Book Reviews

Review: The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley

If you like the idea of magical competitions, questions about our origin, and an Old Guard vibe, you have to read The Bones of Ruin. I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect, but every page I fell more in love with this fantasy debut. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​

She cannot die.

Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.

To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.

If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.


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

TW: torture

The Bones of Ruin is a story that feels almost like a wriggling fish. I thought I had a grip on what the story was, and at every turn Raughly kept surprising me. At first I thought African Tightrope dancer, then an, “OMG this gives me Old Guard vibes”, and then, “wait is this like a doomsday cult??” So yeah, emotionally tossed around, BUT it delivers terrifying magical powers, competitions to the death, and secrets all around. Talk about a book where I need the sequel ASAP.

I barely have any notes for The Bones of Ruin because the whole time I was reading, I was just so stunned. Suffice it to say, The Bones of Ruin is full of action that will captivate you with its danger and simmering shadows. At the same time, I was intrigued by Iris, by her motivations and her character journey. Because while you may not sometimes agree with what you know about Iris, you can understand that nagging, that necessity to know the truth. To figure out where we are from. The idea of having a whole history and past hidden from you.

As someone who’s origin is murky, I can only imagine that burning need that would awaken if you got a taste. There’s tons of fight scenes and almost constant action, all balanced by an intriguing world premise and magic. If you liked Ace of Shades, The Old Guard, and Caraval then you have to check out The Bones of Ruin.

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Find The Bones of Ruin on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What’s the last book that defied description for you?

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