cover image The Bone Fire

The Bone Fire

György Dragomán, trans. from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet. Mariner, $16.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-544-52720-1

At the start of this evocative work of magic realism from Dragomán (The White King), 13-year-old Emma, who’s been living since the death of her parents in an orphanage in an unnamed city and country that’s recently overthrown its Communist government, is claimed by a grandmother she didn’t know existed. The grandmother convinces Emma with a bit of magic that they’re related. At her grandmother’s house, Emma regularly observes and participates in minor bits of domestic magic, such as interacting with her grandfather’s ghost and engaging in homely rituals. At school, she faces mean girls as she tries to find where she fits in, eventually becoming part of the long-distance running team. Some accuse her grandfather of having been an informer for the previous regime, but others dismiss that as nonsense. Below the surface, violence is still simmering from the revolution that could strike close to Emma. One small incident follows another until some dramatic action in the final pages. The striking mix of magical elements and post-Communist setting compensates for the lack of much of a plot. Fans of Gabriel García Márquez may want to have a look. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, Gernert Company. (Feb.)