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Literature / The Bone Palace

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The Bone Palace is a Low Fantasy novel by Amanda Downum and was released in December 2010. It is the second in The Necromancer Chronicles, and is a sequel to The Drowning City; however, the plots are self-contained, and only the main character, the necromancer Isyllt Iskaldur, carries over from the previous novel. Her mentor and former lover, Kiril, was mentioned there, but is an on-page character here.


This book provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: both major viewpoint characters, Isyllt Iskaldur and Savedra Severos.
  • Amazon Chaser: Savedra finds Ashlin attractive despite not normally being interested in women, and a part of that appreciation is for Ashlin's warrior physique, which gets plenty of mention when we're seeing things from Savedra's point-of-view.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Ashlin for Savedra
  • Arranged Marriage: Crown Prince Nikos and his foreign bride Ashlin. Their marriage is a fractious one, although they appear to respect each other and the problems can't be laid at the feet of either of them; it's simply that their personalities clash, they aren't really to each other's sexual tastes, and both were in relationships when the marriage was arranged; Nikos got to keep his mistress, Savedra, but Ashlin had to abandon her lover, possibly explaining her unhappiness and anger.
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  • Assassin Outclassin': Savedra frequently personally dispatches assassins attempting to kill her, Nikos, or Ashlin. She's aided in this by good information on threats from her mother's spy network. The lack of a good Crown intelligence/counter-assassin chief, since King Mathiros dismissed Kiril as his spymaster and refused to pick Kiril's chosen successor, Isyllt, has left Savedra to pick up the pieces — especially since the King, and much of his intelligence and military muscle, is off at war.
  • The Bard: Ciaran, an old friend of Isyllt and occasional lover.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Phaedra's reasoning for insisting on helping Kiril. In her words, he broke himself to help her. Which made her sad that she had to kill him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The final battle ended with Savedra having to watch Ginerva, who she became friends with, kill herself rather than be possessed. Niko watched his father die, unable to do anything. Isyllt watched Kiril and Spider die, had lost Forsythia's ghost, and because she let the king die to be by Kiril's side she broke her oath and lost most of her power, leaving her without a job. In the end she decides its too painful to stay and leaves the country with Dehlia.
  • Blood Magic: Known as Haematurgy, a practice which Phaedra specialized in while alive. It can be used to both heal and hurt.
  • But Not Too Bi: Kiril is mostly known to the audience as Isyllt's former lover, but he was also Varis' lover for a time.
  • Continuity Nod: Isyllt mentions the events of The Drowning City, like Asheris sending her gifts every summer.
  • Demonic Possession: Phaedra has become a demon and is possessing the dead body of the former Queen after her murder by King Mathiros.
  • Destructive Romance: The romance between Phaedra and Mathiros ultimately caused all the problems in the present, as well as spelling their own doom.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: What starts out Isyllt's case is the murder of a prostitute, Forsythia, who has a ring belonging to the royal family. Phaedra used her as a blood sacrifice so that her relationship with the vrykolos did not come to light or distract him.
  • Distinguishing Mark: A rose with barbed vines twisting beneath it mark Mekaran as an enforcer of the Rose Council.
  • Driven to Suicide: How Phaedra originally died after Mathiros killed her lover. She threw herself out of the castle window.
  • Easy Sex Change: Averted, despite the magic of the setting. Savedra was born with an adam's apple and only small breasts, and retains functional male genitalia; given that she's from an exceedingly rich family and has their full support, this suggests that magical transformation assistance only aids in mild cosmetic ways and cannot completely switch genders. There was the option of Grand Theft Me but she passed on it.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: Isyllt is a entropomancer, meaning she can invoke entropy in other things. She ultimately uses it to turn Phaedra to dust.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ashlin. The first sight of her we get is at sword practice, and first impressions don't lie. Almost Rebellious Princess — she would rather, personally, have had the life of a mercenary soldier than that of the Crown Prince's wife — but duty won out.
  • Eye of Newt: Squid Ink is a valuable component in charms of illusions, distraction, and obfuscation, acting as a focus for spells meant to divert attention.
  • Familiar: Crows for Phaedra, which is probably due to a number of them tearing her corpse apart when she originally died and ingesting her blood, which contained her power, will, and consciousness.
  • Feathered Fiend: Crows attack Savedra and Ashlin when they find a hidden room in the castle where Phaedra once lived.
  • Feminist Fantasy: It doesn't hit you too hard over the head with it, but Selafai and elsewhere appear to be fairly egalitarian as to gender. We see many women in what would be considered male roles in our world, including a female police inspector and captain of the guard, and nobody acts like this is unusual. Crown Prince Nikos isn't a warrior, while his wife Ashlin is, and Savedra, while not a warrior, certainly knows how to fight and is an effective counter-assassin.
  • Glamour: The vrykoloi have this, enabling them to go out without drawing too much attention.
  • Grand Theft Me: Phaedra, Spider, and Varis's plan to get revenge ultimately boils down to replacing the current king with Phaedra in a younger body, her current one being the former queen that Kiril took from her tomb. She offers to do the same for Kiril, giving him Nikos' body, but he refuses.
