The Bone Knife by Intisar Khanani

The Bone Knife, Intisar Khanani, The Theft of Sunlight, books and tea, tea and books, Earl Grey Editing

Published: October 2012 by Purple Monkey Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: The Theft of Sunlight #0.5
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Smashwords
Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords ~ Free across all platforms

Rae knows how to look out for family. Born with a deformed foot, she feigns indifference to the pity and insults that come her way. Wary of all things beautiful, Rae instantly distrusts their latest visitor: an appallingly attractive faerie. Further, his presence imperils the secret her sister guards. But when the local townspeople show up demanding his blood, Rae must find a way to protect both her sister’s secret and their guest. Even if that means risking herself.

I love Intisar’s work and The Bone Knife has done nothing to change my mind. It was the perfect short read while I was dealing with eye strain and Aurealis judging.

Rae was a great character, particularly because she was a bit unusual. It’s not often the staid oldest sister gets to be the focus of a story. More often it’s the magical middle sister or the impulsive youngest. Rae is pragmatic–even a little dour at times–and I loved that about her.

I also enjoyed her relationship with her family. There’s clearly a lot of love between them. Nevertheless, Rae remains aware of the way they treat her differently and their love makes their pity harder to bear in some ways. Rae’s family are also conscious of this and their guilt leaks out onto the page.

The Bone Knife is short, barely scraping into the category of novelette. The story is tightly written and manages to deal with a number of powerful themes. As with much of Intisar’s work, it deals primarily with fear and with being an outsider: of being female in a patriarchal society, of being a foreigner in a xenophobic world, and of being disabled in a world geared for the able-bodied. In this regard, the story reminded me a lot of another of Intisar’s work: Thorn. So it seems fitting that the two are set in the same world, though I was unaware of it at the time of reading (and doesn’t really come up in the story).

While Rae bears the brunt of judgement from others, she is not beyond being judgemental herself. When the faerie Stonemane arrives at her family’s ranch, her behaviour towards him is dictated solely by the negative stereotypes she has heard about his kind. I felt this served to humanise her while also highlighting how being marginalised in certain ways doesn’t necessarily mean one is above marginalising others.

Despite the connection to Thorn, this story stands on its own. However, there were some significant loose ends which I anticipate will be tied up in the forthcoming series.

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