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The Throne of Bones

Narrated by: Wayne June
Length: 13 hrs and 59 mins
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Summary

This book won a World Fantasy Award. It's remarkable: The stories are rich, fascinating stuff - creepy and unsettling and phantasmic. Imagine what Tolkien's Lord of the Rings would have been like if Tolkien had tried to tell that story sympathetically from the point of view of the human denizens of Mordor and you'll have the slightest sense of what you're about to wade into... but only just a sense.

These stories will make the same demands on you that they made on Brian: They will command and compel you, and fill you full of terrible wonder. And when you've finished them, you'll find yourself wanting more.

©1997 Brian McNaughton (P)2013 Wildside Press LLC

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  • Joseph
  • 05-06-15

I had a visceral reaction to this book!

What did you love best about The Throne of Bones?

This book is so well writen and so well preformed, I had to put it down from time to time, because it started to effect me. This book is unabashed horror theater. I felt threatened by the outstanding narration, the menace in the narrators voice and the plot of all the short storys made me feel uneasy and frankly disgusted at times. I don't think ive had as much of a visceral reaction to a book or a preformance than i did to this one.

What other book might you compare The Throne of Bones to and why?

The short story "The King in Yellow", "Our Lady of the Flowers" " The Story of the Eye" "Crash" The movies "Irreversable" and "The Road".

Which character – as performed by Wayne June – was your favorite?

I forget the name, but the story of the nobel and his wife who wants to become a ghoul, and how that happens, is an insight to horror fiction and mental illness.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

You can't unseen this Movie!

Any additional comments?

I thought about this book and writer, he is so talented and at times makes the horror so realistic and simple that it might put you off; and maybe thats why he might not be as well know and well read as he should be. This book and mostly the narration actualy made me feel unsafe and replused, at times, if i dwelled on it too much. This review maybe over the top, the writing is well crafted.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Knut
  • 28-07-16

Awesome content, annoying release.

Great stories told with mastery. The only complaint I have is with the release itself. The chapters vary between 2 to 20 mins in length with no indication where one story begins and another ends, which, in a collection of stort stories, is a major annoyence.

I still strongly recommend this book to anyone with a fondness for wierd horror or dark fantasy.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jefferson
  • 18-01-19

"How could such things be?"

Brian McNaughton's World Fantasy Award-winning collection of mordant epic horror tales, The Throne of Bones (1997), is set in a world of decadent cities like Crotalorn (home of the Dreamers’ Hill necropolis), Sythiphore (home of piscine eroticists), and Fandragord (home of evil) where aristocrats, scholars, cultists, poets, prostitutes, barbarians, necromancers, the undead, ghouls, and the like pursue love, art, life, and death. The stories read like a meld of Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, and Tannith Lee, all informed by McNaughton's voice and vision.

If McNaughton’s work is macabre, with graphic sex and violence aplenty, it is also funny, delighting in the human comedy, especially via dramatic irony (e.g., when a mob thinks they’re rescuing a child from a ghoul), and in the well-turned phrase or the piquant word (e.g., "This apparently caused him to miss a fire or massacre or other popular diversion, for when he emerged in the evening, the street outside his house pullulated with quidnuncs"). His stories are moral, for his anti-heroes receive fitting fates, and honest, for his people face biting truths, as when a ghoul hears from a corpse she's eaten, "I knew life and love and happiness. Now I shall know peace. Will you ever say such things?"

McNaughton’s rich style ranges from romantic beauty (e.g., "Her hair was the color of rain when the sun shines") to gruesome horror (e.g., “The fabric of the real world had parted as easily as an old corpse’s shroud, dropping him into an unknown abyss, and he screamed like one falling as he thrust himself from the reeking heap in his bed"). He writes evocative names (e.g., Vomikron, Asteriel, and Crondard), quotable lines (e.g., “the gods love to bestow useless gifts"), choice similes (e.g., "his unruly mind frisked toward that filth like a puppy”), and vivid descriptions (e.g., “Beyond the Vendren palace, a full third of the sky was gripped by an electrical cataclysm. Dragons of flame writhed among three cloudy continents, whipped above them, exploded behind them. Not a whisper of thunder reached him, and a deformed moon drowsed overhead, but the breeze scurried this way and that in timid confusion”).

Wayne June is the ideal reader for the audiobook, wielding his resonant voice with perfect pace, emphasis, and clarity. His ghouls sound like growling dogs and rasping metal, and he does prime laughs, from a necromancer’s “steam kettle” to an aristocrat’s “eructations of a clogged drain.”

