Reviews: The Bone Dragon

Shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2014

and the Jugendliteraturpreis (Youth Jury award) for both the German & English texts.

Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2014.

I’m a ‘Woman You Should Know About’ according to Suzi Feay’s Emerald Street piece for International Women’s Day about up-and-coming women writers.

Read the first 15 pages at Sugarscape or Wondrous Reads.

The Bone Dragon was a Book of the Year 2013 for the Independent and Financial Times, and The Book of the Year 2013 for two amazing bloggers, Luna at Luna’s Little Library and Clover from Fluttering Butterflies.

Financial Times: Books of the Year 2013 (Suzi Feay): “Casale’s dazzling debut begins with a sick girl who, when presented with a fragment of her own rib, carves it into the shape of a dragon. And then it just gets stranger. A haunting portrayal of damage, resilience and revenge, and one of the finest novels of the year – in any category.” The Bone Dragon was also in the Financial Times Summer Books Guide! “… Beautifully written, poetic and haunting, this is a superlative debut.”

Independent: Books of the Year 2013 (Nicholas Tucker): “Alexia Casale, on the evidence of her fine debut novel The Bone Dragon (Faber, £9.99 paperback), also shows rich promise. … Readers must decide for themselves whether all this is either real or imagined as this densely written story runs its course.”

Linda Buckley-Archer in The Guardian: “With a relentless emotional charge and unexpected twists, Alexia Casale’s first novel will captivate readers … ‘People get it wrong when they talk about innocence,’ says Evie, the narrator of Alexia Casale’s tremendous first novel. … Analysing Hamlet for English GCSE (Evie has little patience for the Danish prince’s dithering) is nothing compared to the self-reflection she needs to deal with the emotional fallout from abuse. Evie leads us towards the heart of her darkness via narrative techniques that echo her fragile state of mind. Drawn inexorably to her past, she is nevertheless unable to look at it directly; instead, she protects her secrets like a dragon protects its hoard. She constantly withholds information, prepared to seed clues, but won’t commit to full disclosure. The reader, like Evie, must make sense of her early years using only those fragments that rise from the deep – and those she can bring herself to share. … This is neither fantasy nor magic realism. Beautifully evoked, the bone dragon is willed into existence by a tormented soul in need of help. … In a series of haunting sequences, girl and dragon escape into the moonlit Fens. …Images of cleansing fire and deep, quiet water abound, the night and swirling mists working as a perfect metaphor in the context of Evie’s quest. Weaving the central story with subplots involving bullying and a fatal car accident, Casale barely missteps. Dark, with unexpected twists and a strong – if disturbing – ending, the narrative has a relentless emotional charge. ‘I have come to you so that you will be free,’ says the bone dragon, in an outstanding debut that vividly portrays the power and fragility of the human heart and mind.”

Kitty Empire, The Guardian: Alexia Casale drip-feeds clues about its teenage protagonist’s past. … The Bone Dragon inhabits the cusp of the spirit realm, without really being a fantastical work. … If The Bone Dragon is, perhaps, a touch heavy on the conflicted inner dialogue, it packs a series of surprises and a very un-modern sense that the ugliest emotions sometimes yield the most satisfying results.

A lovely mention from Stephanie Gunner in relation to submissions for the Arthur C Clarke Award.

Edinburgh International Book Festival: “…The Bone Dragon is a modern dark fairytale that straddles Adult and Young Adult genres of fiction and has garnered significant praise from literary critics. … The Bone Dragon is a novel that thrives on ambiguity, and Casale is extremely proficient at using it as a literary device. The nature of Evie’s abuse is alluded to but not immediately explained, leaving the reader’s imagination to run riot with what she might have suffered. Similarly, it remains unclear whether the dragon has really been magically brought to life or whether Evie’s active imagination and internalisation of her trauma is responsible. Perhaps the Dragon is just a manifestation of her desire to be brave and take control of her pain. Either way, it is an excellent method of driving the plot forward and allowing Evie to grow, plus the addition of a fantastic supernatural guide steers the novel away from angsty, kitchen-sink tales of teen abuse and into far more poetic and surprising territory.”

Suzi Feay, Financial Times (5th May 2013): “In a beautifully crafted narrative that constantly confounds expectation – her friends are kind, her foster parents are saintly – the final act is anything but comforting. Sometimes anger and vengeance aren’t just understandable but essential tools for survival.”

Carrie Morris, “Best Teen Books for Summer ’14”, The Guardian: “A psychologically-compelling story that will touch the very core of the reader. The power of the book is the use of Evie as (unreliable) narrator – it is not what she says but what she leaves out which paints a poignant and brutal picture of the abuse she has suffered. Yet the book is hopeful and healing – Evie is safe now and through the bone dragon she reaches a place where she can let the past go and start living again.”

Geraldine Brennan, The Observer (The Guardian) reviewed The Bone Dragon alongside Malorie Blackman’s Noble Conflict, Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me, and Natasha Farrant’s After Iris in the Summer 2013 Teen Books roundup, calling it “a striking debut novel”: “The metaphor is not overlaboured and the dragon breathes fire into the fantasy adventure episodes, which have a flavour of Alan Garner.”

lifeissweetinbooks, The Guardian: “For people who like dragons? This is for you — Evie has a secret and only some people know about it. She rejects telling anyone other than her close family what happened to her. She tries to distract herself by putting all her energy into carving a dragon from a bone which came from her ribs. As the dragon is finished, she makes a wish, meanwhile there are other problems which she should be worrying about that are closer to home. I really enjoyed this book, it had all the elements a book needed. This book is also very mysterious, Evie’s little secret wasn’t revealed all in one go and there were little clues along my journey through the book. A main topic that kept popping up was innocence. How innocence is a concept that is always thought wrong, innocence is big and “its every aspect of life” – I think this theory of innocence is beautiful and very true. The character Evie herself I found I could really relate to because everyone has secrets and sometimes you need to tell someone but you don’t know how to, and this idea of Evie trying to fix things then again avoid things is what many people I think can relate to. My favourite character, however, is the dragon; this is because he speaks in riddles and he is really mysterious.”

Michael Codron: “A work of startling imagination, that holds you to the last page.”

Wendy Cooling: “Loved The Bone Dragon, gentle and wonderful and hard to put down.”

Lindsay Foley, Weekend Editor Sugarscape: “Absolutely hypnotic”

Mary Byrne, Hay Festival’s Children’s Programmer: “[Alexia Casale] writes beautifully – a complete pleasure to read”

BookTrust: “There are numerous young adult novels dealing with dark subjects such as bereavement, illness and abuse, but The Bone Dragon stands apart from the crowd. Bold, brave and often unsettling, this tale of a teenage girl profoundly affected by a past that she cannot talk about – even to herself – is also both understated and beautifully-written. As well as dealing with challenging issues, with its positive and thoughtful depiction of adoption and adoptive parents, it is a tribute to unconventional families and friendships of all different kinds. An intriguing blend of psychological thriller and fantasy, this is an impressive and unusual debut.”

