Knochenblumen welken nicht (Eleanor Bardilac)

Knochenblumen welken nicht [literally: Bone Flowers Don’t Wilt] is the first novel by Eleanor Bardilac. It has not been translated to English (yet).
Finished on: 2.10.2022

Aurelia has a secret that is kept by her and her family: she has magic, something that is frowned upon in good society, to put it mildly. For years, Aurelia hasn’t been allowed to go out and has been drugged to keep her magic subdued. But now she became witness to a murder in her home, and her secret is uncovered. Officially registered at the magicstry, she is assigned as an apprentice to necromancer Marius. Marius is not a native to Vhindona, and he is not happy about how magical people are treated here. He is even less happy about having a student, but somehow Aurelia and Marius grow to like each other. Things could be good – if it wasn’t for the murder, part of series, that is still unsolved.

Knochenblumen welken nicht is an excellent read. It was particularly exciting for me that it is set in a (fantastic) version of Vienna, but I also really liked the characters. A wonderful discovery of fantasy made in Austria.

The book cover showing a skull with flowers arranged around it.

Knochenblumen welken nicht is a very fine read. Bardilac’s writing is fluid, and her characters are vivid. The central two – Aurelia and Marius – in all of their difference are a great pair, and I enjoyed both their separate developments, and the development of their relationship with each other. Aurelia slowly coming out of her drugged haze to realize that her ideas about magic are very wrong. Marius, stuck on a long set path, coming to a bit of forgiveness for himself in taking care of Aurelia.

But I also really liked the supporting cast of characters and the detailed world that Bardilac conjures up in her novel. The political system is intricate, but also always contrasted with the way things are handled in the country Marius is from. This doesn’t only concern magic, but also sexual orientation, or gender.

I generally loved how diverse the cast of characters is here: Marius is a gay man of color, who has an asexual romantic relationship with another man. There are both a non-binary and a trans character. And you can tell that Bardilac took care to accurately reflect and sensitively describe them and their identities.

The biggest criticism of the book is probably that it forgets that it actually has a plot involving murders around the middle. I can’t say that I minded this much – I was much more interested in exploring the world alongside Aurelia than in the murders themselves (crime just isn’t my genre), but it will probably not work for everybody that way.

But other than that, I really have no great complaints about this. The book ends openly enough for sequels, but also closed enough to be satisfying. Whether there will be sequels to this or not, I will definitely look forward to what Bardilac writes next.

Summarizing: fantasy how I like it.

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