Merchants of Light and Bone — Haunting Fantasy In A Tropical Setting

October 25th, 2023
Cover image of the post

Merchants of Light and Bone is the second novel in the Pentagonal Dominion realm. It's not connected to the first one — both are standalones. If you want to check out the first novel, Merchants of Knowledge and Magic, here goes my review.


Sorrow in paradise
A parent’s worst nightmare
When grief drives one to revenge

Living in a tropical paradise with his spouses and kids, Amiere is a merchant of light, a sculptor who carves glowing crystals into spectacular and powerful, demon-killing works of art. When the ground opens up near his idyllic village to reveal a massive supply of crystals, the whole nation of Aloutia celebrates. The merchants are guaranteed money for decades and officials predict Aloutia will be safe from demonkind for generations. But Amiere isn’t rejoicing—when the ground split apart, his seven-year-old daughter fell to her death.

Amiere’s grief turns to rage when an old enemy returns to the village with a young daughter displaying signs of starvation and abuse. Having witnessed his own daughter’s death, Amiere cannot bear the thought of watching another child die, especially when he can prevent it. Unable to ask police for help due to the village’s reputation of hostility toward authority figures, Amiere takes matters into his own hands, even at the risk of being exiled and separated from his family forever.

The book cover below includes alt-text.

Book cover of 'Merchants of Light and Bone' by Erika mcCorkle. A colorful group of people sitting next to water in a tropical environment surrounded by fish, animals and birds. A large skull or an animal (maybe a dragon or a dinosaur) stands out behind them with an open mouth and sharp teeth.


This is a unique adult fantasy novel with Erica McCorcle's trademark in-depth world-building and some dark and violent themes, including child abuse and torture (see the complete list of content warnings). The characters are interesting and multi-dimensional, and the plot is compelling. The book becomes more fast-paced in the second half. It has some neurodivergent characters, an anti-capitalist society, and an interesting discussion of gender. It is for fantasy fans who appreciate unique and detailed world-building and don't mind violence.


The book has a lot of interesting, multi-dimensional characters. We follow a family of a polyamorous trio with kids, grieving the death of their daughter and sister, and all dealing with it in their own ways. There are a number of other characters belonging to different species, and we get a glimpse of a certain Demon Lord. The main characters are likeable, but they all have flaws and secrets, which makes them more intriguing. Some of them are neurodivergent. There is an interesting discussion of gender through one character in particular. And one of the antagonists is, in his way, sympathetic because he has a good reason to do what he does despite the cruelty of it.


In-depth world-building is Erika McCorkle's specialty. She's been working on this world since she was a child, and it shows. There are so many unique details that it feels lived-in and real, and also unlike any other world out there. You know it if you've read her other book.

Don't worry, you won't be lost thanks to the footnotes and context. And if you want to dive even deeper, there are interludes with even more information about the world. You can also safely skip them — they aren't necessary to understand the story.


The plot is linear and interesting. There are a few main themes that are explored, and some plot twists that surprised me. The first half of the story is slower, and focuses a lot on grief and anger of having to deal with an old enemy. The second half becomes more fast-paced and intense, with some high-stakes and epic events.

Content warnings

This novel deals with some difficult subjects, like child abuse, torture and slavery. It's adult fantasy, so there are also quite explicit sex scenes. Like the author said in her interview with me, "...tame, boring stories don’t interest me."

Please see the complete list of content warnings provided by the author here.


I enjoyed Merchants of Light and Bone. I loved the tropical setting and the main characters' unique jobs — they are all artists in their own way. The author has created an interesting anti-capitalist society, where people work for money, but their maximum earnings are capped, so there are no big class differences, while everyone has enough to live comfortably.

[Mildly spoilery, skip if necessary]: It was quite difficult for me to watch the child abuse, and the resolution of this theme. While satisfying in a way, because the abuser deserved what he got, it was also gruesome and traumatizing for the child. It raises an interesting question of how abusers should be treated. Do they deserve a taste of their own medicine? But if they do, what becomes of the person who deals the punishment? Don't they taint themselves by becoming what they fight against? What if "civilized" methods aren't available because of the imperfection/corruption of the system? Do we just stand by and watch? And what does that make us? Those were the thoughts I had. Ultimately, one of the characters took the violent road, which was generally accepted and praised by everyone who knew. And I agree that it's better to hurt the abuser than let them hurt an innocent child. There was also a reason why it was as gory as it was, and in other circumstances, there would probably be a less violent way. However, by doing that, the character put themself and their family in danger, and they also made the child witness one of the most horrible things one could imagine. In the moral dilemma this character had, there was no right way to act, just a less bad one, and they chose to protect the child. It seems like in real life, often the opposite happens, and we as a society pretend that we don't know someone is suffering.

You might enjoy the book if you like in-depth world-building and unique worlds, polyamory and family, interesting settings, plot twists, and don't mind sex and violence in your books.

You can get Merchants of Light and Bone on Amazon.

Check out my interview with the author!

The author

Erika McCorkle is an author, avid world-builder, and consumer of all things fantasy, whether that be books, video games, or anime. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Check out her website to see character art and learn more about the Pentagonal Dominion and Erika herself.

Featured image by Dami. It shows a man with lion ears and spots on his body (Amiere, a part-lion from the story) sitting on the shore opposite a beautiful person with a fishtail lying on their stomach in the water and looking up at him lovingly with their head supported by their hand (Su, a godblood who can change his shape).

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