Gary Meehan, author of the simultaneously dark and hilarious twisty-turny fantasy True Fire, picked The Bone Dragon as one of his top 5 books! “A girl recovers from post-traumatic stress disorder by retreating into a fantasy world. Or is it fantasy? Beautifully written and thought provoking.” And one of his Top 10 on UKYA.

Sugarscape: “If you like a book that’ll make you think then The Bone Dragon is definitely one for you. Unsettling and at points uncomfortable, this clever novel gives insight into the bruised mind and makes you ask the question; where does reality end and fantasy begin? … Chilling and utterly hypnotic, this will leave your mouth wide open and every bone in your body tingling as it reaches its chilling conclusion.”

Luna at Luna’s Little Library called it “One of my absolute favourite books” and made it her Book of the Year 2013. Review: “The Bone Dragon is wonderful, magical, touching, mysterious, fantastic, unique and so many other words I could use. I love this book. It will be a story that will forever have a special place in my heart. … there is so much about Alexia Casale’s book that is truly outstanding. I feel I should be filling pages of how effective and beautiful her writing is. … Evie is a rare gem in narrator, both lovable and true. … The Bone Dragon is special. Read it.”

The Bone Dragon is among Luna’s ‘Top 13 Books of 2013’, ‘Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013’ and was also Luna’s Book of the Month #12. And it has lovely mentions on Stacking the Shelves #40 and is on the VIP Bookcase. Luna also talked about The Bone Dragon in her Around the World post at Falling for YA. Luna was the first person to read and comment on The Bone Dragon and has been so amazingly generous in telling people about the book and giving it space on her blog and in guest-posts for other blogs. Thank you *so* much.

Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies picked The Bone Dragon as her Book of the Year: “Out of all the books I’ve read this year and out of all the books that made my top 13 list, I have to say that The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale is my favourite of them all. 220 books read last year and I can say without question that the top book for me is this book.  I really want you all to rush out now and read this book. … I love that while some obvious abuse has taken place in Evie’s life, none of that abuse is mentioned explicitly. What is mentioned and is littered throughout this story are wonderful characters and very strong family bonds.  I love the dragon in particular. This book is about hope and revenge and about Evie finding a way to deal with all the darkness.” She also recommended it as a Christmas Literary Gift: ““My absolute favourite read of 2013 is THE BONE DRAGON by ALEXIA CASALE. I love the characters and the relationships within this book. I love the gorgeous writing style and the combination of realism and fantasy. I love this book so much because it’s the story of finding strength and hope after difficult times. The Bone Dragon is an emotional and intense read but it is also quietly unsettling, powerful and very beautiful.”

It was also one of her Top 5 Surprising Reads in 2013 and Book of the Month for June. “I absolutely loved this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that had such an emotional impact on me. I loved that while The Bone Dragon does contain some darker elements to it, it is still very much a book about healing and about love. I loved how fantasy and reality twined together in this story, I loved all of Evie’s relationships with friends and family, I loved that I was able to connect to it in such a fierce way. I really recommend that you find yourself a copy of The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale sooner rather than later…” In a recent guest-post introduction, she also provided a further ‘snapshot’ review: “I can say that without reservation, The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale is my *favourite* book that I’ve read all year. I loved it wholly and completely and I absolutely fell under its spell.  I thought it was emotional and beautiful and I really do recommend that you go out and immediately and read it.” More recently, she wrote about it again for her YALCreadathon post: “The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale is one of my favourite ever books.  Something about this story, about Evie’s story really grabbed me right from the first page.  I think it was amazing how Alexia Casale chose to tell this story, without relying on the grisly details of Evie’s past to garner sympathy or emotion.  Instead we as the readers are able to connect with Evie based on her own development throughout this story with the dragon, with the relationships she has with her adoptive family and the conclusions she comes to about vengeance and moving on.  It’s a beautiful story, one I really recommend!”

Verity Newman, Brentwood Waterstones: “Please read this book: I confess to feeling a certain sense of trepidation in writing this review for fear that my words will not do the book justice. To put it simply, this book has that ‘something special’ factor. From the first few pages I was immersed in this unsettling, hypnotic story that flits seamlessly between real life and reality. The plot is engaging despite the difficult subject matter; Evie is a courageous yet damaged individual and at times her pain and anger is so raw it can be uncomfortable to read. The book also poses a moral question as it explores the idea of revenge and whether you could exact it and live with the consequences. This is a totally original novel and Evie is a character I’ll find hard to forget and I would urge everyone to read this exceptional novel.”

Catriona Morrison, Waterstones: “An outstanding and heartwrenching adventure What a wonderful, magical and touching book. Evie is a character worth remembering forever.”

Waterstones Picadilly Circus, in-store review: “A magical story about love, friendship and survival. Absolutely Spellbinding..”

Isabel Popple, Truro Waterstones: “The Bone Dragon is simultaneously strange and beautiful, a winding story that leaves as many questions unanswered as answered. What exactly happened to Evie before she met her adoptive parents? Are the dragon dreams real? Other reviews I’ve read for this book are all massively praiseworthy, calling it wonderful, captivating, magical, hypnotic. And it is certainly all of these things, but also extremely unsettling – and this is the predominant feeling I’ve been left with. Casale’s blending of themes through the story demonstrates her exceptional writing ability and, as uncomfortable as I may have been left at the end, it cannot be denied that I was firmly hooked into the story. The surreality and darkness of The Bone Dragon may have left me feeling itchy inside my skin, but it is extremely well done and is a reminder to tread lightly.”

Geraldine at Fantasy Reads: Be warned that the author herself describes it as a `wicked little book. `The Bone Dragon’ was published as Fantasy fiction for older children but it could equally have been marketed as a psychological thriller for adults. It all depends on how you interpret what you are reading…  The Bone Dragon’ is a deceptively clever novel. This review will have to be shorter than usual because I’m anxious not to give too much away.  Casale weaves several storylines that are common in children’s literature into her plot but does something dark and different with them. In Fantasy novels, sad or lonely children often wish for a magical companion who will take them on adventures (see my December 2013 post  on `The Cuckoo Clock’). At first, the Bone Dragon seems a typical example as he shows Evie `the beauty and wild magic in the  night’. The way that Evie learns to use all of  her senses to appreciate the unique landscape of the Fens is beautifully described, which distracts you from thinking about what other purpose these nocturnal rambles might have. Like many mentors in Fantasy, the Dragon is fond of making cryptic pronouncements. As Evie says `the whole `riddle me this’ thing is very annoying sometimes’ but there turns out to be a very good reason for it. If, like me, you loved Mark Haddon’s `The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ you will probably enjoy this book. Both novels have young outsider narrators who look at life in a very unusual way.  Parts of  `The Bone Dragon’ read almost like a standard mid-Atlantic school story, as Evie worries about fitting in, tries to share the interests of her two best friends, and has a misunderstanding with a boy who fancies her. Almost, but not quite because the reader gets to share the intensity of Evie’s feelings and her desperate need to protect herself. What might normally develop into a romantic subplot spills over into unexpected violence. Casale keeps the reader guessing about whether this is going to be a novel about revenge or forgiveness. As if she was the heroine of a Victorian novel, Evie helps to sort out the emotional problems of the adults who have taken her to their hearts, but this only makes Evie more aware of the difference between herself and them. She feels like `one of those changeling creatures from a fairy tale’ because she lives in a world where some people are wicked and terrible things happen. She can’t unknow this, but can she learn to live with her knowledge of evil? `The Bone Dragon’ has the scariest happy ending since the original Grimm (in every sense) version of `Snow White’. Whether it is Fantasy fiction or a novel about living out your fantasy is up to each individual reader to decide. Either way, Evie’s story is a mesmerising read.

