so many levels. The politics and maneuvers is a fabulous element that adds intrigue and mystery. But what I loved most were the characters and specifically Charm. Charm is complex and to some of the other bone ghosts, she’s this enemy figure. Yet it’s very much this line between necessary sacrifices, hardening our heart to survive, and complications to live another day. The relationships between all of them develop so brilliantly.

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So while it’s easy to get lost in the mystery, or to remain in awe of the world building, the characters were what pulled me through The Bone Orchard. It turns into a story about our individual choices and what we will do for freedom. Find The Bone Orchard on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite book with necromancy?

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