I rise up towards the surface.
The Bone Dragon was a pure impulse buy – a specially priced ‘recommendation’ listed on the receipt page of another Kindle store purchase. The cover drew me in but the concept kept me in the world of Alexia Casale’s debut novel. Evie, a 14 year old girl, wakes up in the hospital after an operation to remove a rib and repair the rest. She sustained the injuries 4 years previously, before she met her adoptive parents and learnt to trust them. After being given her rib as a ‘souvenir’, her Uncle Ben carves it into a dragon – a mythical creature that comes alive after dark.
Casale walks the line of fantasy and reality with relative ease, blending the psychological with the fairy tale. The narrative is interspersed with night-time dragon adventures and dream-like sequences which slowly reveal Evie’s character and motivations. What is important to note is that the pace of the novel is slow. The audience works with Evie as she tries to overcome the physical and mental trauma she has experienced – a secret that is never fully revealed. This was did become fairly laboured at some points and, if you’re looking for an easy-read, adventure novel – this isn’t it.
The Bone Dragon plays with concepts of justice, guilt and the darkness of people without falling into the morose. Despite Evie’s obviously heart-wrenchingly difficult past, this book focuses solely on the present and the act of moving forward – finally being able to draw that line. There are fun characters and easier passages that counterbalance Evie’s past with love and warmth (I loved Uncle Ben in particular) and the element of fantasy is an ingenious play by Casale to elaborate on difficult emotions without creating overwrought sentimentalism.
A powerful debut novel, with a well-rounded narrative, interesting premise and explosive ending that hits you right out of the blue.