Fiona Bradbury of Books and Enchantment: Enigmatic and intelligent, Evie conveys the past to us in sideways glances; she keeps us guessing at what happened whilst living with her birth mother and her grandparents, revealing the truth only in snatches and fragments. The Dragon of the title, meanwhile, serves as object, character and metaphor. Carved out of one of Evie’s own ribs, the talisman takes on life in her mind, helping her process her grief and recover strength. Even as she finds happiness and stability with her new family and with friends in school, the cynicism, wit and wisdom of the Bone Dragon also serve as a genteel expression of (as well as façade to) Evie’s deep-seated bitterness and anger.  … making for an ending that is more than a little disquieting. … I found this a clever, resonant tale on the darker psychological effects of abuse. It’s another one to stay on the shelf.

And Then I Read A Book: I loved The Bone Dragon. It is written in a style I found enchanting right from the start. I really didn’t know what to expect when I started it. … And that worked for me, to the point that I’m reluctant to say anything about in case I ruin some of that wonder for other readers! I think I can safely reveal that The Bone Dragon blends real and magical elements together to tell a deeply traumatic tale. It offers hope and the chance for healing as well as tackling the ambiguity of wanting and taking revenge. Fantasy and reality become so intertwined it’s increasingly difficult to know where the boundaries are. It’s a book I’d like to spend more time thinking about and I think I’ll read it again. My feelings about the book have deepened in the few days since I read it and at the moment it’s creeping it’s way up amongst my favourites from the [Branford Boase Award] longlist.

Kim Arkham at Arkham Reviews: Before picking up this novel, I should probably warn you that The Bone Dragon is a surprisingly dark read. My impression from the beginning of the book was that it would be a tale of rebirth – a heart-warming story about an abused girl who found happiness with a family who loved her. This naturally is one aspect of the novel, but it is also a tale of justice and revenge. The Bone Dragon is a psychological thriller. It does not focus on the cause of Evie’s injuries, but rather the lasting effect that they have on her psyche. Evie’s damage is realistically portrayed through the first person narrative. Through Evie, the author presents a very realistic portrayal of a girl suffering from depression. … Although we see the story through Evie’s eyes and are therefore influenced by her outlook on life, the supporting cast of the novel are also all fully fleshed out as individuals. … These traits are never forced upon us by the author, they are instead gradually noticed by Evie as the story progresses. Evie is not the only character that develops as the novel progresses – they all do. In a stand-alone novel, this is especially impressive. Casale manages to contain more character development in 300 pages than some other authors manage in an entire series. The story itself is gorgeously written. The most memorable sections of the novel are the dragon dreams which paint a hauntingly poetic image of the Cambridgeshire Fens at night. These sections are so richly described that I almost felt as though I was there with Evie – they were, in a word, simply breath-taking. …  A lot of the little details that seem pointless on the first read through are actually subtle hints as to how the story will end. In order to appreciate the intricate way in which Casale has constructed her plot, The Bone Dragon really needs to be read carefully, maybe even multiple times, in order to pick up on any of the tiny clues that you might have missed on the initial read. In short, The Bone Dragon really is essential reading. Although it is slow moving in places, it rewards the reader’s perseverance with haunting imagery and incredibly well rounded characters. However, don’t read the novel if you are looking for a heart-warming tale.

CJ Busby (author) at Awfully Big Reviews: “The Bone Dragon is an extraordinary book – strong, delicate, magical and matter of fact all at once. It’s beautifully written, and will, I’m sure, be deservedly feted by prize committees. It’s also gripping, and funny, and very original. … Casales makes it clear that the dragon does not exist just in Evie’s imagination – there is real mud on her clothes in the morning, and real consequences of some of the dragon’s acts: this is magic. But it’s a strange, wayward magic that is woven into an otherwise very straightforward narrative of Evie’s life and recovery. We learn about her ups and downs with her new family, the process by which they themselves are gradually coming to terms with the death of their son and their brother’s wife in a car accident, Evie’s troubles at school, her relationship with a teacher who also becomes her counsellor, and the physical complications of her rib operation. Magic and matter-of-fact events mingle, as night follows day, each equally gripping. It’s the counterpoint of these two elements that makes the book so unusual, especially in children’s literature, where books are generally either fantasy or ‘real-life’. Casales is even more unusual in weaving this thread of magic into a book that deals with the very contemporary and troubling issues of domestic violence and abuse, and particularly in producing a book that deals with those issues obliquely, delicately, without the least bit of sensationalism or easy emotional tugs on the reader. What Evie suffered at the hands of her birth family is never specified, although it can be inferred – she herself, as the narrator, avoids giving it words, cleverly deflecting the probes of her teacher/counsellor, and indeed avoids even thinking about it except in sideways, partial glimpses. We feel the weight of its horror at moments, but always counterbalanced by the warmth, love and understanding Evie is surrounded with from her adopted family. Similarly, the bullying she suffers at school is painful, but always balanced by the support she gets from her two best friends. And ultimately, the anger and fear she still feels about her birth family is balanced by the steadfast, if elliptical, promise of the dragon. The bone dragon acts as a kind of counterpart to the trauma Evie has suffered – as if the outrageous wrongness of what happened to her has called forth an equally outrageous and irrational magic in response, to rebalance the world. And there is indeed a kind of rebalancing in what the bone dragon achieves – a measure of peace for Evie and a measure of justice in the world. Along the way Casales offers us some wonderful characters and some extremely moving, funny, true-to-life interactions between them – I particularly love Evie’s adopted Uncle Ben (everyone should have an Uncle Ben – where can I get one?). I’ve read reviews that carp slightly about how lovely Evie’s adopted family are, as if Casales makes it all too easy. I don’t think she does – I think what she shows is just how scarring this kind of experience is for any child, even when they get the best possible second chance, but also, just how much difference such a second chance can make. Personally, I mistrust books that pile on the misery, and one of the things I loved most about this book is precisely that Evie gets the love and security she deserves, and the help she needs, whether from her new family or from the magical bone dragon. At the end of the book, Casales informs us that she herself, like Evie, has a piece of rib in a pot, and notes that potential critics should beware: it is just waiting to become a dragon. This, I assume, explains the incredibly assured and vivid descriptions she gives of the pain and feeling of shattered ribs. But since this is a nice review, she (hopefully) won’t be needing that dragon to protect her!”

