Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Bone Doll's Twin

by Lynn Flewelling


A young boy who refuses to be parted from his mother's doll may not seem like the usual kind of hero. Lynn Flewelling is again bucking the trend with her choice of the unconventional Tobin as the focus of The Bone Doll's Twin.

King Erius has usurped the Skalan throne, in defiance of a prophecy which states that the ruler should be a woman. His paranoia has led to the deaths of most of the women who stand close to the line of succession. When Princess Ariani gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, the wizards Iya and Arkoniel know they must hide the girl from detection. They employ the services of Lhel, a foreign witch whose kind have been banished from Skala for doing necromancy. But they are interrupted in the middle of some important magic, and it goes wrong in a way that the wizards will regret for a long time.

As well as the circumstances of his birth, Tobin's childhood is distinctly odd. He is no wimp, but he is a haunted prince brought up far away from courtly society, in the shadow of his mad mother. Tobin's father, Duke Rhius, dotes on him, as do those around him. But Ariani resents Tobin and shows him little affection, and villagers fear him because of the rumours that he is demon-haunted.

Plague and famine are ravaging Skala, a country which always seems to be at war with Plenimar. Royal females aren't the only victims of the king's fears. Priests and wizards are being rounded up, tortured and executed by their own kind, and Flewelling doesn't spare us any of the gruesome details. As a prince, Tobin can't remain isolated forever in his backwater keep, even though the politics he will be exposed to in the capital will endanger him.

The Tamír Triad is set a few hundred years before the Nightrunner series. The Nightrunner books explain the significance of one or two matters, but there is little overlap between the two series so it shouldn't matter which set of books you read first. Flewelling playfully hints at the themes of gender and sexuality she worked into her previous books, but The Bone Doll's Twin is a more polished piece of writing.

Tobin isn't your usual hero, and this story doesn't have your usual hack-and-slash plot either. He has to deal with loneliness, as does Lhel whilst she lives far away from her people. But their loneliness pales beside that of the unquiet spirit who follows Tobin. The author lets you really feel for these characters and their suffering. Ki, Tobin's young friend, is ashamed of his humble origins, whilst many of the other characters are harbouring secrets and a guilty conscience. This is a dark novel full of well-rounded characters which will excite the most jaded of fantasy lovers. It is the kind of story that you can lose yourself in entirely: sometimes tragic, sometimes cheerful, often tense but always varied, absorbing and totally compelling.

The Bone Doll's Twin ends fairly abruptly with a cliffhanger and a revelation. It's not a self-contained book but if you like epic fantasy then this should leave you with an appetite for the sequel.

Book Details

Year: 2001

Categories: Books


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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Lynn Flewelling


pam     9th January, 2006 08:18am

engaging... i read it in 3 hours. have been waiting for what seems to be forever for the third book to come out. awesome writer. hats off to u lynn

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