Review: Boneset & Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste

illustrated cover of Boneset & Feathers by Gwendolyn KisteBoneset & Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste
Broken Eye Books (November 3, 2020)
172 pages; $34.99 hardcover; $12.99 paperback
Reviewed by A.E. Siraki

Gwendolyn Kiste, witches, creepy birds, and odd kids. Need I say more? The author’s prose is as beautiful and engaging as ever in this story of a witch running from witchfinders. This would make a very compelling film or television adaptation and has what I’ve started referring to in my reviews as a “watchable” compulsive quality. It’s also a deeper commentary on the fear men — particularly wealthy older white men — have toward women; that antiquated but dangerous notion about women having power, the implications, and the stubbornness with which it clings to the fabrics in society.

Women go through this every day — the fear of speaking out against injustices, the wounds that hit all of us when a man curses at one of us, assaults us, or worse. There’s the pervasive dread of putting ourselves out there and knowing there’s always the risk that it will bring some unwelcome reaction. More women in horror have been addressing this issue through their works, and this latest volume from award-winning author Kiste showcases it with raw energy that leaps off the page. There’s a strong core of emotion that female readers will understand on a visceral level — the rage that boils beneath the surface and threatens to spill out because we’ve been silent too long, expected to be demure and deferential, but we’re fighting back now more than ever.

The book reads like a grim, dark fairy tale, and called to mind the atmosphere of the film Sleepy Hollow (1999), but make no mistake — there’s no room for whimsy or Burtonesque fanciful humor here. These are dangerous times for the protagonist, and have been for too long. She guards her secrets, and her sorrows run extremely deep. Kiste infuses this story with several unique elements that I won’t spoil — when you get to them, you’ll know and I hope you will marvel at them as much as I did.

By the time you hurtle toward the epic conclusion, you will be wowed and left wanting more from this master storyteller and weaver of magic tales. Buy all of Gwendolyn Kiste’s books if you haven’t already. As well, award jurors and influencers should take note, because this book deserves to take home all of the prizes.

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