The Canonball Read blog from SweetPsychosis: “Sharply, Darkly, Beautiful: This magical, dark and complex book was also a gift. … Such a simple metaphorical conceit, (finding the dragon inside to find your strength) in the hands of a less accomplished writer, could have dragged the narrative into cloying self-help territory. But the poetry of the prose and the complexity of the narration make for soul-searching, if not soul searing, stuff. The whole story is wonderful and difficult in equal measure. I loved it unreservedly till the ending which I struggled with. I shan’t go into details as you should really read this book, but I felt both somehow denied and relieved and horrified all combined. But that is kind of the point of the book. It plays with reality and with our hopes continually, forcing you to question many things, like childhood, and love and safety and revenge, that we may think are straightforward. It is not an easy book about a very uneasy subject but the prose is beautiful and the characterisation and presentation of PTSD is flawless. Moreover, even though our narrator is unreliable she is wholly believable. In short: the tale that Caslae weaves is dark and unpredictable and breathtaking, like the dark moonlit landscape of Evie’s adventures and as intricately carved as Evie’s Dragon.”

Jake Hope, Lancashire Libraries: “I read it in one sitting and found it utterly captivating and beguiling. The manner in which juxtaposed issues of abuse, neglect against those of family, friendship and belonging were deeply impressive and highly affecting. The dragon which Evie carves with the help of Uncle Ben feels an excellent analogy for the level of meticulous detail and craftsmanship within the story, with its careful interplay between gritty realism and magic.  It feels like a fable for our time, highlighting the way in which our pasts continue to exert influence over our present. I’m going to recommend it to our Virtual Schools team who look after the education of children who are looked after in residential care, a lot of the experiences and feelings that Evie undergoes will resonate particularly with these young people and I think it could definitely help to contextualise their own lives and pasts.”

Jim at YA Yeah Yeah: “it’s stunning! Brilliantly written story with wonderful characters.” The Bone Dragon is also among his ’34 UKYA(ish) Books You Should Read But Probably Haven’t’: “I know several bloggers who love The Bone Dragon, but it’s one of those books that EVERYONE should read rather than just quite a few people.” He also picked Evie and the Dragon as one of his Six Best Non-Romantic Couples for 2013: “Casale’s phenomenal thriller is full of twists and turns, and even after the end I was still guessing about some things. The relationship between Evie and the dragon, who comes to life after he’s carved out of her rib, is fascinating.”

Michelle at Book Club Forum: “There is a darker side to the story too, Evie does learn to heal, and to develop her relationships, but there’s also a darker side to how she deals with her past. As for her past, it is a difficult one, but never is it presented in a graphic way – the author hints at what happened to Evie, and how it makes her feel. This to me is important, as this can be read by teenagers and adults alike. This is a story about a teenager, and it is a YA book, but as an adult I found so much within it’s pages. It stirred memories of teenage feelings, whilst bringing out the nurturing adult in me. Evie is a troubled but lovable character, who I wanted to know and help. I heard about this book a while ago, but have put off reading it. After meeting Alexia at YALC, suddenly it appealed, and I’m so glad I read it. Alexia has just signed a contract for her second book, and I will be first in the queue to read it.”

Beth Kemp: “Stunning genre-bending debut; one of those books that hangs around and haunts your thoughts after reading. A lovely piece of work. … The thriller aspect is achieved by means of very close first-person narration by Evie, who is clearly hiding many things. The reader is left to tease out the fragments of information and decide where the half-truths and omissions lie. This is a gorgeous treat of a read – which is an odd thing to say about such a trauma-filled book – due to its dark beauty and the lyricism of its prose. If the premise intrigues you at all, you should absolutely give it a go. This is my initial comment on closing the book: Beautiful, startling and tense. A real struggle to classify by genre, with magic realism elements within a coming-of-age narrative which, at times, feels like a psychological thriller. Evie’s anxieties, fears and development are conveyed perfectly; I have rarely felt I’ve known a character so thoroughly (especially given all the gaps in her narrative).”

Helen Eve (author of Stella): “Narrator Evie both reveals and conceals harrowing details from her past in this haunting thriller which leads the reader, via magic realism, the beauty of nocturnal nature and the redemptive power of revenge, to a wonderfully unsettling conclusion.”

Mel Rogerson at Project UKYA: “The Bone Dragon is a contemporary novel with a large injection of magical realism. …
On first glance the book sounds like a fantasy or paranormal, but it’s a lot more subtle than this. We’re never quite sure whether the dragon is part of Evie’s imagination and this gives the night time scenes a dreamlike quality. In contrast to the nocturnal journeys, Evie’s daytime life is complicated and frustrating. She wants to enjoy time with her loving adoptive family and supportive friends, but her terrible history always holds her back. As the novel progresses, her night and day selves slowly come together, resulting in a darkly satisfying conclusion. The Bone Dragon is an atmospheric debut from Alexia Casale. Bittersweet and beautifully written, Evie’s tale will haunt you long after you’ve closed the final page.”

Andrew for Wordsworth: “You will want to devour this book immediately but also wish to savour it forever, like a dream that you have to know the outcome of but also want never to end.”

Emily Gale at Readings: “I wanted to read this story as soon as I saw the beautiful cover and read the single line hook… Evie’s voice convincingly navigates us through both her wisdom and her anguish. At 14, she’s suffered more pain than many of us will in a lifetime, but this is no misery memoir. Through her dream-like visions and the difficult conversations she has with those trying to help her adjust, we learn just enough of her past to understand what she’s up against. However, the focus is on dealing with the present. Evie can’t be generous with the specific details of her trauma, but she is with her fluctuating emotions, torn between the courageous drive to move on and a deep desire to avenge her lost innocence. While the dragon is a regular fixture, overall the story is fairly light on the magic realism elements, leaving just enough room for the reader to interpret what is happening. Recommended for ages 12 and up.”

The Reading Room: “A beautifully written story with a dark edge: This is a genuinely spinechilling novel but cleverly crafted so that the chills literally creep up on you in unexpected ways. The novel’s cover looks magical but we soon realise there is a bleak layer beneath that surface appearance. Evie is recovering from an operation which removed a fractured rib. From this rib she begins to carve a magical and beautiful dragon with whom she has night time rambles on the fens surrounding her home. There is beauty and magic in the descriptions of these nightly forays – darkness, mist and dampness suddenly look quite bewitching rather than scary  – when you have a dragon accompanying you. Dragon says he has come to protect Evie and his nightly rambles seem to help her sleep and recover more fully. But is there a darker reason for these adventures? We suspect that Evie has been badly treated by her mother and grandparents and part of the gripping feel of this book comes from our desire to learn the truth of Evie’s past. The more we guess, the more we pity her for what she has suffered and what she still suffers. For Evie is subjected to bullying from one of the lads at school – but this is where the first warning comes into the story … has Evie correctly interpreted events? The reader will be on the edge of their seats as they turn the last few pages with equal amounts of awe and dread: the ending will stun and surprise and make you adjust your thoughts – not just about Evie but also about the ethics of revenge and the nature of evil. This is the true magic of this amazing and compelling novel by first time author, Alexia Casale; beautifully written but with a layer of darkness beneath each page. Highly recommended.”

