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The bone orchard
2022
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Publishers Weekly Review
Political intrigue, necromancy, and identity struggles collide in Mueller's lush but overlong debut. A prisoner on an elegant leash, Charm runs the Orchard House, a brothel where the men of Boren mingle and talk politics, and where the workers are various facets of Charm's own personality, split apart from her and given new bodies. Charm herself is reserved for the Emperor's weekly visits--until the day she's rushed to his bedside as he lays suddenly dying. He charges her with discovering which of his terrible sons has murdered him, and keeping his kingdom safe by ensuring that the crown goes to someone just. The responsibility is immense and impossible, but the reward will be Charm's freedom and the freedom of her other selves. The mystery unravels like an interlocking puzzle, with a satisfying ending even the most well-read of the genre will struggle to guess. It's a masterfully woven plot with refreshing narrators in Charm and her other selves, a literally fractured mind, but the middle pages struggle to find their purpose, introducing myriad superfluous details. Readers will be a bit exhausted by the time they reach the cathartic conclusion. (Nov.)
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