Cathedral of Bones
Author: A.J. Steiger
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 16, 2021)
Hardcover, 368 pages
Fantasy, Middle-Grade Fantasy
Simon Frost lives in a curious place, where magic is used by the very best Animists to do wondrous things—like call upon imps, wraiths, and all manner of monsters to right wrongs, deliver justice, and accomplish feats no human could achieve.
Simon Frost is not one of those Animists, though he’s been trying to become one for years.
When a plea arrives from a distant hamlet, preyed upon by an abominable monster, Simon sees the opportunity to finally prove his worth.
But upon arriving in the tiny village, Simon finds not just a monster but a key to his past—and a pathway into an unbelievable future.
I really liked this book, but I don’t understand how on earth it’s being marketed as middle grade?! My understanding of middle grade fiction is that it’s generally for ages 8-12, and YA is for 12-18 year olds. Simon Frost is 14 but doesn’t read like any 14 year old I’ve ever met and could easily be aged up as 16 in this book, especially with the bit of romantic theme. Even with him being 14, the themes in this book are much more suited to YA (as is the level of violence and gore). The reading level, both vocabulary and themes, also seems a bit high for middle grade.
Getting past the completely inappropriate categorization of this book, it’s a really interesting story. Simon is a somewhat failed Animist apprentice who has been regulated to working (and living) in the mailroom at the Foundation, which is sort of the governmental system of this world. There are heavy Lovecraftian themes throughout the book, and it’s as much horror as it is fantasy. If you’re into Lovecraftian/cosmic horror (yes, I’m talking Azathoth, shoggoths, abominations and the like), this is the book for you! There’s plenty of necromancy, human experimentation, drugs, murder, and mutilation for everyone! (You can maybe see why I don’t think this is middle grade…) Still, Simon was a really appealing character, and I was really drawn to Alice as well. I found myself caring deeply what happened to these two and rooting for their success. The ending was shocking and amazing and more than I’d hoped for – absolutely amazing.
A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.