Libby at Through the Wardrobe: “The Bone Dragon was a pure impulse buy – a specially priced ‘recommendation’ listed on the receipt page of another Kindle store purchase. The cover drew me in but the concept kept me in the world of Alexia Casale’s debut novel. … Casale walks the line of fantasy and reality with relative ease, blending the psychological with the fairy tale. The narrative is interspersed with night-time dragon adventures and dream-like sequences which slowly reveal Evie’s character and motivations. … The audience works with Evie as she tries to overcome the physical and mental trauma she has experienced – a secret that is never fully revealed. …The Bone Dragon plays with concepts of justice, guilt and the darkness of people without falling into the morose. Despite Evie’s obviously heart-wrenchingly difficult past, this book focuses solely on the present and the act of moving forward – finally being able to draw that line. There are fun characters and easier passages that counterbalance Evie’s past with love and warmth (I loved Uncle Ben in particular) and the element of fantasy is an ingenious play by Casale to elaborate on difficult emotions without creating overwrought sentimentalism.A powerful debut novel, with a well-rounded narrative, interesting premise and explosive ending that hits you right out of the blue.”

Kelley at Another Novel Read: “If you like a slower, more subdued read, then The Bone Dragon might be a better choice for you. As mentioned, there are a lot of tough issues addressed in this book, and they were often subtly and carefully explored. Evie’s traumatic past and delicate relationships with her foster family are handled very well. I could feel her grief, understand her desire for secrecy, and empathize with her feelings of wanting to be loved. The other characters were pretty well rounded out, and I really appreciated the way the relationships between so many of them were examined — and grew — throughout the story.”

Beth at Book Angel Booktopia: “My review of this novel begins with WOW. I was not expecting anything special, especially when I read the title and synopsis but I always like being proven wrong. The Bone Dragon is brilliant. Not a quick read like some of the others recently, I took my time and savoured every bit of action and twist in the plot. … Her Dragon charm seems to be the one thing to help her make a change, it’s a symbol of where she can go not where she’s been and although the Dragon and scenes featuring him are very much fantasy it didn’t put me off at all. I was hooked to Evie’s story and completely loved her character. This novel is incredibly dark, even the lighter moments, where Evie tries to spend time with her friends and get on with school like a ‘normal’ pupil there’s always a sense that she can’t overcome her differentness. All the small nuances from her fiery hatred of the school bully to her adoptive mother’s obsessive worrying make the whole novel more complete and believable. Casale blends fantasy with all the features of a fantastic psychological thriller and it’s an extremely powerful debut which leaves me wanting more from the author. I want to know what happens to Evie and knowing that I can’t is so annoying. It does show that Casale creates pretty awesome characters.”

Moira at Brackets & Ampersands listed it as among her favourite books of 2013.

Carousel Reviews’ Christmas Titles: “This strong story mixes fantasy and real life in a captivating way. … The descriptions of their nocturnal journeys through the fens are atmospheric and haunting. Evie’s story is heart-warming. The mystery of her past is treated with delicacy and compassion and events are referred to rather than explained which gives this book a haunting sensitivity. The characters are strong and immensely likeable and Evie’s courage is to be admired. The themes of this well-rounded story last well beyond the last page.”

Katie at Storytellers, Inc.: ” won’t explain how a rib becomes a dragon, or how it opens up the nightscape to Evie, who is so often crippled by pain in the daytime but comforted by the sharp feelings of being alive and awake in a world that should be confined to dreams. The dragon is more important to Evie than it is to her story. And that’s sort of what makes The Bone Dragon that much more interesting that other books that deal with this subject – ‘this subject‘ being domestic abuse – because really we learn very little about what Evie has been through. Casale doesn’t even think about dwelling on the details in that uncomfortable way that those ‘tragic life stories’ so proudly advertise (surely more sick lit than any John Green!). Yes Evie has had a traumatic time but she doesn’t want to talk about it, to her friends or to us, the reader. It’s a brave move that might leave some readers feeling a little (wrongly) mystified; but for me it’s the stand-out feature. Evie is a sweet narrator, honest and endearing and she doesn’t ever really sound like a victim because she’s constantly reminding herself how loved she is now, firmly putting the past behind her and trying not to let it ruin the life in front of her. She’s also wonderfully youthful, which sounds a strange thing to say about a 14 year old and of course may well be a side effect of the abuse she has suffered but she’s in no hurry to grow up and that is so refreshing. … Phee and Lynne have their own serious problems too so it’s unfair to write them off as sideline airheads and Evie wants (needs) their friendship more than she initially realises. Again this is a smart underplaying of a serious topic; Casale’s simple subtlety speaks volumes. Overall, it’s an impress debut and I’m already looking forward to seeing what comes next. For a book so full of ‘issues’ it comes less like a punch in the face and more like a slow creeping presence. The Bone Dragon enters quietly in a dignified puff of dream-like smoke and the gentle pull of his unusual tale might curl around your consciousness for days after you’ve finished reading.”

We Love This Book, review by Tracy Eynon: “This powerful opening scene is the beginning of Evie’s acceptance and understanding of her past. … This book is the debut of an exciting and mature young writer who shows real skill in writing about the little details of life, bringing a realness to her characters and making the situations she writes about so very believable. The Bone Dragon is a story that combines escapism with the acceptance of reality; of coming to terms with the past by embracing the future. Intriguing, compulsive and wholly absorbing, Evie’s tale is beautifully told and is ultimately warm and uplifting. Written by a young writer who has struggled with dyslexia it is also extremely inspiring, and a rewarding read for both young and older adults.”

Raimy at Readaraptor: “What a book, a fantastical thriller it had its darkness but there were also aspects of light. When all we know is suffering it is hard to peak out into the light but Evie does it well and she is strong, especially with her dragon at her side. … This book is special though because it takes things that you don’t think you could ever understand and allows you to know what the person in that situation could be feeling. … I love just how much focus there was and how involved you in Evie’s mind, yet how removed you are when she shuts down, even from herself. The dragon is just magic and I loved what it represented but I just can’t go into that in a way to do it justice. I think you can gather form my waffle and my gushing that you should just read this book if you haven’t already.”

Laura at Sisterspooky: “I utterly adored this book because it gave me a way of understanding what it’s like to struggle with issues as big as these without ever having experienced them personally.  That’s a real credit to the writing ability of Alexia Cassale.  She’s a hidden gem of writing and I’d be surprised if this book doesn’t get continual praise upon its release date.  It really did break my heart at times seeing Evie struggle so much even after all she’s been through.    The fantasy element really is such a clever way of discuss issues that are so difficult to approach because they are just that awful to even think about.  A truly wonderful book that has the power to make you wish for a bit of magic to exist in the world for those that need it.”

