ARC Review: The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin

Genre: Dark Historical Fantasy
Length: 418 pages
Release Date: 7 May 2024
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Dimitri Alexeyev used to be the Tzar of Novo-Svitsevo. Now, he is merely a broken man, languishing in exile after losing a devastating civil war instigated by his estranged husband, Alexey Balakin. In hiding with what remains of his court, Dimitri and his spymaster, Vasily Sokolov, engineer a dangerous ruse. Vasily will sneak into Alexey’s court under a false identity to gather information, paving the way for the usurper’s downfall, while Dimitri finds a way to kill him for good.

But stopping Alexey is not so easy as plotting to kill an ordinary man. Through a perversion of the Ludayzim religion that he terms the Holy Science, Alexey has died and resurrected himself in an immortal, indestructible body—and now claims he is guided by the voice of God Himself. Able to summon forth creatures from the realm of demons, he seeks to build an army, turning Novo-Svitsevo into the greatest empire that history has ever seen.

Dimitri is determined not to let Alexey corrupt his country, but saving Novo-Svitsevo and its people will mean forfeiting the soul of the husband he can’t bring himself to forsake—or the spymaster he’s come to love.


Thank you to the publisher and Sydney from Wunderkind PR for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Reading the blurb and seeing the cover made me excited. I like demons in my books, queernorm societies, religion has my interest. But even though I read the content warnings in the beginning, it didn’t prepare me enough for what was coming. It’s a daaaaaark story. The author explained she wouldn’t beat around the bush with the trauma, and it’s clear she didn’t, showing horrible things on page. Dimitri already has so much traumatic bagage at the start of the story and we’re only shown tiny bits of it. He shares the good memories while his friends share the bad memories of the two together. It hurts to witness. This continues throughout the whole book.

While the story itself was interesting, it was the tone that pulled me out of it. I don’t pick up dark stories often but there’s a reason why I don’t pick up grimdark fantasy, and now I’m not sure it I’d classify it as grimdark or not. I wish the tone was a little different so it didn’t feel like I was witness to such harsh abuse up close.

I really like the world the author created, and Dimitri’s court (or friends) are all lovely. Everyone should have a group like them. Alexey, what shall I say? He was a monster before and after his death. Vasily was my favourite character. His love and kindness in these dark circumstances made him shine bright.

Ultimately, I think this book was definitely a Not For Now or a Not For Me. If you can handle all the content warnings, this will be a good read. It reminded me a lot of Shadow and Bone but way more dark and mature.

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