Here is an annotated list of the stories:

1. Ringard and Dendra
"Botany is no field for the squeamish."
Featuring a wood carver with an affinity for trees, a free-spirited aristocratic daughter, an amoral botanical wizard, and a brutal religious cult, the story is appalling and moving.

2. The Throne of Bones
"I want to be a ghoul, don't you?"
The six linked short stories of this novella relate Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ghouls* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). Like his undead, McNaughton's ghouls exaggerate human qualities: beneath our human veneer lurks a ghoul.

2-1. Lord Glyphtard’s Tale
"As a child, I was told not to gather souvenirs from the cemetery."
This story has it all: cannibalism, rape, necrophilia, inter-species sex, graphic violence (from mutilation to dismemberment), and an apt climax and resolution.

2-2. The Lecher of the Apothogem
“He would fuck the ghoul that tried to eat his corpse.”
An “artist” of dramatic “masterpieces” of rape and torture finally gets to test an off-color aphorism in an ironic, fitting fashion.

2-3. The Ghoul’s Child
"His hair was yellower than her eyes, his eyes bluer than her vestigial lips."
Gluttoria the ghouless dotes on her baby, while the King of Ghouls schemes to get rid of him. The story is full of point of view tricks (e.g., a woman waking up), dramatic irony (e.g., a fastidious pornographic poet finding love), funny touches (e.g., the child preferring liver to strawberries), and poignant moments (e.g., Gluttoria worshipping the sun).

2-4. The Scholar's Tale
"I began to entertain doubts about the wisdom of this adventure."
The unlikely Campbellian hero of this scary comedy is "old, fat, and slovenly" Dr. Porfat, a professor of “ghoulology” who experiences outré escapades involving an imbecilic Prince, a creepy Lady, a necromancer and his ward, a talking skull, and a pornographic manuscript.

2-5. How Zara Lost Her Way in the Graveyard
"This is not my mother!" he screamed. "This is a woman!"
A half-ghoul, half-human lad’s reunion with his “mother”; revelations about the pornographic poet Chalcedor; a reminder to be careful lest what you consume subsumes you; a romance between a resurrected whore and a missing scholar.

2-6. The Tale of the Zaxoin Siblings
"And I surely was no ghoul."
A bawdy comedy of manners turns into a tragedy of identity as a beautiful lady appeals to “Dr. Porfat” to save her repugnant brother from becoming a ghoul.

3. The Vendren Worm
"My trade is in that foulest of wares, truth."
The public, who conflate first person narrators with authors, believe that a "gentle and forgiving" writer of horror fantasy has murdered his wife (twice!) and sired a son on a corpse. (McNaughton often writes artists and writers as sardonic self-portraits.) The comedy turns to horror when the writer learns about a family worm.

4. Meryphillia
"In the presence of wonder . . . spite was impossible."
A ghouless longs to experience human love that her ghoul lover seems ill-equipped to provide, leading to an amazing finale recalling O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi."

5. Reunion in Cephalune
“Death grants no immunity from sunburn.”
This morbidly hilarious romantic comedy sets the paths of a necrophilac necromancer, a versifying pit-fighter, and an innocent newlywed to meet at the gateway between the worlds of the living and the dead. The resolution is exquisite.

6. The Art of Tiphytsorn Glocque
"I'll teach you not to fuchsia my Art, you browns!"
It’s difficult to cause a stir in Sythiphore, but the title character does so, not by purportedly killing his fishmonger father with poisoned fish eggs, but by pursuing his body decoration "Art" with too much avant-garde fervor.

7. A Scholar from Sythiphore
“Like all men, only more so, the Giants were swine."
A skeptical "antiquarian" graverobber greedy for “the coins traditionally placed on the eyes of corpses" receives a deserved revelation.

8. Vendriel and Vendreela
"Lord Vendriel had descended to the crypt to bid farewell, in that wicked man's singular way, to his beloved mother."
To create a wife "who would be both incrorruptible and uncritical,” Vendriel the Good applies his necromancy to robbing the best features of beautiful people, artistic masterpieces, and a perfect spring day. The climax is slimy and meet.

9. The Retrograde Sorceror
"Vendriel the Good believed that he had heard everything."
A fairy tale reading concubine, an illiterate childcatcher, and a jaded necromancer-king go off to see the wizard, an immortal, reclusive, and soul-eating Archimage.