We Love This Book, review by Tracy Eynon: “This powerful opening scene is the beginning of Evie’s acceptance and understanding of her past. … This book is the debut of an exciting and mature young writer who shows real skill in writing about the little details of life, bringing a realness to her characters and making the situations she writes about so very believable. The Bone Dragon is a story that combines escapism with the acceptance of reality; of coming to terms with the past by embracing the future. Intriguing, compulsive and wholly absorbing, Evie’s tale is beautifully told and is ultimately warm and uplifting. Written by a young writer who has struggled with dyslexia it is also extremely inspiring, and a rewarding read for both young and older adults.”

Inveralmond Community High School (Library Blog): This is a deep, powerful, and compelling novel which plays havoc with your emotions!

Chrissi Reads: “I was really impressed with The Bone Dragon. It’s such a great debut novel, it felt like Alexia had been an established writer for years. Her story-telling skills are so impressive. I didn’t expect to be moved as much as I was by this story and particularly Evie. The Bone Dragon is a raw and powerful story which for me, could’ve easily been longer and I would’ve still loved it. It’s got a wonderfully magical element which really works. … Alexia Casale has created such a wonderful, interesting character with Evie. She makes the reader really take Evie into their hearts. I’m so surprised at how much I loved Evie. I felt like I knew her. She had that much depth and credit has to be given to Alexia’s talented writing skills because of this! The Bone Dragon is a perfect mix of mystery, magic, pain, loss and truly lovable, relatable, real characters. I wholeheartedly recommend it.” Chrissi also picked me as one of her Top Ten Underrated Authors: “The Bone Dragon is a beautiful book that I think a lot more people should be reading and talking about!” And one of her Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More: “The Bone Dragon was such a unique read. I’m so excited to read more from Alexia!”

Betty Maguire at INIS: “The story’s opening, with Evie awakening in hospital after having a section of her ribcage removed, immediately grips the reader and draws them into the plot. Throughout the novel the author makes excellent use of the narrator’s voice, while the other characters are distinctive and realistic. … One of this book’s strong points is that not all of these questions are resolved at the end and the reader is left to ponder and to try and resolve some of those issues … Difficult themes are tackled in this story such as abandonment, abuse, betrayal, bullying and  vengeance, which is skilfully reflected  through occasional references to Hamlet. This is not an easy read, but it is a very worthwhile one.”

Annabelle Hammond at Read, Write and Read Some More: “The Bone Dragon is such a powerful debut novel. …I wasn’t expecting such a raw and powerful story with such a strong main character. Alexia Casale has shown that she is a talented writer who can pack such an emotional punch in her prose. The Bone Dragon left me wanting more, I couldn’t believe when it ended, I wanted the novel to continue so I could learn so much more about Evie. It’s an emotional ride that’s mixed with mystic and magic, set against the vivid backdrop of the fens.  … I am still surprised at the sheer depth to the character and how real she felt. It really feels like I know Evie after reading this book. She is an unforgettable character and one that will stay with me for a while yet. … The Bone Dragon is… There are so many ways I can start this sentence but none of them seem to fully fit the emotion and power this novel has hidden in its pages. You have some incredible characters that are all so realistic, each with their own little flaw.  I particularly liked how Evie could tell by certain things that her adoptive parents were lying. It’s these small details that add to the depth of the storytelling and make it even better. If you’re looking for a promising new writer, then Alexia Casale is the one you want. The Bone Dragon has the correct mix of mystery, pain, adventure, happiness and of course an enchanted dragon. It’s a book that, not only will you enjoy, but it will also stay with you for a long while. So there you have it, I don’t even want to say goodbye but this review is already long. The Bone Dragon is simply a book that you should all read.”

BookBabblers: “The Bone Dragon is an outstanding debut novel by Alexia Casale. It is a dark, magical story about fourteen year old Evie who has to undergo major surgery and have a rib removed. … It is an absorbing plot that blurs reality and fantasy, I was completely hooked. Friendship is also an important aspect of the novel and the relationship between Evie and her two close friends Phee and Lynne is prominent throughout the book. This is a beautifully written book that is full of mystery, suspense, friendship and hope. It is a powerful read that is like a modern day coming of age story. I did not want to put it down and can’t stop thinking about it now that I have finished. I loved the cover of this book, it’s one of my favourite covers of the year so far.”

Children’s book of the week, Dudley News & Worcester News (25th May), review by Lynley Myers: “The Bone Dragon is an enchanting young adult novel steeped in mystery, and will keep young readers guessing until the very end.”

The Bone Dragon was nominated for the First Book Award from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and eBooks by Sainsbury’s and for the Waverton Good Reads Award 2013.

Emily Gale at Readings (Australia): “Evie’s voice convincingly navigates us through both her wisdom and her anguish. At 14, she’s suffered more pain than many of us will in a lifetime, but this is no misery memoir. Through her dream-like visions and the difficult conversations she has with those trying to help her adjust, we learn just enough of her past to understand what she’s up against. However, the focus is on dealing with the present. … While the dragon is a regular fixture, overall the story is fairly light on the magic realism elements, leaving just enough room for the reader to interpret what is happening.”

Editor’s Choice: Trinity Hall College (Cambridge)

In an interview with Northern Soul, In Bloom author Matthew Crow picked The Bone Dragon as the best book he’d read in the last 12 months:  It’s brilliant.

Lauren Smith at Violin in a Void [SPOILER ALERT!]: “At first glance, The Bone Dragon looks like a fantasy novel, but in truth it’s more a psychological drama that walks a fine line between fantasy and realism. … It does however, make The Bone Dragon one of the most sophisticated and psychologically compelling YA novels I’ve encountered. As I read, and then as I went through my review notes and re-considered the story, I was increasingly impressed by the psychology of Evie’s character. … I was struck by how dark this novel. It’s not something you notice at first glance. After all, it’s not bleak. Evie is strong, she’s recovering, she’s got a wonderful family. The plot isn’t depressing: there are many happy moments with Evie’s friends and family, we see her work through her problems, and of course she has her magical dragon. And as I mentioned, you don’t relive the abuse with Evie. But there are grim, brutal things that very quietly crawl in under your skin. … Then there’s the ending, which I think would could spark and interesting discussion because that’s where the issue of the dragon’s reality becomes the most important. I think these things creep up on you because it’s not a dramatic book. It just calmly gets on with its very serious, painful and even shocking subject matter, while making room for the positive, heartwarming stuff too. And then it stays with you for a while after you’ve finished. I like Evie more than a lot of YA characters I’ve read, even though she scares me a little. The Bone Dragon is also a more mature and emotionally complex kind of YA than the kind I normally find myself reading, and I appreciate that. Not that I necessarily prefer all my books to be grim, but it’s good to see the genre handling something with such gravity too.”

Another Waterstones Bookseller review: “How dark is The Bone Dragon?! I was completely taken aback by how well written this is; the descriptions of Evie’s midnight walks with the dragon are stunning. A really unique blend of fairytale and brutal real life. I love that teen fiction is getting a bit more serious”.

Waterstones in-store review: “A strange and magical story, beautifully written … Poignant and thought provoking, you’ll find it hard to leave these characters behind.”

George Hanratty, Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop: “Alexia Casale’s debut novel is powerful, compelling and moving. I couldn’t put it down.”

The Bone Dragon was also a Staff Pick at Dubray Books for the week June 24-June 30.

