The Sins on their Bones Book cover
Books, Reviews

The Sins on Their Bones Review: A Casually Queer Royal Fantasy

What does every fantasy adventure need? Action, friendship, love, mystery, magic, and a quest. Fortunately for readers, The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin has all of this and more.

Overall the book has moments where the story lags, and the action drags. However, by the final pages, you are so hooked and intrigued by the outcome that you forget those moments of struggle along the way.

Like any epic fantasy story, Samotin occasionally gets bogged down in the details. It is all necessary information, but sometimes it feels like we are getting it in one big dump, which causes the flow to stutter.

Changing Perspectives Keeps The Story Fresh

That being said, one of the strongest points of this book is the changing POV. We get to start off with Dimitri’s perspective, then it moves into Alexey, and finally lands on Vasily.

Through each of these characters, we get to see a new side to the same events and disappointments or triumphs, depending on the situation and perspective. It really allows the reader to dive head-first into feelings of love, betrayal, failure, PTSD, anxiety, and the effects of abuse, both mental and physical.

This book is rarely sunshine and roses, but that works in its favor. We are drawn to the hopes of Dimitri and his court, most especially Vasily, because the world around them is so dark and dismal that there can only be one way out – through it.

By switching from Dimitri, who is extremely depressed and downtrodden for the majority of the story, to Vasily, who is full of righteous anger and a passion to regain control that Dimitri lost, we get to see their love play out in slow motion.

From the beginning, when it is seemingly one-sided, all the way up to when they confess a mutual attraction, trust, respect, and love for one another, The Sins on Their Bones takes us on a journey with many peaks and valleys.

The outlier perspective is definitely Alexey, but it still holds a purpose. After all, despite his betrayal of Dimitri and their marriage, Alexey and Dimitri still need closure on their feelings for each other. It also helps the story, especially when we get caught up in the details and lack of movement on Dimitri and Vasily’s part, to keep moving forward with action and excitement.

As much as we don’t like Alexey for what he’s done and is doing, we can’t help but be intrigued by the magic he is tapping into to enact his plans. We keep reading in order to know more; just as Vasily is discovering Alexey’s true plans, so are we.

The Casual Queerness
Cover art for The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin.
The Sins on Their Bones by Laura R. Samotin

One of the biggest draws of The Sins on Their Bones, especially for me, is the way in which the author tucks casual queerness into every aspect of this tale. From the opening sentence, we become aware that in this fictitious world of Novo-Svitsevo, the Tzar can be married to a man, and no one bats an eye.

But that isn’t even where the queerness stops. Every significant character of note in this story has some form of queerness about them. It’s never directly called out or brought to the center of the story, but it is there.

In this world, a queer man, who is the rightful bearer of the throne, is usurped by his husband only to eventually find love with his most trusted spymaster. All the while, he is surrounded by members of his court who are either on the asexual/aromantic spectrum, non-binary, or other forms of queer.

It’s this casualness that makes the story stand out on its own. Yes, this is a queer fantasy novel. However, that is not the major plot point of the story. Making this a beautiful quilt of representation in the background of love, betrayal, and political unrest.

Readers will get to see themselves while also never feeling like the narrative is trying desperately to make queerness the defining characteristic of the characters at hand. In The Sins on Their Bones, queerness comes in many shapes, forms, and colors. This means we can see ourselves on any side of the equation of hero or villain.

The Beauty of Tradition and Heritage

At the start and conclusion of this book, Laura R. Samotin points out that quite a bit of the Jewish heritage that she grew up in made its way into the novel through little details here and there. The beauty of it is the representation is there for those who need it but isn’t so heavyhanded that those not in the know won’t be able to enjoy the story.

You don’t have to know intimate details of Jewish traditions and heritage to fully grasp the elements of faith and religion within the pages. You can still appreciate that Dimitri and his court practice prayers and certain faith-based events such as Shabbat and havdalah prayers without fully understanding the cultural significance.

As someone who is more intimately familiar with Jewish tradition than some, I loved finding elements throughout the story that I recognized. Certain terminology and references gave the story a more intimate feeling to me because I know the roots of where they come from.

And, for those who are more casual about Jewish faith and tradition, this story could be a jumping-off point for you to seek your own level of further research and understanding. It is a beautiful reminder, during a time of cultural unrest, that we can find love and community together no matter what we believe or what traditions we follow.

It is my hope that others will read this book and find some form of connection to the story within its pages. Whether it’s because of the overarching fantastical/magical elements, the casual queerness, or the faith-based inspirations, everyone can find pleasure within the story of Dimitri, Alexey, and Vasily.


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Mads is a part-time entertainment journalist and full-time marketing content creator. They love reading the latest in Queer novels -- especially romance ones and watching the latest dramas, sci-fi/fantasy, Star Wars, and romcom films/TV shows. You can join the conversation by following them on Twitter: @dorothynyc89.

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