10. The Return of Liron Wolfbaiter
“Things are not what they seem lately.”
With panache an aging Conan-esque mercenary slash amateur philosopher on the run runs into a vengeful aristocratic girl, an uncanny inn, a sardonic Lord, an enthusiastic boarhound, a "philanthropist" necromancer-king, and a dead dreaming poet.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • ArcaneBard
  • 29-10-18

A Masterpiece on the Subject of Ghouls

I enjoyed this book so much. As a fan of Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, I feel that The Throne of Bones is a most worthy addition to weird fiction and literary horror. Marvelous.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian Espy
  • 25-09-17

Great Horror Fiction -- Lovecraft with more tits

A great read for people that enjoy love craft and related authors. This book is original though and does not rip off or imitate other works. Only thing that sucked was googling author and finding out he is dead. Just when you find something you like... cannot have it anymore.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bill
  • 19-06-17

Bring out the ghouls!

A very well done collection of 10 interconnected, dark fantasy stories. I typically would not seek out fantasy type reads, but I have been meaning to get to this one for a long time. It was surprisingly funny with plenty of gore and much “darker” than “fantasy”.

Bring out the ghouls!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J.
  • 01-12-15

A Gateway Book...

I had never heard of this title or author. I am an avid reader of science fiction and have dabbled in fantasy, but I have rarely read a horror book when not assigned to do so. I would describe this as horror fantasy, somewhere between George R. R. Martin and H. P. Lovecraft.

I bought this title to listen to during my flights over Thanksgiving, after the recommendation from the "Stuff to Blow Your Mind" podcast. Once I started it, I had to finish it. It was addictive. In fact, I have enjoyed this collection of tales so much, that I plan to further explore horror fiction.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lucas Peacock
  • 25-02-15

Weird fiction from the pen of a master

Smacks of the best of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Howard, HP Lovecraft with a little Dunsany on the side. All the floured language Chimerical hybridizations and squamous descriptions one could hope for.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • lmauer2
  • 02-10-19

Excellent voice, poor audio quality

This book is wild, there is nothing else quite like it. It is dark and depraved, including such subjects as heavy visceral gore, necrophilia, graphic depictions of cannibalism and grave robbing. All of the taboo subjects most authors won't touch. I had no problem with subject matter, and it was very well written. The voicework is perfect for this subject.
However, with the audio production, it needs redoing terribly. The quality is awful, you hear plenty of flattening points, different volume levels, areas where it seems like the author moved closer or further from the microphone or covered the mic with his hand, though I think this is not the case and is just old or dated quality probably rerecorded digitally from a cassette or some such media. I did hear the narrator's cat of all things in the audio of the first story, which at first I thought was sound effects of the story. I give the story itself 4 to 5 stars, the narrators voice a 5, but the audio quality is barely a 1....one of the worst I have heard.

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  • TheMadDawg2070
  • 04-03-19

Wish There Were More Like This

This book.... it is much fun. I haven't physically cringed, on so many separate occasions, over the course of one book, like I did with this one. It is so much fun. If you like Love Craft and/or Robert Anderson you will like this. The stories here definitely push the boundries so if you are bother by **spoilers ahead!** Ghoul on human intercourse...well, then stay away. The times it happens I was laughing histerically once or twice and the other time or two it definitely helped show the depravity and filthiness involved with these types of creatures. AND their human worshipers/benefactors. Without spoiling anything else, I must point out before moving on to the narrator that the first and last subjects/character stories were my favorite. Those 2 being the stories of Reingard and Dendra at the beginning and then Lyrion Wolfsbaine to close out the book. I'm sure I'm butchering the spelling but when you listen you will know exactly who I speak of. Now, about the narrator. I don't think I have EVER come across a more fitting voice for a book thanWayne June is for Throne of Bones. I haven't checked yet but I am almost certain I have heard him in the game Darkest Dungeon. I will check later, but for now, just know that he is amazing. His voice is unlike anything I have ever heard. The range he has is exceptionional. He can go from a career brigand/Viking like charcter to a sultry prostitute better than anyone I have ever heard. (Surprisingly that's a jump I have experienced a handful of times). The melding of June's voice and skill narrating with these twisted historyies of the fictional town of Crotolorn is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be any time soon before I experience it again. I have thought of rereading a few books I've encountered here on audible but never have I actually done it; until Throne of Bones. I jumped back into it about a week after finishing it- and after not being able to find anything new that REALLY matched the feel one gets from this audio book. Knowing the outcome of all of these stories I have picked up new little clues and details that I didn't notice before that make the stories even better the second time. The first story alone is proof of that. I was skeptical ever so slightly of the "kindly" old Lord Thune but any skepticism I had as far as his character THE ENTIRE TIME is gone now. The cunning and charm he used to... well... I won't spoil too much. He's a real son-of-a-b... BUY THIS BOOK AND ENJOY IT NOW!