Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones

The year is 1750.

Meet Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine.

His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing. He is on a quest to cut through superstition with the brilliant blade of science.

Meet Tristan Hart, madman and deviant.

His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. He is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his days and nights.

Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist.

What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?

This book was difficult. I had trouble with this book. I am normally a speedy reader, I can get through books rather quickly but not this one. Not because I didn’t like it (though, I spent a good chunk of the novel despising Tristan Hart) but because of the style it is written in. I could perhaps have been quicker if it were just the ‘mine heart’s and ‘mine head’s but I found the Seemingly Random capitalisation Hard to Deal With. I had to take a few days to process the novel in between chunks of reading. It was quite Distracting as You Might expect. Though, I do understand the reasoning behind it, to appear similar to texts released during the 1700s – it manages this marvelously.

I was drawn to The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones due to the promise of darkness and folklore. I was not disappointed, it is a very dark book, rife with visions of changelings and transmorphing gypsies. It deals with pain and pleasure, with anatomy and identity, and delusions; it was hard, at times, to tell what was real and what was not.

This book was intriguing, perhaps the best way to describe it. It moves at quite a slow pace, with lots to take in. You really have to sit down and read it, it’s not one of those books you can read while on an exercise bike or a running machine (I tried and failed at the former). While it wasn’t a quick read or a book in which I absolutely had to read on and on until I’d finished, I did want to know what happened. I never found myself tempted to put it away to attempt to read again later rather than finish in the first read through – when I first started reading I wasn’t sure that this would be the case but once I got over thinking badly of Tristan Hart (he seemed less pompous as the book progressed), I knew I was going to finish it.

There is a twist at the end, I will not tell you what that twist is but I will tell you it was among my favourite parts of the novel, alongside the storytelling employed by Katherine in her letters and Tristan’s exploration of goblins. I am glad I stuck with it.

If you like rather a lot of darkness, enjoy folklore and historical fiction, you might want to give this a try. I’m going to need a rather large break before I read this book again but I do intend to – there are most definitely things I will have missed while trying to get my head around the writing style.