Hive’s Recommended books to read this month: “is it for the young adult or the adult? Well I truly don’t know. … [I] feel quite justified in endorsing this as a credible read for both. Evie is 14, she is adopted and her adoptive parents are loving and kind but, and this is a big but, they also have a tragic back story and this is what makes this such a great read – is it a fantasy/fairy tale, is it a psychological thriller, is it about being a teenager and rebelling? It’s all three plus a lot more. … I hope you will read this, as one of many debut writers for 2013, Alexia Casale, has written a most unsettling and challenging novel and deserves success.”

Bibliobeth: “This was a stunning, gripping piece of work that I couldn’t believe fell into the realms of YA, as it’s been a while since I’ve read a YA book with such passion and beauty. The magical undertone I’m always a bit of a sucker for, but it was the style of writing and the blend of both the information you are given and that which you have to work out yourself, that had me hook, line and sinker. My favourite characters were Evie, her Uncle Ben and the Dragon (obviously!) which were beautifully realised and completely compelling. … [a] rich and captivating tale. Would I recommend it? But of course!”

Droplets of Ink: “Unsettling, revelatory and reflective in equal measure, this is a carefully plotted and reflective debut novel by a talented new author who is definitely one to watch.”

Victoria Park Books: “very unpredictable and v edgy. U don’t which way she’ll jump.”

The Bone Dragon selected as one of the top YA reads in May for Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books Blog

Emma Carroll (author Frost Hollow Hall): “I couldn’t wait to read this book, and it didn’t disappoint. Right from the first page, I knew I was reading something special. The first person narrative powers along, making you feel Evie’s every twinge. Yet don’t be fooled- this is not a straightforward redemption narrative. Evie’s viewpoint is dangerous, often warped by the trauma she’s experienced. At times it’s difficult to trust her; there were moments in this book where I felt genuinely scared for the other characters. The language is poetic, yet for me the most moving parts were where Evie battled to articulate the complexity of what she felt. Oh, and I LOVED the final pages. A very memorable book.” “The Bone Dragon is a very unusual book. It toys with your perceptions in subtle ways. The whole story feels dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish. it’s a very clever book!”

Vecchia (Guardian website: comment on Linda Buckley-Archer review): “This is an absolutely stunning first book. I love the passages of lyrical description and the voice of the Dragon. As I read it I kept longing for the night to come, when the Dragon would speak again and lead Evie to the next part of her quest for healing. This is a book for adults as well as YAs (who, by the way, rarely get such beautiful prose to read.)”

The Book Spotting: Alexia Casale did a great job for her debut novel. … I enjoyed reading this loads and I’m looking forward to reading further works of hers!

GoodReads (various), including Karina: “Strange and beautiful and fierce and dark, this is a wonderful twist on the coming of age narrative. Just brilliant – go read it!”

and Sophie: “Everyone on the entire planet must read this book.”

and Kim Dyer: “In short, I would call The Bone Dragon essential reading. Although it can be slow-moving in places, the novel rewards its reader with beautiful and evocative imagery. The sequences in which Evie and the Dragon roam the Fens by moonlight are haunting and will linger with you long after you have finished reading. The characters within the novel are also exceptionally well rounded, particularly Evie who’s struggle with depression is always realistic and contains none of the typical misrepresentation of the condition that one usually sees in literature. I have already recommended this novel to many people and will continue to do so – I think that it is one that everyone should give a try.”

and Paul Sheppard: “A dark and foreboding story that held me from start to finish. Reminded me of The Life of Pi and the relationship between the boy and Richard Parker. Highly recommended.”

and Beth Kemp: “Beautiful, startling and tense. A real struggle to classify by genre, with magic realism elements within a coming-of-age narrative which, at times, feels like a psychological thriller. Evie’s anxieties, fears and development are conveyed perfectly; I have rarely felt I’ve known a character so thoroughly (especially given all the gaps in her narrative).”

and Donna: “I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I was intrigued by the idea – after all, who wouldn’t like a dragon carved from bone which comes alive at night, never mind someone with as traumatic a past as Evie? It is a slow, kind of quiet book, but it completely pulled me into Evie’s story. I loved the adult characters, especially Uncle Ben, and the slow reveal of everyone’s tragic pasts. And the ending…well, it is abrupt, as other reviews say, but I think it worked perfectly for the book.”

and Maera Black: “Now that was impressive. I adore magic realism. This book reminded me a lot of ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness. Admittedly, the plot moves quite slowly, due to the heavy emphasis on character development. Casale’s style leaves a lot up to the reader’s imagination, meaning that this story is as dark as the reader’s mind will allow it to be. … In return Evie enables characters around her to brave their own grief, which I was glad to see, as I worried that the secondary characters would only exist as one-dimensional supports for Evie. They don’t.
The book is beautifully dark, with a twist that is shocking, not that you couldn’t see the ending coming, but more so, the way in which Evie reacts to it, prevents this book from becoming a gritty modern fairy tale. I loved it, but will emphasise that unless you appreciate a book where not everything is spoon fed to you, it won’t be for you.”

and Clare: “What a fantastic book, one of the best things I’ve read in ages. Well formed, complex characters and beautifully balanced flashes of light and dark happenings. It made me feel quite sad in places and the ending left me conflicted. I don’t want to give anything away about the story, so I will just say it is extremely enjoyable, subtle, smart and powerful book I would certainly recommend to others.”

and Dawn Howie: “This is a book with hidden depths. It tackles a subject most people would certainly find disturbing. The character of Evie is written sensitively with very dark overtones hidden within the narrative . The description of the changing seasons of the fens and it’s flora and fauna is almost magical as is the depiction of the dragon. Interesting and brave idea for a debut novel. Looking forward to more from this author”

and Robin Stevens: “This is a strange, subtle and beautiful book with a deeply twisted heart. It sometimes feels slightly vague and undirected, but it’s so dreamlike (or maybe nightmarish) that it’s hard not to be caught up in its coils. There’s a very upsetting backstory at the heart of the book – and its present-day plot goes in a direction that few other books I’ve read, either for children or adults, would dare to. A fascinating story of revenge and redemption.”

and Mags Gargan: ” am not often compelled to give a book 5 stars, or to write a review, but can highly recommend the bone dragon  It is well written, and allows the reader to participate deeply with the characters  Reading back on the last 2 sentences, I can see how impossible it is to capture the beauty of the Bone Dragon. I really suggest you read it too…”

and Emelia: “I actually really enjoyed this book because it was quite different from what I usually read. I have seen a lot of reviews say that the reader learns nothing but I disagree! Throughout the book there are lots of little pieces of information about the character that fit together: much like a jigsaw. You don’t learn everything but I sometimes think that that is the best way as you can come to your own conclusions.”

and Rhiannon: “I enjoyed this book the subject matter is dark but the charcture of Evie is brilliant and her dreams with the bone dragon is brilliant … the ending is explosive and leaves you wanting more deffiantly scope for a second book all in all great book warning though it is emotional read with tissues :)”

and Elizabeth: “This book opened my eyes to the suffering you sometimes don’t see, if someone can hide it well enough. … Despite her past, Evie is a loving person to those who love her back, and I admire characters like that. Your past should not define your future, and this book teaches you to move on and live your life regardless. I hope there are more books about Evie, because I don’t want her story to stop there.”

