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Review: The Sins on Their Bones – Laura R. Samotin

The Sins on Their Bones - Laura R. Samotin

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Romance, LGBTQ+

Reviewer: Maryann

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About The Book

Set in a Jewish folklore-inspired reimagining of 19th century Eastern Europe, this queer dark fantasy debut pits two estranged husbands and a daring spymaster on opposite sides of a civil war. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, C.S. Pacat, and Katherine Arden.

Dimitri Alexeyev used to be the Tzar of Novo-Svitsevo. Now, he is merely a broken man, languishing in exile after losing a devastating civil war instigated by his estranged husband, Alexey Balakin. In hiding with what remains of his court, Dimitri and his spymaster, Vasily Sokolov, engineer a dangerous ruse. Vasily will sneak into Alexey’s court under a false identity to gather information, paving the way for the usurper’s downfall, while Dimitri finds a way to kill him for good.

But stopping Alexey is not so easy as plotting to kill an ordinary man. Through a perversion of the Ludayzim religion that he terms the Holy Science, Alexey has died and resurrected himself in an immortal, indestructible body—and now claims he is guided by the voice of God Himself. Able to summon forth creatures from the realm of demons, he seeks to build an army, turning Novo-Svitsevo into the greatest empire that history has ever seen.

Dimitri is determined not to let Alexey corrupt his country, but saving Novo-Svitsevo and its people will mean forfeiting the soul of the husband he can’t bring himself to forsake—or the spymaster he’s come to love.

The Review

At the age of twenty, Dimitri Alexeyev Abramovich became the Tzar of of Novo-Svitsevo. He was sold to Tzar Alexey Balakin by his father, Abraham Fyodorev, who never cared about his children. Dimitri was not experienced in life, and Alexey groomed him in his own ways, many of them cruel and abusive. Alexey craved power and control, while Dimitri was kind, moral, caring and protected the people and his country. Regardless of the abuse of Alexey, Dimitri stayed loyal and loved Alexey. Then things began to change.

Alexey believes he has direct connection to God. He becomes deeply involved in the Holy Science and Ludayzim, and Dimitri has no choice but to help Alexey in his experiments. Alexey becomes even more abusive, and a war breaks out between them. Dimitri has the chance to kill Alexey but his feelings stand in the way. Instead, he goes into hiding in the Free States. He now carries the guilt of the evil that now reigns over Novo-Svitsevo.

Dimitri is not alone. He’s now in Wilnetzk, in the Free States, and has his loyal followers with him. Annica was the leader of Dimitri’s army, Mischa takes care of all health situations, and Lapushka Zakharova is his political and strategic expert.

Vasily Sokolov is Dimitri’s trusted spymaster. As spymaster, Vasily finds out that his trusted spies are disappearing once they return to Novo-Svitsevo. He can’t afford to send any more people, knowing that they face danger.

Dimitri is worried. He doesn’t like the idea of Vasily facing the evil Alexey. When they find that Alexey is planning an army of Zemonyii that could take over the world, Vasily comes up with a plan.

Even though there are stumbling blocks along the way, Dimitri is determined not to allow Novo-Svitsevo and its people to be destroyed by Alexey. Dimitri, Vasily, Annica, Mischa and Lapushka will put their lives on the line for each other. Will they succeed in saving Novo-Svitsevo? Or will the evil Alexey bring death and destruction to all?

Samotin has crafted a dark themed story infused with Jewish folklore with The Sins on Their Bones. There’s magic, demons, secrets, violence, abuse, gore, romance and true love, along with a raft of other emotions.

After Dimitri’s bad experience with Alexey, Vasily offers him the kind of love that Dimitri deserves, although it takes time for him to realize it.

I loved the characters, especially Vasily, and his staunch support for Dimitri. The side characters were well-drawn as well: Annica, Mischa and Lapushka. The strange library with magician Aleksandr and The Head was an interesting idea and brought some humor to the story. there’s the archangel of God, Gavril, who provides a secret.

Be sure to check out the Author’s Note, Selected Further Reading, and the Acknowlegments. There’s also a wonderful bit of art with the playing cards “King of Hearts” Dimitri and “Joker” Vasily.

I highly recommend The Sins on Their Bones, as a group of brave people suffer through so much adversity to save their country from extreme evil. A wonderful blend of the mythology, magic and folklore of Judaism, and the Ashkenazi Jewish history and culture.

The Reviewer

Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California. Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018. My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen. New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012. She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series. Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book!

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing. I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews. One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group. Joining her site was such an eye opener. I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams.