Published: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: 496 (Paperback)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
From award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst, a standalone epic fantasy set in a brand-new world of towering mountains and sparkling cities, in which a band of aging warriors have a second chance to defeat dark magic and avenge a haunting loss.
Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived.
Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice—for each day he lives, she will live one less.
She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned—as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.
But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.
Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should be dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”
Five heroes went to kill the corrupt bone maker Eklor, and when he was defeated only four returned. Jentt, the quick and nimble thief, died to save another. His wife Kreya, the leader of their heroic party, has hidden herself away in a remote tower for decades following his death where she has been learning how to resurrect him. The only hitch in her plan is finding the human bones required to bring Jentt back to life and to do that she must cross the wall, to the field of the last battle. Of course, all of this is illegal and if Kreya were caught she would be summarily burned, just as the dead traditionally are treated… good thing she’s resourceful and has old friends that can be called upon!
Fair warning, the paragraph above is only the smallest fraction of The Bone Maker’s plot which I thought was pretty damn delightful. This book absolutely did not go in the direction I expected it to which kept me turning pages late into the night. How could I put it down when the evil guy might not actually be dead!? And then, the characters were absolutely fascinating. The whole gang reunited once again, proving how massively surviving such a harrowing ordeal can screw up a person’s psyche. I got unexpected Kings of the Wyld vibes from this book but with less humor. The whole “reuniting the gang of retired heroes to fight the big evil” schtick is absolutely one of my favorite things in fantasy.
Let’s talk a bit about the characters now. Kreya, of course, has been an unkempt hermit for at least a decade and she has her husband’s corpse in a spare bedroom at the start of the book. She’s also got creepy constructs doing tasks about her dilapidated wizard tower. Very mad scientist/magician vibe. Jentt has been a corpse on and off for a while now, but once he’s revived he’s definitely the more stable of the two. Zera, Kreya’s best friend, has become an obscenely wealthy bone maker, creating talismans that grant abilities like speed, flight, stealth and so forth. She’s excellent, and doesn’t hold back on how she feels about Kreya abandoning her after the battle ended. Marso was the bone reader of the group and he’s practically raving mad when they find him naked in a fountain. He was seeing things he thought for sure couldn’t be true. Stran, the muscle of the group, has turned into a doting father and loving husband who assists his terrifying competent wife Amurra in running their farm. I love the variety we get with the characters and their chemistry when they reunite is amazing.
This was a brilliant book and Sarah Beth Durst is cementing her place as one of my favorite fantasy authors. She writes epic standalones that leave you completely satisfied at the end. I’m considering returning to the Queens of Renthia series to complete it, despite my lackluster feelings about the first book in that series because everything else I’ve read is SO GOOD. As I mentioned previously, I think this book would be perfect for fans of Kings of the Wyld or anyone searching for a fantasy focusing on the aftermath of victory. I can’t recommend this enough!