and Journey: wow wow this was lovely. … this is not abuse/trauma recovery porn and i think that’s important. it would be so easy to do that with this type of story … while there are snippets of memories that give some insight to what happened to Evie, there is no full gruesome reveal. … i’m not gonna lie, i definitely got misty-eyed at a few parts but it’s because the emotions are REAL. … absolutely worth the read!

and Georgina Carter: Evie is a complex protagonist and her story is gradually unraveled through her thoughts and conversations – and through her interactions with the dragon created from her rib (known only as Dragon throughout). It is her search for justice and peace in her family, that is at the heart of this book for me. While the scenes of nature, when Evie is out exploring with Dragon, are beautifully described, my favourite are the everyday features that are slightly different for Evie because of her background. The ending has been quite controversial, and I certainly didn’t expect it, but it was very satisfying, and I was left thinking about it for a while afterwards. Indeed the book was so good that I had to immediately tweet my reaction to it (‘absolutely BRILLIANT, gripping novel’) and then search around the internet to see what other people thought (and squeak slightly when the author replied on Twitter). To my gratified surprise, whilst this book is Alexia Casale’s debut, there are numerous reviews, including the Guardian, all – as far as I can see – positive. What confused me about the book, and initially put me off, but is it’s advantage in hindsight, is the dragon element. It is this which makes it transcend boundaries from fantasy to psychological thriller, and back and forth and back and forth. Yes, the book is dark (I haven’t gone into details because I don’t want to give spoilers in my reviews, but a quick search will inform you), yes Evie is less of a flowers, honesty and goodness, sort of YA heroine – you can’t really call her a heroine – but that’s all for the better. We need more complex, mixed up, female (and male) characters in young adult books, fantasy or not. Because they’re true to life – and the stories are therefore much more interesting.

Amazon (various), including Lysistrata [mini SPOILER ALERT]: “This is an astonishing book, life-enhancing and beautifully written, ostensibly for Young Adults but with the power to enchant and move older adults as well. … The nature of the horrors Evie has been through are never spelled out but their consequences are. … It is totally original and does not follow the trend for vampires or dystopias. It is much more frightening. It shows the raw emotional power of a very angry young woman who is right to be angry with a world which has colluded in mistreating her. There is a spectacular and satisfying ending … The psychological depth of the book will intrigue adults; younger readers can revel in the fantasy of owning a Dragon.”

and Girly Boy: “Intoxicating and compelling — This is one of those books that make you just want to read on and on, with the mystery frustrating while it was being kept from us but also really intriguing”.

and Sasha: “I love this book it really got me truly intrigued and I couldn’t put the book down. I love how complex Alexia Casale made the dragon’s personality so mysterious, and also the references to Fiona and her parents not being there whilst Amy was.”

and Ali Jarman: “Surprised me: I’m not sure what I was expecting when I bought this little book. But it has turned out to be a lovely read, touching and beautifully written.”

and Carolyn Emblen: “Wonderful Book: This is not the type of book I usually read. (thrillers being my usual genre) However having read a review I thought that I would try it. I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. I have recommended it it to all of my friends.”

and Wendy Doyle: “This was a brilliant read. A sentimental story without the sop, a heartbreaking tale with a twist. A story of abuse and growing up without the need for voyeuristic sadism of ‘A Child Called It’ and the like.”

and Diana May: “This book is to be highly recommended. A cross-over novel in terms of age, it is written with simplicity but ingenuity. The characters are alive and kicking and – especially Evie the heroine – engage your sympathy. Do read it; and look out for her next novel!”

and bookmoviefantatic: “Never judge a book by its cover or title. This is good book but a sad story of a teenager thats suffers horrific abuse.”

and MissFusspot: “This is a very interesting and compelling story, with some almost magical moments. I am not a big one for fantasy/mystical type stuff but this somehow crosses the boundaries for those of us who are a bit sceptical about that kind of thing. Some of it is set at night time in the Cambridge fens, and after reading it you almost feel like you have been out there yourself. It reminded me how amazing it can be to be around nature and to just let yourself experience what’s around you without the usual everyday distractions. There is enough room for you to use your imagination with this story, and some of it feels almost cinematic – but certainly not too in-your-face. I could really believe in the main character, Evie, and wanted to know how things turned out for her and how she would deal with all that was happening in her emotions and her life. It also had plenty going on with other people and events aside from Evie’s inner life, which helped drive the plot and keep you turning the pages. I found the ending pretty pleasing, and while you don’t find out everything, there is enough of a punchline to make you feel satisfied, and it is quite a witty conclusion. I would definitely recommend this book, and I may well read it again. I am 43 but I didn’t really feel like I was reading a book for teenagers. It is a book with a teenager in it but anyone can enjoy it. … PS Don’t buy the kindle version, the actual book is beautiful…I regretted getting the kindle version when I saw the actual one!!”

and A Philosopher: “The Bone Dragon, by Alexia Casale, is an expertly crafted page-turner. At first pass it appears to be a modern day coming of age story about a fourteen year-old girl coming to terms with the abuse she suffered in the past, aided by a feisty magical dragon. But The Bone Dragon is so much more. As an adult reader, I found much in this book to stimulate reflection and discussion. … The author’s clever use of layers of meaning and subtle hints (e.g. the meaning of flowers) blurs the boundaries between reality and imagination. … I rarely keep books of fiction but this is one I will find a space for and come back to read again as I think I will find new insights with every reading. I will also buy copies of this book for my younger friends”

and HelenBon: “What an amazing read! Quite often with very descriptive prose I find myself scanning the text, but not with Alexia Casale’s engaging style of writing. Quite the contrary, I found myself revisiting the text because it had been so poetically written. The sort of writing that paints pictures in your mind and allows your imagination to be drawn right into the story. … A story with many thought-provoking moments, sometimes touching on bullying, sometimes making us laugh, sometimes evoking feelings that we may have all suppressed. I certainly shed a tear or two during my read!”

and Mooseby: “This is a clever book.  It is about a child who has suffered appallingly, but never dwells on the details of the abuse, just the subsequent impact.  The people around her now are good and kind, but she remains reserved. This is an uplifting story of love and recovery, told through a combination of reality and fantasy.  It works well.”

and Mrs Ruth P. Herdman: “great book will read it again and again  would recommend it to any adult reader  hopefully she will write more”

and Ann: “A really beautiful and well written story – bittersweet but with optimism and feel-good factor at the end. It even managed to make me shed a few tears on the Tube!”

Buy it now from Waterstones, WHSmith, AmazonUK, AmazonUSA (Kindle only for now), the Telegraph bookshop, Sainsbury’s e-books, Lovereading4kids, Barnes & Noble (USA, Nook only for now) and of course don’t forget your local independent bookstore (click here to find a bookstores near you in the UK or here for the USA).

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