*I was sent an ebook copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
I don't know about you guys, but when I really like a story I have a hard time articulating why. This is one of those books 100%. I really really enjoyed it because it was a good book. Why exactly did I enjoy it? Well, stick around to find out if I'm able to really articulate it.
Summary from Amazon:
"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 dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”'
So, first of all, the whole premise of the story is really cool and unique to me. Most of the time we read books where the big war or conflict is taking place. This book follows the heroes twenty-five years after the war where they became "the Heroes of Vos." So what the reader experiences is the emotional toll and the consequences of this war. We get to see how the characters (particularly Kreya) have adapted and changed since the war they were all thrust into so long ago. The story also fully encapsulates the idea that just because the story has ended, doesn't mean that life doesn't continue to go one. Nor is a battle always wrapped up neatly, sometimes the first battle is only the beginning. The story set forth by Durst is just so incredibly interesting and cool. It felt like something that is very unique in its premise and execution. The way she was able to show the impact that being the "legendary heroes" had on the protagonists, how it affected them mentally and how their lives changed, was amazing. The characters (both hero and villain) in general were very well done, most felt well-rounded and well-developed. They had distinct motivations, though Kreya was quite the morally grey character, which is something she struggled with. The parallel between some of her actions and those of Eklor were thought-provoking.
The magic system in the story was also very cool and unique. The magic system consisted of people known as "bone workers" who are able to use the energy in bones as a medium for performing different things. Bone wizards can make talismans that give the user some kind of ability for a limited time. Bone readers can use bones to create visions wherein they see into the future or the present. And bone makers are able to use bones to create constructs that will do whatever function they are designed for, think giving "life" to inanimate objects. It was a really cool system that was always compelling to learn about. The world-building was really good. This was a high-fantasy book with some big kind of steampunk elements. The constructs used in the cities and the ones that Kreya makes and owns are all comprised of metal and bone. A lot of gear action was going on. Durst was very generous with the history of Vos, particularly regarding the Unseen War and the culture of the society. Not to say that she skipped out on the environmental description. The physical world itself was very distinctive, the creatures within were unlike anything we have in real life.
I only have a couple of negative things to say about the book. I didn't much care for the choice to skip through a lot of the journeys. I know that this choice did keep the pace of the book relatively quick, but it was kind of jarring. They'd start a journey and then they'd be there immediately. There was always a line break to delineate the shift, but it still didn't quite sit right. The other key problem I had was with the character's behavior. All was fine for the most part, but I think that often they had the behavior and mannerisms of much younger people. Not all the time, and this may have been on purpose. I didn't really care for it though. All of the protagonists are like 40-50 but sometimes they had the behavior of people that were much younger and it just bothered me a bit. You get used to it (it's largely Zera and kind of Jentt) but it is something that feels noteworthy.
This isn't a complaint but more of a comment on the general nature of the book. I think this would have been a great sequel. I think it would've hit even harder if we had initially read about the five back during the Unseen War. If we had seen the way that they were prior to the war and were able to feel more connected with them all around. Because now I think that it's too late to go back and do that. I wouldn't want to read a prequel because the events that happen in this book would make that one feel pointless. but, if this had been a sequel it would have hit hard to see these characters that readers really loved change into something else as a result of the events of that book. Without that, we don't see as much change from them because we never knew how they behaved prior to the war (well, we know but only anecdotally). It isn't a complaint because I still really liked the book, but it's just a thought that I wanted to put out there. And I'm not saying that there is no change in the characters over the course of this book. Kreya particularly has some big development. I just mean that it would've felt like a big shift to see the characters behavior in the this book versus what could have been a first book (if that makes sense). It works very well on its own, but I just think it could've been improved contextually as a duology.
So long story short, I think that everyone should read this book. If you enjoy a fantasy novel that isn't heavy on the romance, has some fun steampunk elements, makes use of a unique magic system, and deals with some interesting themes, then pick it up. It's almost 500 pages, but I found it to be a quick read. The pacing and everything that happens kept my attention very easily especially after Kreya was back with Zera. The Bone Maker will be one of my favorite reads all year, not contest. I can already tell. Luckily, The Bone Maker is currently available in ebook, audiobook, and paperback as of today! Thank you so much to Harper voyager for sending me a eARC of this book to review! It was so good, I'm incredibly happy that I read it.