‘Castles in Their Bones’: A mediocre novel with a punch of an ending


Megan Z

“Castle in Their Bones” is the first book of Laura Sebastian’s second series after the Ash Princess Trilogy. She describes “Castle in Their Bones” as having “a ton of romance, complicated relationships between friends (and in this case sisters), a fun magic system, little nods to real world royal history, and as many twists and turns as [she] could fit in 528 pages.”

Megan Zhang, Staff Writer

“Castles in Their Bones” will hook you in – but only if you’re still around four hundred pages in.

Written by Laura Sebastian, this young adult “political” fantasy follows a set of triplet princesses who are married off to three kingdoms for the sole purpose of toppling the kingdoms’ monarchies so their mother can conquer the continent. Sounds riveting, right? It’s about half as interesting as you’re imagining it to be.

Political fantasies are already inherently less action-packed – something I don’t mind, when the scheming and complex character relationships more than make up for it. However, for all of the grand proclamations of “bringing down monarchies” and “deception and betrayal”, the plan for conquest is surprisingly simple. And that means not much happens for most of the novel. The scheming, clever manipulation and planning I was expecting from this novel were barely there, and in its place was a plot where the meat of the story consisted of jumping around three storylines in which each sister got one or two things done only.

The pacing only begins to pick up in the last hundred pages. I finally found myself actually invested in the plot, each chapter surprising me with something new. The author manages to pack in quite a few plot twists that, while not earth-shattering, are entirely unpredictable. The betrayals the characters face are unexpected; the mother, although appearing infrequently, is an enigma. The novel finishes off with a startling cliffhanger that leaves the reader wondering what happens next – an ending that alone could convince you to read the sequel.

With such slow pacing aside from the end, this novel becomes primarily character-driven, especially given the rather immoral situation the main characters find themselves in. Given the common appearance of flat main characters in Young Adult fantasies, I was impressed by Sebastian’s ability to build three different characters and develop each character’s unique voice. Whether it be their motivations, their personalities, their dynamic growth or static character, triplets Beatriz, Daphne and Sophronia are very clearly their own characters. It was interesting to see the conflicts that arose between the sisters because of their differences as well as the different decisions they make and the individual moral dilemmas they find themselves in. Sophronia’s character growth was especially gratifying to read. 

Despite the characters being distinctive, I didn’t think they were memorable or resonating enough to make up for the simple plot. They may have individuality, but they fail to connect with readers. Compared to other character-driven fantasies like Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Cycle” and “The Scorpio Races” and Jennifer Donnelly’s “Stepsister”, “Castles in Their Bones” leaves a lot to be desired. The characters are not captivating enough to stand on their own, and that combined with a slow burn plot is a recipe for a boring book.

Although the triplets were well-developed, I found the relationships between them and their love interests, friends, fatherly figures to be lacking. Their relationships are insubstantial, shallow, and barely developed. I found the relationship between the sisters the most disappointing. I expected a deep, inseparable bond between them, and while I got this through words, I did not think Sebastian adequately showed the readers this bond.

“Castles in Their Bones” may drag for most of the book, but it certainly ends with a bang. It sets up for a very interesting second installment, and I think the ending leaves a lot of potential for a more engrossing sequel. I’m curious as to how the sisters’ relationship with each other and with their ruthless mother will change in the books to come. “Castles in Their Bones” may be unimpressive as a standalone novel, but for fans of book series, it may yet prove itself to be an impactful fantasy series.