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Feather and Bone by Gus Smith
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Feather and Bone

by Gus Smith

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As I read this book I realised that it was a lot darker than I had thought and not the sort of thing that I would usually read, however as it was an ER book I persevered with it.
It is set in an area of England that I know, which helped to make it easier to read than it might have been, but I did not like the supernatural elements of the story, and found them a bit confusing. This may have been because I skimmed a bit over the ‘nastier’ aspects of the story.
The writing and the plot were both good, so if it the genre that you like I would recommend it. ( )
  CDVicarage | Feb 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In remote Newcastle hills, an ancient evil tricks locals, horror builds. Isabel talks to animals, not people. New age elements come up against old folklore. Modern agrarian problems oppose customs. Medicine and technology vie with home remedies. All are entwined with age-old issues of child abuse, poverty, homosexuality, retirement, and paparazzi.

Received from Clarion Publishing as part of the Librarything's July 2013 batch, and hadn't read by February 2015, when I finally remembered to do so! So embarrassed!

This is set in 2001, a few years after a massive BSE outbreak that caused British beef to be banned from many countries across the world. Footage appeared nightly on the news bulletins, showing swathes of cattle carcasses being burnt on pyres as whole herds were destroyed. A few years later, an outbreak of Foot and Mouth would bring many of the remaining farms to their knees, but that's a while away yet.
In Northumberland, near the Scottish border, 7 Year old Isabel talks to birds, but not to people. Her 4 year old brother, Davie, is always in trouble. Their unemployed father, Angus, is having strange turns, and daren’t tell his wife (Bessie) who is facing her own issues.

Strange cattle have been let loose, with their identification labels cut off, and a new case of BSE has been confirmed.

Alison Rigg, from the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Farming (MAFF who are replaced by DEFRA not long after the real BSE outbreak), is sent to find out where the cattle are from. With the utmost discretion so as not to fuel BSE rumours, she has to track down any diseased cattle and have them slaughtered and safely disposed of. She comes up against Colin Fenwick, the local MAFF rep, who is stressed and weak when sober, but angry and lethal when drunk. Alison is having a long distance relationship with Stella, an actress, and both have an active belief in their own form of Paganism.

After being attacked by Colin whilst out driving one night, Alison ends up separated from her body, and spiritually inhabiting the cottage with Isabel and her family - only to witness some horrific and unexplainable events which seem to centre around the Duergar. The Duergar is an evil presence that has threatened the community for generations - Colin's father jumping off a cliff when Colin was young being one example.

There seems to be a surprisingly large number of other inhabitants of the area (not exactly a village) - though I suspect there really aren't that many. They are also feeling the effects of The Duergar, with many lethal and non-lethal injuries being incurred often graphically and painfully.

However, things dovetail into a climax that occurs both on the astral and physical plains and is as much about light and darkness. the physical and the spiritual as anything else.

Bessie is the most vile character in this, even if what she does is not necessarily of her own volition. Some of the men are weak (Angus being one), who run away to escape things, even if it leaves other characters in the firing line. Isabel is a natural in the supernatural world, listening rather than talking and learning things from the likes of Morag that help her temper her own powers as needed.
  nordie | Mar 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Initially the book grabbed ahold and kept me reading for quite a while. I don't usually read this horror type of book, spirits spook me. It was quite interesting though but I did have trouble with the blending of the BSE story into it along with Wicca, and the astral travel. Some of the horror was truly disturbing i.e. the little boy and other was quite thrilling. Overall an alright read.
  cswolff9 | Apr 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was okay, but not great, and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what’s wrong about it. It’s an interesting premise, and I like the way that old fairy-tale horror tropes are brought into modern prose and made genuinely gory and horrible. Part of the trouble there, though, is that there isn’t a gradual build-up with the horror: it sort of starts off screaming and then just carries on screaming. A slower, eerier lead-in would have been more graceful and set the atmosphere better. The Wiccan insertions in the second half of the book also ring false: in an otherwise rather realistic setting, it’s a bit jarring that all of the characters are presumed au fait with Wiccan magic techniques. ( )
  Erratic_Charmer | Feb 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After requesting this book from the LTER programme, I realised that it was not a book I'd ever read, due to its dark, spooky nature. So I asked a reviewer friend to read it on my behalf. The review below is her opinion:

Very strange and very dark.
Isabel talks to birds, but not to people. Her brother, Davie, is always in trouble. Their father, Angus, is having strange turns, and daren’t tell his wife.

Strange cattle have been let loose, with their identification labels cut off, and a case of BSE has been confirmed.

Alison Rigg, from the Ministry of Agriculture, is sent to find out where the cattle are from. With the utmost discretion so as not to fuel BSE rumours, she has to track down any diseased cattle and have them slaughtered and safely disposed of.

The local people are highly superstitious, and blame all their ills on the Duergar, a name many cannot even dare to say, which manifests itself in various forms such as a lone dark cloud, with a corresponding dark shadow on all beneath it. Strange accidents happen, all are blamed on its malevolent presence. Alison gets caught up in the fear and affected by it herself.

Well enough written but a very dark story – I shall have to read something more light-hearted and positive to recover! ( )
  DubaiReader | Dec 28, 2013 |
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