The Bone Maker
by Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Length: 496 pages
About the Author: Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of over twenty fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Stone Girl’s Story. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.
Summary: It’s been 25 years since the heroes of Vos defeated Eklor and his army of bone soldiers, but, for Bone Maker Kreya, life has never been the same. With the loss of her lover, Jentt, on that fabled day, Kreya has spent her years trying—and failing—to revive him from the dead. When time runs short, Kreya calls on her old friend in arms, Zera, to help her retrieve enough bones to bring him back for good. Together, they brave the forbidden site of their legendary battle and save Jentt from death. But, it isn’t just bones they find on their journey. Eklor, the evil magician who nearly destroyed all of Vos decades before, has returned. Now, with the future of the world at stake, these three heroes must gather their former comrades and defeat Eklor one more time—before it’s too late.
Review: If there is one thing that Sarah Beth Durst has proven time and time again, it is that she can come up with a new and original fantasy concept at the drop of a wizard’s hat—and The Bone Maker is no exception. The world is fresh, lively, and so fleshed out that you can hardly believe it’s a standalone title and not a fraction of an epic series that has stretched far and wide over the years. Parts of this approach works quite well, and some of it not so much, because while Vos and the mechanics of this world are deep and rich, the reader might feel like they are only getting a glimpse of a much bigger world that, unfortunately, remains mostly unrealized by the end. With such little time spent on the history and rules of this unusual backdrop, much of what is and isn’t acceptable in this reality is taken for granted by the author, and left dangling just out of sight for the reader.
After the last page is turned, The Bone Maker feels less like a standalone novel and more like a sequel written without the benefit of a prequel, a theme that is compounded by the fact that most of the story revolves around a previous history that the reader never gets to witness in detail, as well as a returning evil they were never really taught to fear. While this by itself does not take away from what is a compelling and fun fantasy adventure with memorable, funny characters and some really engaging magical rules, it does pale in comparison to some of Durst’s other recent endeavors—her previous book, Race the Sands, notably among them. Which is a shame, because there is nothing boring or derivative about this premise, and the characters stand out as some of her most inviting and lovable, which by itself makes the book something to pick up.
Fans of magical fantasy will likely find a lot to enjoy about Sarah Beth Durst’s The Bone Maker, but those looking for a more detailed and rich universe may find this quick romp of an adventure a little shallow, especially in it’s lack of in-universe historical context. Regardless, The Bone Maker’s inventive world, memorable characters, and fast-paced narrative makes this, like most of the work Durst puts out into the world, something worthy of your time and attention.