Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

ivoryandboneSynopsis: Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

My thoughts: Ivory and Bone is such a strange book. I’ll just lead with that.

The cover is beautiful. The title is one of my favorites ever (once I got far enough in the book to understand why it was significant). The idea seems interesting, especially since I’ve never really read a YA book set in the prehistoric era. I was interested but wary (and thought it was a stand alone) so one day I decided to break into it and see what I found.

Here is what I found:

I found a fascinating narrative choice that I’d never really seen before but really loved. It’s in a 2nd person perspective of sorts, so for the majority of the book, Kol is telling Mya a story. This means he’s referring things to her (ex: “the first time I saw you” or “you came that day” or “your brother was angry with me”), tying everything back to the prologue in which Mya asks Kol to tell her a story. The narrative choice: strange but really cool. I was instantly captivated.

I found a protagonist that truly bored me. Kol, to me, was cardboard, but not in the traditional sense I use that phrase in. I mean, he felt detached. I loved the way he told the story, but he didn’t feel like a part of it–as if he were a Morgan Freeman narrator wannabe. He didn’t have much personality or smarts or skills or anything of interest….but he wasn’t necessarily stupid or inept or uninteresting. It was so so strange. The only somewhat interesting thing to me was the story line regarding the clan: how there were no females and he was stressed about finding a wife to continue his clan. I don’t know why, but I thought that was an interesting romantic perspective, and while predictable, I was curious to see where the relationship with Mya would go. I soon found that Mya must’ve been uninterested in Kol because he was so boring (even though that wasn’t really the reason. The real reason, for me, still doesn’t completely make sense, but whatever).

I found a whole lotta detail about stuff I did not care about, including a whole lotta descriptions of kayak trips and hikes and such that I found myself skimming because I couldn’t care less.

At the same time, I found an exquisitely beautiful and dangerous world painted in vivid detail, not only planting images in my mind, but giving Mother Nature a character all her own. Since setting was so important to this novel, I feel the description was spot on and really transported me to this grittier and wilder world that I’ll never actually get to see.

I also found the promise of an awesome and violent clash between clans, a clash where lives would be lost and friends betrayed and the stakes raised higher and higher. I kept waiting for the amazing conflict, because the potential was there, oh it was so there. The strain between Mya and Lo could’ve been something epic. Instead, I found two girls taking turns telling a confused Kol the “real” story as he leans back and forth between the two, then in the last ten pages or so there’s a fire and one fight and two people die and then it’s over.

Ugh. I was so disappointed.

Ultimately, even with so much promise and potential, I opened Ivory and Bone expecting a prehistoric epic, a battle between clans, a conflicted yet developing protagonist torn apart as he’s forced to choose a side even though either one could mean death and anyone could betray him. Instead, I opened Ivory and Bone and found a bland prehistoric love story, which, unfortunately, wasn’t what I was looking for at all.

Rated 2.7/5 for an interesting narrative choice, vivid imagery and an awesome title use