  • Heroic Bastard: Varis is mentioned as the brother of Nikos, due to his mother being with the old king until she was hastily removed from the court and married to her cousin in an effort to cover it up.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Phaedra operates out of the ruins of the old castle. Because it's so steeped in ghosts and spirits and old magic no one would really notice her there.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Savedra and Ashlin both admit that they aren't normally attracted to people of the same gender.
  • Interspecies Romance: Typically speaking, it's frowned upon to court demons or the vrykoloi, but a number of characters have done so.
  • In Vino Veritas: Ashlin and Savedra were both pretty drunk when they first had sex.
  • It Amused Me: Why Spider jumped from a tall ledge to carry Isyllt down to meet the vrykoloi elders rather than take the stairs.
    Spider: It's not as much fun.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Kiril wiped all traces of Phaedra from the memories of all but a few people to cover up her death by the king.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Nikos and Ashlin are supposed to have children, so of course it doesn't work out; but when she has sex with Savedra, pregnancy is inevitable exactly because they don't want to get caught.
  • Leave No Witnesses: To prevent an international crisis from killing Phaedra Kiril murdered everyone in the castle in Carnavas.
  • Love Triangle: Both Nikos and Ashlin are in love with Savedra, who loves both of them. After the tears when things come to a head, it looks like Marry Them All is the answer they all choose, with the wonderful possibility that this will help relations between Nikos and Ashlin as well.
  • The Mistress: Savedra, to Nikos, the Crown Prince of Selafai. Their relationship actually precedes his marriage, but as Savedra is a transsexual, marriage between them is not permitted; a lot of the point of a Royal marriage is heirs, after all. Despite her unhappiness at Nikos having to marry Ashlin, a foreign warrior princess, the two women become friends; there are more strains between Nikos and Ashlin than between Ashlin and Savedra.
  • Mood-Swinger: Phaedra is known for going from mania to despair in a blink of an eye.
  • My Greatest Failure: Kirilos considers Phaedra as his own, from her death, every death he committed to cover it up, and the fact that she inhabits a dead body.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Azarne admits she longs to kill and hunt freely, since she is a predator, but doesn't want to go through with Spider's plans because as bad as humans are with power, true monsters would be a hell of a lot worse.
  • Mystical Plague: Phaedra creates one using her magic to further weaken the city.
  • Necromancer: Kiril and Isyllt Iskaldur's profession. At the end of it she takes Dehlia as an apprentice.
  • Never Found the Body: Kiril's body, twice. The first time Varis took it to prevent a spirit from possessing it. When he went back to get it, it was gone.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Varis, Savedra's uncle. He wears gaudy clothes, aggravates others, and acts in a manner that belies his intelligence. Which is why few suspect he's the one attempting to kill Mathiros.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vrykoloi are vampires who live in catacombs beneath the city sewers, by ancient treaty with the Crown. While classified as spirits possessing the dead, they have some similarities with the "Nosferatu" school of vampire appearance, being fairly ugly to human eyes; they're yellow-eyed, pale, deathly skinny, with fangs, bat-like ears (often pierced), and a face only somewhat human-like. They can move impossibly quickly when they choose to, making fighting them difficult; silver, however, is a weakness. They shun sunlight mainly because of sensitive eyesight, as well as wanting to avoid notice; their treaty requires them to be discreet. They drink blood, obtained through willing or paid donors or from preying on the poor and helpless, and the venom they have makes them unwilling to fight back. Isyllt classifies them as demons, but they are apparently all once human, somehow infected or converted; there are two ancient vampire elders (both female) named Aphra and Tenebris who rule their society.
  • Parental Abandonment: Dehlia never knew her father and her mother only cares about Opium, so she ended up elsewhere.
  • The Power of Blood: Blood acts as a power source for both the vrykoloi and Phaedra.
  • Rape as Backstory: Forsythia, whose real name is Ilora Lizveteva, was raped by other refugees on her way to Selafai. It left her emotionally scarred.
  • Revenge: Ultimately the reason for the majority of the plot is so that Phaedra could get revenge.
  • Sexless Marriage: Nikos and Ashlin's marriage is close to this. They have separate bedrooms and Ashlin frequently keeps the door between them locked. They have had sex — Ashlin has become pregnant but miscarried the child — but it seems that she can only tolerate it by getting very drunk indeed.
  • Signature Scent: Orange, cinnamon, and almond are Phaedra's signature scent, which hints to Isyllt that Kiril was an accomplice.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Savedra and Ashlin share a bed in the small village inn in Valcov. Ashlin is used to sleeping with others, but Savedra is not, except for Nikos. This seems to be one of the things that leads up to Ashlin's confession of love for Savedra soon after.
  • Unperson: Kiril did this to Phaedra by murdering all the castle servants, taking their ghosts and offering them and three years of their life to a higher being to wipe away the memories while he got rid of the physical evidence. Not even Mathiros, the one responsible, remembers her.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Phaedra kills Mathiros but only felt it was Worth It for a moment before it feels like it didn't matter.
  • War Refugees: The Rosarians.
  • Willing Channeler: Isyllt ultimately has to let Forsythia use her body and magic to kill Phaedra.