The Bone Orchard by Sara A Mueller

The Bone Orchard

by Sara A Mueller

Sara A. Mueller's The Bone Orchard is a fascinating whodunit set in a lush, gothic world of secrets and magic-where a dying emperor charges his favorite concubine with solving his own murder, and preventing the culprit, which undoubtedly is one of his three terrible sons, from taking control of an empire.

"Mueller creates an intricate and richly characterized world in her gothic fantasy debut." - Buzzfeed
"A masterfully woven plot with refreshing narrators."-Publishers Weekly


Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.

Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.

Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren't real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.

But now-Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire-by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil-her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.

Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor's will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.

Reviewed by Angie on

2 of 5 stars


The Bone Orchard is a book that I should have left alone and admired from afar. Obviously, I was obsessed with the cover the moment I saw it, which led me to be intrigued by the blurb. I simply can't pass up books about sex workers! I don't know why! I knew this wasn't the kind of book that I'd pick up on my own without the influence of that cover and the promise of something different, but I checked it out anyway. I hoped it would surprise me, and that trying something new would pay off. Unfortunately, I just didn't get it.

I love the idea of Charm's boneghosts, but I didn't really understand them at all. I was lost and confused for most of The Bone Orchard. I was too focused on trying to understand Charm and her boneghosts that I never got pulled into the plot. Although admittedly the plot didn't grab my attention from the beginning as I also didn't get why the emperor would call on his mistress to find his murderer and keep his sons from inheriting. I wish I had enjoyed this one, because it does have some really awesome elements, but that's all it ended up being to me. It didn't come together in any way that made sense to me.

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Reading updates

  • 1 April, 2022: Started reading
  • 2 April, 2022: Finished reading
  • 10 April, 2022: Reviewed