Audiobook Review: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: HarperAudio (March 9, 2021)
Length: 16 hrs and 35 mins
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
The Bone Maker is the sort of book you don’t see too often, in that it features an “aftermath” story. That is, the battle of epic proportions has already happened. The good guys prevailed, while the evil villain was vanquished forever. Everyone rejoiced and went home happy.
Or did they? Twenty-five years ago, a renegade bone maker named Eklor used his corrupted magic to raise an army of monsters against the realm. Five heroes, led by their leader Kreya, managed to defeat him but at a great cost. Only four of them came out alive, and the fallen was none other than Kreya’s beloved husband Jentt. As the rest of the world celebrated the survivors, celebrated their victory, Kreya retreated into solitude with her grief.
But what no one knew was that Kreya had a plan, one that could destroy her if she was discovered. For Jentt’s body had not been burned according to tradition, which was designed to prevent human bones from being collected and worked by magic. Any bone maker caught doing so would be committing the highest crime of their order, but that was exactly what Kreya had in mind. Before his death, Eklor had developed a method using human bone to resurrect the dead, and unbeknownst to all, Kreya had stolen away his grimoire and perfected the spell. All this time, she had kept Jentt’s body with the goal of one day bringing him back to life.
Still, human bones being so difficult to come by, she had never been truly successful, bringing him back for only days at a time. For the spell to last, she will need a large store of bones, and there is only one like that in existence—the very battlefield where Eklor was defeated all those years before. Problem was, getting there will be dangerous, not to mention an unforgivable violation of the law. For her to have any chance to succeed, Kreya will need help. But after so long, will any of her old comrades still heed her call, especially once they find out what she’s been up to?
Not too many authors can pull off a story like this, but I was confident that if anyone could, it would be Sarah Beth Durst. I’ve been a huge fan since The Queen of Blood, and once again she has shown me why I adore her work. One of the reasons why The Bone Maker works so well is its concept. Sure, the beginning of the book may have a “postscript” feel of sorts, but once readers are introduced to Kreya and her current dilemma, we are quickly made to care about her new purpose. For even though the great battle against Eklor happened a quarter of a century ago, the tale unfolding now is a more personal one. After all, we don’t often get stories about what the heroes get up to after the final showdown, but Durst explores a possible outcome that is not so glorious, where the winners don’t all get to live happily ever after.
Another reason why I think this story has legs is the way it flowed, almost like a great season of a TV show, in an episodic fashion. Once a conflict was resolved, another one would swiftly arise and continue the momentum of the plot. Past and present ultimately came together, filling in the gaps of the last twenty-five years and beyond, including world-building details and specifics related to the fascinating bone-based magic system. Gradually, it was revealed that maybe things hadn’t ended the way our heroes thought at all.
Of course, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the characters. A middle-aged widow, Kreya isn’t your exactly your typical epic fantasy heroine, though writing unconventional albeit ferociously strong and well-developed female protagonists happens to be Durst’s forte. Case in point, I didn’t always agree with Kreya’s motivations and actions, but I could understand where they came from, thanks to the incredible layers of nuance woven into her character. Along the way, we also got to meet her old team, in a process that was very reminiscent of Kings of the Wyld. While each member had moved on, achieving various levels of success and stability (or lack thereof), all of them were affected by the war in some way. As far as “old gang getting back together” stories go, this one wasn’t anything too different, but the unique backgrounds and personalities of all those involved kept things fresh and interesting.
I know that I say this about pretty much all of the author’s books, but you really must read The Bone Maker to experience the wonder and surprises for yourself. Sarah Beth Durst has managed to pull off a challenging narrative by putting her characters first, building a riveting story around their lives while imbuing past and the present with the weight of history and complex magic. Truly, I never wanted this journey to end.
Audiobook Comments: My hat’s off to Soneela Nankani, who gave a fantastic performance. I believe this might be my first audiobook with her narration, but I’ll certainly remember her the next time. An excellent listen, and highly recommended.