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Literature / These Savage Bones

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We came here only to sleep—
Only to dream.
It is not true that we have come to live upon the earth.
-Unknown Aztec Poet

A 2016 novella by Katilin Hellerich, her first published work.

Mexico, 1875. Twenty-three-year old Esperanza de la Rosa knows more about steam engines and electromagnetics than a proper lady should. Fiercely independent, she’s more interested in science and superstition than finding a suitor.

When Esperanza’s uncle is murdered during a festival celebrating the Day of the Dead, her world is shaken. To catch the killer, she must accept the help of the last person she wants to see—her ex-fiancé; Alejandro Valladares, a gentleman turned bounty hunter with a troubled past.

Thrust into a tangled web of secrets and lies that threaten to destroy everything she thought she knew, Esperanza must uncover the truth and bring her uncle’s murderer to justice or the guilt of her failure will haunt her forever.


This Novella Provides Examples of:

  • Action Girl: Despite only having fired a gun once in her life, Esperanza does not hesitate to fire at the man in the Calavera mask when Alejandro's been knocked out.
  • After Action Patch Up: After Alejandro and the man in the Calavera mask tousle in the graveyard, Alejandro goes back to Esperanza's hacienda, where a servant cleans up his head wound while they wait for the doctor to arrive.
  • Amateur Sleuth: The basis of the plot. Alejandro has been bounty hunting for years now, but Esperanza has never solved a murder case before, nor has she ever done any sort of police work.
  • Arranged Marriage: After Isadora learned Esperanza's mother was pregnant, she set up the marriage between her and Eduardo so no one would ever find out.
  • Asshole Victim: Don Ignacio. He by no means deserved to die, but the entirety of his interactions with Esperanza and Alejandro were filled with jibes, rude comments toward Esperanza, and teasing remarks.
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  • Bar Brawl: At the hotel outside town, Alejandro attacks the outlaw who murdered his parents, and the ensuing fight results in shots fired.
  • Birds of a Feather: Esperanza has a much stronger relationship with her uncle than her father, given their similarities in personality and Miguel's understanding of her fascination with science and machines. She considers Miguel more of a father than Eduardo. All the more fitting once she finds out he actually is.
  • Best Served Cold: After the murder of his parents, Alejandro had dedicated himself to hunting down the man responsible, becoming a bounty hunter and losing himself to his need for vengeance. It wasn't until he was almost killed that he decided to go back to Esperanza.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: As it turns out, Esperanza's family is very screwed up. Everyone (except maybe Esperanza herself) has something they're hiding.
    • Don Eduardo is an alcoholic, disapproves of his daughter's interests, and cheats on his wife with a prostitute.
    • Isadora plans the murder of her own granddaughter's father and tries to frame her Eduardo for it.
  • Blackmail: Ignacio blackmails Miguel with evidence of his affair with Esperanza's mother, Miguel blackmails Ignacio with the ledger containing his son's gambling debts.
  • Bounty Hunter: Alejandro, though he's retired now.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Esperanza manages to do this not only to both her parents, but to her grandmother.
  • Cool Mask: Naturally, since it's Day of the Dead in 1870's Mexico, but the murderer's trademarek Calavera mask - blue poppy petals around the eyes to look like tears - deserves a special mention.
  • Daddy's Girl: Averted, at first. Eduardo has no interest in Esperanza's hobbies or her scientific pursuits and remains somewhat distant her whole life - it was her Uncle Miguel who encouraged her, gave her books to read, danced with her. Ultimately Played Straight, as Miguel is her real father, not Eduardo.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: After his parents' murder, Alejandro dedicated himself to tracking down their killer and bringing him to justice. He took up the life of a bounty hunter and nearly lost himself to his anger and his need for revenge.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The epilogue shows Esperanza and Alejandro happy and re-settled a year after the events of the story - and happily engaged, but the two of them had to go through a lot of crap to get there.
  • For Your Own Good: Isadora tries to use this as her motives for arranging Miguel's death, but Esperanza is having none of it.
  • FrameUp: Eduardo was set up to be framed for Muiguel's death. By his own mother-in-law, no less.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Justified, as all the characters are technically speaking Spanish to begin with.
  • The Gunslinger: Alejandro
  • He Knows Too Much: Ignacio, unfortunately, knew too much to be allowed to live.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Takes place during the three days of Dia de los Muertos, and is set in 1875 Mexico.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Despite his reputation and significant vices, Ricardo and María truly love each other.
  • Plot Device: Eduardo's knife, used to kill Miguel.
  • Posthumous Character: Alejandro's parents. They were murdered a few years before the story proper.
  • Revenge: A recurring theme.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Esperanza would rather spend her time reading books published by Isaac Newton than worry herself about finding a husband. And she doesn't care what that makes other people think.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Well, 'tomboy' in 1870's terms. While she does occupy herself with more 'masculine' hobbies, like reading, science, and stargazing, Esperanza loves to dance. She would always convince Miguel to dance with her, even though he never enjoyed it as much as she.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Ricardo, a major source of blackmail against him.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Pobre Esperanza. Over the course of a few days, her uncle is murdered, she discovers she is actually the bastard child of her mother and Miguel, and that the two of them had had a years-long affair, her parent's marriage had been a complete lie, Eduardo had been sleeping with a prostitute for the past two nights, and to top it all off, Isadora was the one who orchestrated the murders in the first place.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Esperanza and Alejandro. They do.


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