Review: Not Even Bones - Who Knew Unicorns Get You High

title: Not Even Bones
author: Rebecca Schaeffer
pages: 368
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction
Topics: Filipino character, Unlikeable Heroes, Monsters, STEM Girls, Fables and Myths

A Girl and Her Science Lab

In Not Even Bones, Nita has spent her whole life working with her parents, who hunt and kill ‘supernatural’ types in order to sell their body parts on the black market. It’s a job she’s had for a goodly portion of her life, and she’s found many mental tricks and justifications in order to reconcile the things she does with her personal morals. But one day, her mother brings home a living supernatural and asks Nita to perform a vivisection, which even Nita can’t justify to herself. She helps the boy escape, and quickly after that finds herself kidnapped and sent to a black market herself.

Nita has to figure out how to escape her new prison, and she befriends one of her captors to get it done. Together Nita and (boy) must figure out how to best the people who run the black market town while still deeply mistrusting each other.

The Characters and Their Mores Made This Book

Every single character in this book is both morally compromised and deeply interesting to me. I loved the various ways that they all interplayed with each other, the nuances in their interactions that only revealed themselves as the novel went on. Granted, those nuances aren’t healthy most of the time, but each time I thought something was ‘fucked up just for the sake of it,’ further reading would prove me…well, only half right.

Nita herself really carries this novel, and I loved the way her mind worked. I loved seeing her float back and forth when it came to her morals, seeing her struggle with what she knew was right, what she had to do, and what she wanted to do. I don’t know that I would necessarily classify her as a ‘bad’ or villainous character, though. It’s pretty clear that lot of her decisions are made out of necessity, either because of the circumstances she was raised in or her need for escape/survival. In a different set of circumstances, but relative to everything going on in this books she’s downright normal. The only thing slightly ‘fucked up’ about her is her love of dissection, but it’s presented so clinically and naturally in her narration that I found myself completely unbothered and even kind of enthused by it. (She’s just a scientist! It’s fine! Really! I’m not fucked up myself, I swear.)

Of course, there’s plenty of other villains to pick from, some of whom have complex or mysterious motivations, and some of whom are just plain villains but at least really fun ones.

The Value of Small-Scale World-Building

Not Even Bones is a great example of what I like to call small-scale worldbuilding. It’s an alternate reality where there’s a variety of supernatural creatures on this earth, all of whom have special abilities but look completely human from the outside. Their body parts also have unique qualities when ingested, hence the thriving black market for them. For instance, unicorn bones are a highly addictive, hallucinogenic drug. Creepy and awesome.

Now, we don’t really get a lot of information about this alternate version of reality. There’s mention of an international agency (ala INTERPOL) that’s set up to monitor and/or protect these people, but the only details we get are those relevant to Nita, her family’s business, and the black market she finds herself in. Similarly, the only location we learn much about is this tiny, purpose-built town in a jungle that provides the black market with a literal, physical market. We know nothing else about the world or how supernaturals affect it.

And…cool. I love it. We don’t need to learn anything else. There are times when threadbare worldbuilding is a detriment to a novel, but those times are usually when the novel is epic in its theme but the world doesn’t keep pace. Not Even Bones is almost claustrophobic with its plot, intentionally so, and therefore the scope of the worldbuilding fits it perfectly. But of course, it’s also perfect due to the fact that all of the details we get feel like they’re part of a larger whole, like once we learn more everything will still fit together. It’s delivered naturally and no part of what we know contradicts another part. It’s really beautifully done, I think.

Some Random Other Cool Things

  • I love the way Nita’s self-healing/self-changing powers are described and the way she uses them within the limitations presented. I especially loved that her powers are also connected to her scientific interest, that the more she learned about biology the more she was able to understand and control her own biology. It was a very nice touch.
  • I was nervous about the introduction of a romantic angle, considering all the fuckedupness and quasi-villainous morals going on, but it didn’t end up being a strong focus of the story. It was done with a delicate touch and was mostly just laying groundwork, to the point that I think I could really get into it if the romance was a bigger feature in later books.
  • THAT ENDING. Okay, I should just leave that comment as is, but still. GOOD EXAMPLE OF A CLIFFHANGER AND ALSO THANKS, I HATE IT, but for all the right reasons. 

My Thoughts Overall

I loved this book and thought it handled a lot of hard-to-do meta concepts really well, and I want to snuggle the main character and protect her forever but seeing her get into fucked up shit is too much fun. Sorry, Nita.

Will I read this author again? You betcha
Will I continue this series? Can’t wait for it!

More Reviews for Not Even Bones

It Starts At Midnight - Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer: Delightfully Disturbing
The Winged Pen - Recommended: NOT EVEN BONES by Rebecca Schaeffer
The Bookish Actress - Dexter Meets This Savage Song, aka Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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