The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
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.”
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Heroes don’t just disappear after they save the world.
They still have a story, albeit sometimes not an exciting one. For the last twenty-five years, Kreya has kept to herself, avoiding all the other people of Vos in search of a way to bring her husband back from the dead, even at the cost of years off her own life. He fell in the very same battle that made their team heroes, and it has haunted Kreya ever since.
But a journey to resurrect her husband leads to a deadly discovery, and before long, Kreya must bring her team back together in the face of impossible evil. Apparently, being a hero is a lifelong occupation, even when it’s been a quarter of a century and at least one of you ought to be dead, strictly speaking.
“Patience, she decided, is for people unaware of their own mortality.”
The shining star of The Bone Maker is, naturally, the cast. The core five characters are a bone maker (who uses bones to animate constructs), a bone wizard (who enchants talismans with different powers), a bone reader (who can see the past, present, and future in the bones), a reformed thief, and a strongman with a heart of gold. Individually, they’re interesting in their goals and flaws, but together, they make up a legendary team, one that once protected the nation of Vos from certain doom.
Most importantly, though, they’re friends.
I absolutely loved the banter between them all, especially Kreya and Zera, because you could always tell when it was loving banter, or when it was sharp to cover up fear or insecurity. And when there wasn’t banter, there was sometimes a state of flow between these characters, a familiarity born form years spent together, from trusting each other with their lives. And when there wasn’t flow, it was because twenty-five years sometimes leaves a divide that needs a little extra effort to heal.
In short, the characters make this book. You don’t care about Vos being saved primarily because it’s the right thing to do. You care about it because the team cares about it. They’re making the hard decisions so no one else has to. They’re carrying the pain and suffering so future generations of Vos won’t. At heart, every last one of them is a good person seeking to do what’s right, and it makes a nice change of pace from doom and gloom stories where there is no right way forward, no way to avoid becoming like the villain in the end.
You can’t spell necromancer without romance!
Strictly speaking, The Bone Maker is not a romance novel. In fact, the romantic elements mostly boil down to deep love and devotion, some cute kissing, and a couple implied sex scenes that don’t actually go down on the page.
But can I just say how delightful it was to have these characters hit the page with established relationships that held up? No major drama about whether they’d stay together, no big fights and refusals to communicate. Sure, there was some friction now and again for very sensible reasons (namely love and concern for a partner’s wellbeing), but they were in love! And happy! And taking on the world together!
Basically, if you’re not going to give me slow-burn enemies to lovers, then I hope you give me something like this: established lovers supporting each other in the face of the end of the world. They know the costs, the risks, but they’re standing by each other to the end to do the right thing, and it makes me turn to emotionally mushy jelly in the best way! 🥰
The Bone Maker is out now, and ready to charm its way into your heart!
If you’ve ever enjoyed Gideon the Ninth or any story with a hopeful, happy ending (or if you like both, both is good), then The Bone Maker might be for you! Between its fascinating applications of necromancy, its charming and full-hearted characters, and a big bad worth the big showdown, I can’t recommend it enough. Plus, it’s a standalone! There’s no waiting to see how the team’s story continues, because this is the continuation of their story, the result of their heroic efforts.
But honestly, if you were just in it for the bone magic, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s pretty sweet. 💀
CW: loss of a loved one, child death, nudity, gore, animal death, self-harm, graphic injury, violence