The Bone Maker


Sarah Beth Durst


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

August 30, 2021

here seems to be an abundance of fantasy novels with Bones in the title : The Bone Ships trilogy by R. J. Barker, the Shadow & Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, while Bone by Jeff Smith might be the greatest graphic novel ever drawn/written (seriously!). Now comes Durst's bone book: The Bone Maker - and I enjoyed it immensely. Previously I had read Durst's Queens of Renthia trilogy, and thought those were all good books, but The Bone Maker is a better novel: the characters are better developed, each unique and memorable. The world-building is tighter, the magic is intriguing. And the plot of The Bone Maker contains some genuinely surprising moments, and I appreciate an author who can dream up a clever twist.

The protagonist is Kreya. Kreya is a retired hero - twenty five years ago, she led a small group against the evil Eklor, a powerful bone magician who had nearly destroyed civilization with his vile constructs. During the final, successful assault against Eklor, Kreya's beloved husband, Jentt, was killed by an arrow. So although Eklor was defeated and the world celebrated, Kreya retreated to an isolated tower and dealt with her grief. In the aftermath of their desperate battle, Kreya sorted through the ruins of Elkor's stronghold; she found books where he kept notes on his illegal sorcerous research, including a forbidden spell to raise the dead.

Raising the dead breaks all the rules of bone making. Worse, the spell requires human bones. An evil sorcerer like Eklor, who has no compunctions about murdering people, easily has access to all the bones he needs. But Kreya, grieving for Jentt, has no such resources. However, it occurs to her that on the final battlefield there lies a huge quantity of bones, scattered about Eklor's fortress. But getting to those bones won't be easy - Grand Master Lorn has constructed a wall around the site, posted arm guards, and everyone is forbidden to enter. Kreya decides to contact Zera, one of the five heroes that defeated Eklor. Zera is a master at creating bone talismans - they can imbue the user with strength, speed or stealth. But can Kreya convince Zera to aid her in such an forbidden purpose, even for the greater good of resurrecting Jentt?

There is a lot that I enjoyed about this novel. Kreya was the leader of the band that defeated Eklor. She makes plans, commands the action, and leads and inspires the others, and quickly adapts when her careful plans go awry, as plans so often do. But Kreya also is compassionate and thoughtful; she considers the consequences of her deeds. Zera is outspoken and flamboyant, with cynical remarks and a devil-may-care attitude; Zera is also loyal and a fighter. Stran, another former member of the heroic five, has become a farmer, married to a devoted wife and raising a bevy of children. Marso used to be the most powerful of bone readers - able to see the future. But now Marso is broken, he doesn't trust his visions and now the former hero lives in the streets of Cerre. All the characters are fully developed, with personalities and interactions that make them seem authenticate.

The Bone Maker is a rare book that examines what happens to the heroes after the Dark Lord is defeated. The only other story that I can immediately think of that explores what happens after ultimate victory is Redemption's Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky. In Durst's book, Kreya and her crew want no further part of more adventures, they want to pass the responsibility of defeating the threatening forces of darkness off to the next generation of heroes. But what if that next generation of heroes is not to be found, and the threat is dire and immediate?

The magic system is different than I have read before (though I have not read all the books that I listed at the beginning of this novel, perhaps one of them uses magic in bones in a similar fashion.) I liked how Durst kept coming up with new aspects of bone magic, it feels as though she spent a long time thinking about this world she created, about how the magic will work and what the possible consequences might be.

This is an excellent novel. I look forward to more novels from Durst in the future; long may she write!