Attention! “The Bone Maker” by Sarah Beth Durst contains the following: women working and fighting together, practicing the forbidden arts, heroes reuniting years later, poisonous stone fish, and bone-powered machines. Durst unleashes her imagination to its fullest potential, and her latest high fantasy novel is no exception.
Kreya steals human bones to resurrect her deceased husband Jentt. She’s been finding a way to make him alive for longer than a day. Once a commander during the Bone War twenty-five years ago, Kreya now lives her days in a tower with her constructs — mechanical birds, rag dolls, and spiders. Unable to let go of Jentt, who died during the war, she turns to the forbidden art of resurrection. But it’s hard to fetch bones from fresh human remains, especially when she doesn’t want to murder anyone. Her only hope is the forbidden zone, a land filled with human bones. And the only way to get there faster is to seek help from one of her old friends, Zera. Their journey will eventually lead to finding their other comrades after suspecting that their old enemy still lives.
I always brace myself when starting a new Sarah Beth Durst novel. Durst conjures remarkable worlds and magic systems. Her memorable characters linger in my thoughts after finishing her books. She knows what she’s doing with her ideas, and her storytelling impresses every time. Even when there are familiar high fantasy tropes like an undead army or the “Dark Lord” villain, Durst pens a fascinating story that grips you from the start.
In the world of The Bone Maker, animal bones fuel cable cars and other mechanisms. Talismans provide users with temporary abilities like strength or speed. Bone Makers use bones for magic, and Bone Readers consult bones about the future. Durst lets this fascinating world unfold naturally, revealing enough details as needed. Kreya and the other characters are complicated and dynamic. They’re middle-aged during their reunion, having made their own lives after the war, but their present journey proves that growth and reflection have no age limit.
But most importantly, The Bone Maker questions the motivations and actions that stem from grief and rage. Who deserves redemption? Who deserves forgiveness? Durst’s novel explores what makes a hero or a villain, and what makes someone too far gone.
I’ve received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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