Monday, June 16, 2014

The Bone Church: A Novel by Victoria Dougherty

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Netgalley
Read: June 6, 2014

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions. Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

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Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora
Image by Pudelek (Marcin Szala)
Victoria Dougherty's The Bone Church is not an easy read. It hits the ground running and never lets up. Paired with decidedly heavy material and themes, the narrative is more than a little challenging, but that said, it is easily one of the best historical thrillers I've had fortune to come across.

Those who follow me know the WWII references in the description are what drew me to this piece, but it was Dougherty's application of history, how she utilized and built her fiction around it that captivated my attention. Both storylines are sculpted from verified truths making it difficult to determine where fact meets fiction. The resulting seamlessness enhances the tension within the narrative and generates such excitement that the novel is practically impossible to put down.

Dougherty's treatment of Magdalena and Felix also stood out to me. It would have been easy to paint these characters in bleakly sympathetic tones, but Dougherty didn't go that route. There is an authenticity to this couple. They are trapped and hunted, but there is a tenacious intensity in their make-up that draws admiration rather than pity. An edginess in their story that plays on the reader's emotions in a way that is both inspired and unexpected.

A deliciously dark and addicting foray into a world of mistrust, betrayal, paranoia and deceit, The Bone Church was a wholly unexpected pleasure. Yes, I had to work for it and familiarize myself with previously unknown chapters of historic detail, but when push comes to shove, I can't say I regret a moment spent with this piece.  

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On the black cotton was printed a white skull and crossbones - the skull head grinning as if he were mocking her. The nun struggled for her breath and wanted to drop the evil little banner, but her fingers wouldn't let go of it - making her stare into its horrid death face as if she were looking at her own end.
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Check Out All the Stops on Victoria Dougherty's The Bone Church Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, June 17
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, June 18
Excerpt at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Thursday, June 19
Guest Post at I’d So Rather Be Reading
Monday, June 23
Review at Based on a True Story
Tuesday, June 24
Review at Bibliotica
Friday, June 27
Review at Back Porchervations
Monday, June 30
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, July 1
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, July 2
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, July 3
Review at
Monday, July 7
Review at Library Educated
Thursday, July 10
Excerpt & Spotlight at Books and Benches
Monday, July 14
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, July 15
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Thursday, July 17
Guest Post at Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, July 18
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Monday, July 21
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, July 22
Review at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, July 23
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, July 24
Review at Mari Reads
Review at bookramblings
Tuesday, July 29
Review at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, July 30
Review at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 31
Review at From the TBR Pile


Victoria Dougherty said...

Wow. Lovely review. Thank you so much. I'm just thrilled that you enjoyed it.

Christoph Fischer said...

What a great write up for a really accomplished novel. I whole-heartedly agree, I love this novel. :-)