David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is an epic fantasy about a woman trapped in a battle between good and evil that transcends time and space. We first meet Holly Sykes as a runaway teen trying to escape the sting of her first breakup. Holly’s runaway plans are complicated by a series of mysterious encounters that setup a tale that spans six decades. The story is told through a series of short character studies from people who are somehow involved with or touched by Sykes.
Much of the novel reads as a drama with a few fantasy elements peppered in, but there is always this sense of something big about to unfold. That persistent tension and some very well-drawn and realized characters are what keeps the story moving forward. It’s not until around 2/3rds of the way through that the book really opens up into full-fledged fantasy, at which point the seemingly disparate pieces fall together.
While the story eventually does come together, some of the earlier pages are a bit slow. The writer character, in particular, is almost pointless and his meta references often drew me right out of the story. That entire section could have been cut with minimal impact to the story.
The end also feels tacked on. It feels like it is there more as a way for the author to moralize than anything else. It does, ultimately, lead to a comfortable resolution, though.
The Bone Clocks isn’t light reading. While it has fantasy elements, at its core, it is a deep character drama that explores the way we are all interconnected. Sykes matures from a bratty teenager to an elderly grandmother in a way that rings true for anyone, no matter the genre. If you remove all of nightmares and illusions, you’re still left with an interesting story about a woman who endues heartache and loss and still finds ways to become a better person.
Disclaimer: I received this book free in exchange for an honest review through the Amazon Vine program.