Book: Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters #1)
Author: Rebecca Schaeffer
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mirella and Nita talk about the death market
Content Warnings: Blood/gore, human trafficking, cannibalism, imprisonment, torture, mentions of colonialism, human dissections, murder, sadism, mentions of suicide, mentions of prositution, emotionally abusive mother
I got this book a while ago, I think in the year it was released (2018) but it’s been sitting on my shelves untouched for ages, and so when it was chosen for me to read by my Goodreads book club as part of our monthly Pick-It-For-Me, I jumped at the chance to finally get around to it. I’m glad I did, it was just what I needed, a short, fast paced read with lots of wonderfully morally grey characters. A lot of books claim to be “dark” and then actually aren’t, this one definitely lives up to the description.
Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.
Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.
I have to start with what I enjoyed most about this book, which was the characters, at least the two main characters Nita and Kovit, especially Nita. I love it when female characters are allowed to be “unlikeable” and Nita is definitely that: she makes questionable decisions, she’s prickly and doesn’t really like people, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to survive no matter the cost and she finds dissecting people relaxing. It’s surprisingly easy to root for her though, she’s been put in this horrible position where her very survival is at stake, so it makes sense that she’s looking out for herself above all other things. Plus it was just super refreshing to read a book where the female character is allowed to just be completely messed up without having to soften it in any way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with soft female characters, in fact I think they’re very necessary, but I love the ones that lean more towards the side of evil as well.
Also yay for female scientists, Nita wants to use her black market acquired skills for legal scientific research one day and I think that’s super cool, it’s great to see girls interested in science portrayed in fiction.
Kovit was also wonderfully dark, he’s a Zannie so he basically feeds on other people’s pain and takes much joy in doing so. He’s seriously messed up too and there’s no pretence or excuses offered as to why he’s like this, he just is which I loved.
The characters outside of Nita and Kovit could have used a little more fleshing out, by its nature the book is more of a character study of these two, which is fine but there were so many other characters in this book that had the potential to be really interesting (Nita’s mother, Reyes, Mirella) if they’d been explored more.
The world is super cool, there are lots of different supernatural creatures (Nita and her mother are able to both alter and heal their own bodies which is really cool), you have Zannies and vampires and unicorns etc but there’s no real explanation of how or why? It’s established that the book is set in our world, the place names are the same, Nita mentions pop culture stuff and technology like Skype but it’s just accepted that there are supernatural creatures? I’m assuming this is meant to be an alternate version of our world, but it would have been nice to receive some clarity on that. It was really great that this book was set in South America, because that’s a setting we don’t get to see very often but because it’s mostly set in the market, we don’t get to explore all that much of the outside world, it’s very insular, so I’d like to get to see more in future books.
Both of the main characters in the book are POC, Nita is biracial (her father is Chilean) and Kovit is Thai, which was great, it was very amusing when Nita referred to a white character as having mayonnaise white skin. It would have been nice if there were some LGBTQ+ characters too, but hopefully in future books.
I would have liked a little more dialogue, this book is a lot of internal monologue and though Nita’s mind is a very interesting place to be, a lot of large chunks of monologue broken up by very little dialogue is not what I prefer to read. The dialogue that was there was also a little stilted, though I suppose that did make sense for the characters as neither has particularly good social skills.
The pacing was pretty decent, the plot is relatively simple: Nita’s main goal through the entire book is to escape, so it’s a pretty singular aim but the short chapters kept things ticking over nicely.
I liked that there was no romance in this, there’s indications that there might be in future books but honestly I hope it doesn’t go down that route because I love Kovit and Nita as platonic partners in evil!
The writing was decent enough, though you could definitely tell it was a debut, there was some over-repetition of phrases at times (including the dreaded “breath she didn’t know she was holding”, seriously authors, I do know that this is a legit thing that can happen with anxiety but can we FIND SOME OTHER WAY TO PHRASE IT PLEASE!) and the aforementioned slightly clunky monologuing, but the author definitely has potential and I’m sure these things will have improved in the subsequent books. One thing she definitely did do well on the writing front was the gory descriptions of dissections, this book is definitely not for the faint of stomach!
I would have liked it if Nita hadn’t been quite so dismissive of Mirella, a fellow female prisoner in the market, not that women have to like every single other woman they come across, but it just would have been nice to see Nita have some positive female relationships in her life.
THAT ENDING. I did not see it coming at all and was thrown for a loop by some of the twists that Schaeffer introduced towards the end there! I’m really looking forward to seeing where things go in the next book after the way that this one ended.
My Rating: 3.5/5
My next review will be of Cinderella is Dead, by Kalynn Bayron, which I’ve already read so it should be up tomorrow!