Breathtakingly Unique | Review of ‘Ivory and Bone’ (Ivory and Bone #1)

By Cynthia Ayala

Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh HarperTeen Image Credit: Goodreads

“Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives. As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that had been planned all along.” —Goodreads

Published June 7, 2016, by HarperTeen Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh is a prehistoric YA fantasy with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

One of the things about this book that makes it astonishing is the use of you as it tells the story. It’s a little jarring at first, but it’s unique in the way it uses both first person and second person perspective to tell the story in a rich setting. There’s also something very poetic and compelling about it. This novel doesn’t just suck the reader in it inserts the reader into the story. Second person perspective is always challenging to pull off because most of the time it comes off as cheap or cliché, but Eshbaugh was able to pull it off effortless. She used those challenges to make the story and the characters come alive for the reader. As a heavily narrative piece of storytelling, this story focuses on the connection Kol has with Mya, whether it’s reciprocated or not, and it has history to it which is developed through the story in the way it hints at a past tension between the two clans. In that history alone there is so much vitality in the story telling, in the narrative, and it makes the story very compelling and realistic.

Now, while the narrative was great, the characters themselves lacked some fire in them. Kol often seems docile, and Mya isn’t really likable for most of the book. Sure the prejudices are there, and they are easy to understand, and the conflict between them leads to tension, but for the most part, it still leaves Mya quite unlikeable. So getting past her and her attitude is just frustrating for the reader.

Despite that, the narrative is truly magnificent not only because it’s so focused on telling the story, but with any historical piece of fiction the realism needs to be effortless. The construction of the world here is excellent. The tension between clans for the struggle to survive is a powerful way to tell the story. This is a world that readers don’t often see outside of movies and for Eshbaugh to take the risk and create a time often misunderstood is a risk in itself. But the imagination is there and so is the wonder. At times, it seems so simple, but there is a complexity to how these clans must navigate the world around them. It’s both breathtaking and beautiful.

Admittedly there is some hesitantly in getting into the story because it’s unclear whether this story is going to be more realism or fantasy and what the idea behind the story is going to be. So it takes some time to get into the story. But once the story moves on it captures the readers’ attention and then develops into something unexpected.

This is just a thoughtful story that makes the reader think about the past by inserting them into it. The challenges the characters have to endure aren’t out of place because they still have to endure what people today still have to endure. Sure, the circumstances have changed, but the connection isn’t lost on the readers. That’s just another reason the second person works so well in the story. And in the world of YA fiction, this novel is truly a breath of fresh air that doesn’t fall into any of the tropes that litter YA fiction. (★★★☆☆ | B+)

Product Details:

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

Page count: 371pp

Age Range: 15 & Over

ISBN: 978-0-0623-9925-0

Publisher: HarperTeen

List Price:  $17.99

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