The Puppet Maker’s Bones is an interesting blend of psychological study, dark fantasy and mystery. The action is set in the present day, but the great majority of the novel is concerned with the historical background of Pavel, the protagonist. Who is this old man who avoids contact with the outside world – and more importantly, why does he avoid contact with the outside world? This question sends the reader into Pavel’s past to explore his upbringing and what follows is a peculiar and fascinating study of a man born an outcast and raised in an eccentric family.
Eventually, Pavel’s origins are understood and his peculiarities revealed. Pavel has had a rather unfortunate life and I really enjoyed experiencing his tragic past. He is a fascinating character and I oscillated between sympathy and horror as he developed throughout the novel. Eventually, I began to understand that this story was unlikely to have a happy ending. Pavel’s upbringing was too unusual, his nature and self-imposed isolation too damaging. He was both highly intelligent and emotionally immature and disaster was inevitable. In another story he would have been a serial killer – in this he is a time bomb, ticking its way to self-destruction.
I always enjoy a story that tries to take a new perspective and for me, this story was both fresh and original. If you were born a curse incarnate, how would that impact your upbringing? If people who came into contact with you met with an untimely death – how would that impact you emotionally? This is the kind of study that the author creates with Pavel as the subject. Meanwhile we’re introduced to a shadowy background organisation created to support such a creature, otherwise known as Death’s Order.
Kevin, our predator, a sociopath destined for serial killer status, provides the mechanism for a one-act climax to the novel. He actually makes an intriguing juxtaposition to Pavel. While Pavel was destined to cause suffering to others, he has attempted even through his growing madness to suppress his nature. In contrast, Kevin has a relatively privileged upbringing – and yet still chooses an evil path. The author keeps Kevin’s character only as fleshed-out as required – to me, a deliberate decision to ensure a lack of sympathy. It is a very strong statement when the author manages to elicit far more sympathy from the reader for a veritable angel of death than for a teenage boy.
The Puppet Maker’s Bones is a successful demonstration of the author’s obvious talent in weaving an original and multi-layered story. The historical Czech setting was vivid, the scenes played out in the puppet theatre were entertaining and the tragic romance of Pavel and Zophie was satisfyingly devastating. Additionally, the prose was clear, well-formed and error free – certainly a bonus.
This novel is apparently the first book in a series or trilogy involving the organisation called Death’s Order. However, given that there is definite closure for the character of Pavel, the book would happily stand alone. If the author never completed a second book, the story would not feel somehow incomplete.
I highly recommend The Puppet Maker’s Bones for those who like creative, dark fantasies with interesting (if warped) characters and rather unsettling conclusions. Another example of indie done right.
Price at the time of review: $3.99 US
Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony
Author site: http://alisatangredi.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13615256-the-puppet-maker-s-bones