In no uncertain terms, this is the best book I’ve read in recent memory. My wife recommended it to me, and every time a character was in peril I messaged her demanding to know if they’d be okay and cursing her for putting this book in front of me and turning my insides into soup. It has emotion, humor, quips, excitement, political intrigue, and a setting that is both immediately familiar to Sword & Sorcery aficionados and unique and new at the same time.
In the world of The Bone Maker, bones are the highest form of magic. Through the crafting and working of bones, members of the Bone Worker’s Guild can create empowering talismans, read the future, or empower automatons for work or war. What makes the setting unique, and how my wife sold me on the story, is that it starts 25 years after the main characters have defeated the bad guy and saved the world. There’s no gathering of young saviors or a hero’s journey, all of that has already come and gone. Now you have tired and settled post-heroes trying to live their lives, whether those be defined by the breaking costs of their previous fight, or the successes that came alongside that. It is an excellent twist on familiar fantasy fare that right away changes the stakes and your relationship to the characters.
From there, things ensue, and the main characters have to fight some familiar fantasy arcs. A few things make it unique: the bone magic, which is explored deeply and convincingly, in such a way that it’s clear how this magic shapes the world. The setting, which smacks of The Beastmaster with its monosyllabic names for towns and people, its pre-historic bronze age trappings, and its spectacular technology and cities. And the main character, who has to cope with the fact that she’s old now, her knees aren’t what they used to be, and she doesn’t necessarily _want_ to be the hero anymore.
The humor could be better. I’m not a big fan of quips. It can be fun, but it’s also cheap. Pretty soon into the story you’ll learn that most mortal danger will probably have some sort of out to it, so the punches hit less and less and less. And the world becomes pretty empty if you squint at it too hard. None of that matters for the story assembled as a whole, however. It comes together to make an enchanting read that I couldn’t put down, and that inspired me to want to write and worldbuild. I can’t think of anything more fun than that last part: to read something so good you’re desperate to imitate it.
Why are you still reading this? Go pick up a copy.