The Bones of Ruin
An African tightrope walker who can’t die gets embroiled in a secret society’s deadly gladiatorial tournament in this “bloodily spectacular” (Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights) historical fantasy set in an alternate 1880s London, perfect for fans of The Last Magician and The Gilded Wolves.
As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly an unusual sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…
She cannot die.
Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.
To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.
If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.
In a shifting third-person perspective, Raughley (the Effigies series) crafts an alternate Victorian London in which Iris, "a tightrope-dancing African," dazzles crowds with acrobatic feats as part of the Coolie Company circus. However, Iris is concealing a staggering secret: though seemingly "a girl of seventeen," she does not age and cannot die. Having arrived on the circus proprietor's doorstep with amnesia a decade ago, her mission to uncover her past gains greater urgency when she encounters sapphire-eyed, white 21-year-old Adam Temple. A member of the secret Enlightenment Committee, Adam reveals that the world is ending and that the committee will decide the leader of the upcoming apocalypse through the Tournament of Freaks, a competition in which champions with supernatural abilities fight to the death. Iris agrees to be one such warrior, in exchange for Adam's help in uncovering her identity. Yet as she becomes enmeshed in the tournament, she wonders at its price. Though a quick pace stymies full immersion, the fantastical premise supports a multilayered plot and vibrant characters. Meanwhile, themes of racial abuse, violence, and rebirth, paired with a wealth of romantic options, add further complexity to this series starter. Ages 12 up.