#ATBR2022 – Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the free copies in exchange for our honest reviews

ROAD OF BONES – Christopher Golden (Released January 25th, 2022)

Book Description:

A stunning supernatural thriller set in Siberia, where a film crew is covering an elusive ghost story about the Kolyma Highway, a road built on top of the bones of prisoners of Stalin’s gulag.

Kolyma Highway, otherwise known as the Road of Bones, is a 1200 mile stretch of Siberian road where winter temperatures can drop as low as sixty degrees below zero. Under Stalin, at least eighty Soviet gulags were built along the route to supply the USSR with a readily available workforce, and over time hundreds of thousands of prisoners died in the midst of their labors. Their bodies were buried where they fell, plowed under the permafrost, underneath the road.

Felix Teigland, or “Teig,” is a documentary producer, and when he learns about the Road of Bones, he realizes he’s stumbled upon untapped potential. Accompanied by his camera operator, Teig hires a local Yakut guide to take them to Oymyakon, the coldest settlement on Earth. Teig is fascinated by the culture along the Road of Bones, and encounters strange characters on the way to the Oymyakon, but when the team arrives, they find the village mysteriously abandoned apart from a mysterious 9-year-old girl. Then, chaos ensues.

A malignant, animistic shaman and the forest spirits he commands pursues them as they flee the abandoned town and barrel across miles of deserted permafrost. As the chase continues along this road paved with the suffering of angry ghosts, what form will the echoes of their anguish take? Teig and the others will have to find the answers if they want to survive the Road of Bones.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Oh the ROAD OF BONES.  Sounds terrifying… and it IS. Considering this is an actual real thing. *shiver* I’m happy to go there via my mind as I read than to ever think about going there in person.  Oh, who are we kidding, of course I’d probably go.

Anyways…. at 240 pages, this is a fairly quick read.  The opening lends to the atmosphere you’ll feel throughout every single page… though with such a vivid description of the Road of Bones and what it entails, I expected more of the paranormal/skeletons rising type story instead of the animalistic shaman story we got instead. Not bothered, at all (though rising skeletons killing travelers makes for a great visual, just sayin’).  What kept me reading the most? The catatonic little girl who has been left alone in an abandoned village – I desperately needed to know what, where, why and how!  I was just a teensy, eensy bit let down with the *monsters* when it was all said and done to be honest but that’s a me thing and might not be yours. 😉  

Come for the monsters, stay for the atmosphere and claustrophobic feel of being chased and contained. The Road of Bones is a bumpy one but worth the bumps you do get (my terrible way of talking about goosy skin… I’ll see myself out now).

My Thoughts: 5/5 stars

Finally, a 5 star read this month! I was drawn in by this incredibly eerie and creepy cover and thankfully the story was just as captivating and foreboding. One thing I did not realize going into this book (because most times I don’t remember the synopsis) was the the Road of Bones is an actual thing and the history behind it is honestly gruesome and terrifying. Reality is always stranger than fiction, right? Well, along this road were 80 or so of Stalin’s Soviet gulags. The prisoners of theses camps were forced to build this road so that Soviet supplies could be transported and due to the permafrost and horrible conditions they could not bury the bodies in graves, so the road was literally built on top of them. A literal road of bones lays beneath the gravel and rock. And this is hundreds of thousands of prisoners that were forced to work on this and then later buried underneath.

This story was as unsettling as the road’s history. The characters were well-developed and the frozen surroundings gave you the feeling of isolation. I would definitely categorize this as more horror than a thriller. The short chapters make this book fly by and this was the book I desperately needed. How perfectly timed for when Minnesota’s temperatures plummet into the negatives. Highly recommend and I will be getting more from Golden in the future.

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