An African tightrope walker who can’t die gets embroiled in a secret society’s deadly gladiatorial tournament in this “bloodily spectacular” (Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights) historical fantasy set in an alternate 1880s London, perfect for fans of The Last Magician and The Gilded Wolves.
As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly an unusual sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…
She cannot die.
Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.
To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.
If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.
Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to sci-fi fantasy TV to Japanese role-playing games and other geeky things, all of which have largely inspired her writing. Sarah has been nominated for the Aurora Award for Best YA Novel and works in the community doing writing workshops for youths and adults. On top of being a YA writer, Sarah has a PhD in English, which makes her a doctor, so it turns out she didn’t have to go to medical school after all. As an academic, Sarah has taught undergraduate courses and acted as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research concerns representations of race and gender in popular media culture, youth culture, and postcolonialism. She has written and edited articles in political, cultural, and academic publications. She continues to use her voice for good. You can find her online at SarahRaughley.com.
In a shifting third-person perspective, Raughley (the Effigies series) crafts an alternate Victorian London in which Iris, “a tightrope-dancing African,” dazzles crowds with acrobatic feats as part of the Coolie Company circus. However, Iris is concealing a staggering secret: though seemingly “a girl of seventeen,” she does not age and cannot die. Having arrived on the circus proprietor’s doorstep with amnesia a decade ago, her mission to uncover her past gains greater urgency when she encounters sapphire-eyed, white 21-year-old Adam Temple. A member of the secret Enlightenment Committee, Adam reveals that the world is ending—and that the committee will decide the leader of the upcoming apocalypse through the Tournament of Freaks, a competition in which champions with supernatural abilities fight to the death. Iris agrees to be one such warrior, in exchange for Adam’s help in uncovering her identity. Yet as she becomes enmeshed in the tournament, she wonders at its price. Though a quick pace stymies full immersion, the fantastical premise supports a multilayered plot and vibrant characters. Meanwhile, themes of racial abuse, violence, and rebirth, paired with a wealth of romantic options, add further complexity to this series starter. Ages 12–up. Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Irene Goodman Literary. (Sept.)
"Sarah Raughley proves once again that, like her intricate worlds and wonderful characters, she is a master of decolonization and a force to be reckoned with."
In Victorian London, a girl with an unknown past embarks on a mission that will change her future.
Iris has spent the last 10 years hiding out in the circus, performing as an African tightrope dancer—a so-called “Nubian Princess”—with no memories of her old life. One day, a mysterious stranger in the crowd triggers something long forgotten, causing her to publicly reveal her ability to recover from seemingly fatal accidents. Now her secret has been revealed, she is forced to flee, and she agrees to assist the stranger, a White man called Adam Temple, with finding his father and unlocking the mystery that will end the world. She also will fight as his champion in the Tournament of Freak, a contest to decide which Enlightenment Committee member will wield the power to reshape the new world. Adam, for his part, promises to help her unlock her past and potential. Iris—along with her brooding Turkish tightrope partner, Jinn, and brash Salvadoran tournament newcomer Max—must discover the truth and fight to the finish on behalf of the rich and powerful alongside other supernaturally gifted champions. This cryptic, enticing journey is told in alternating, third-person perspectives: Adam’s cold and calculating, Iris’ searching and daring. The author builds a delicious tension that will have readers putting the pieces together as the end of the world nears and wanting more after they reach the climactic cliffhanger ending.
A rousing series opener.
"Bloodily spectacular. The Bones of Ruin builds page after page of visceral intrigue, steamrolling toward the end of the world in Victorian London. These characters could tear you apart, but you will love them all the same. Sarah Raughley’s world breathes true to the past and yet gleams brilliantly new."