Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino
The Bone Church takes the reader on a harrowing journey through post World War II Europe and bounces around between a decade beyond the war and the dark times near the end. Much of the book is set in Prague during the war, but the characters and the story touch upon many other countries and locations throughout the book. Author Victoria Dougherty fills the book with history, intrigue, suspense and even love in a disturbing time which allows for the reader to feel transported to a much different era than today. The Bone Church does start slowly and is a bit difficult to follow due to the switching between settings, characters and time in order to lay the groundwork, but as the story progresses, the plot in the early chapters suddenly begin to make sense.
Felix Andel is an ex-Olympic Czechoslovakian hockey player who is discovering after his father’s death that not everything in the world is as it seems. He is in love with the beautiful Magdalena (Ruza) Melan, with whom he has much history with. Magdalena is a Jew and much of Felix’s life is dedicated to making sure that she is safe and free from Nazi persecution. Felix works relentlessly to try to smuggle Magdalena out of Prague and as a result, the two are exposed to a shady, underbelly of society that exists in the form of the Resistance. The couple soon learns that there is much more to the Resistance movement than simply aiding refugees. Svoboda, an old family friend of Felix’s father Marek, lets the couple in on an assassination plot on Nazi Leader Josef Goebbels which is ultimately unsuccessful, there are dubious dealings of religious icons, forgeries and thefts and no one is exactly as they seem. Much of Felix’s aid and information comes from the shifty Gypsy Srut who always seems to show up unexpectedly when Felix needs him the most. The action is heavy in the novel and the air of oppression and the constant fear/running that Felix and Magdalena face do not go unnoticed. Felix is a strong and smart main character that presses on for the ones he loves, not only because he wants to, but simply because there is no other choice.
The Bone Church itself is a chapel near Prague that has altars and decorations inside made completely out of human remains. Action and pivotal interactions do take place within the walls, but the idea of the Bone Church seems to act more as a representation of mortality and even evil that surrounds this time in history. Felix has not only his body tested, but also his faith and values throughout the story and the Bone Church stands as a great reminder that no one is immortal. Dougherty’s novel is rich, different and touching. Her dual story lines, while at times jumbled, are captivating and interesting. The Bone Church provides glimpses into dark history and shares whispers of the past through an interesting cast of characters who strive to survive above all else.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review and giveaway copies were provided by Pier’s Court Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.