Fantasy Book Review: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

Fantasy Book Review

The Bone Maker
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Genres: Epic Fantasy
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

The opening of The Bone Maker is such a poignant scene of Gothic sorrow, one that's verging on Shakespearean levels of madness, I was immediately intrigued. By the end of the fourth chapter, with its painfully awkward reunion between Kreya and Zera, tragically estranged heroes, and embittered friends, I was hooked. 

At that point, I was only expecting a sort of quest adventure to recover the forbidden bones and resurrect Jentt - fallen hero, husband, and friend - but what Sarah Beth Durst has so deftly crafted is the epilogue to an epic adventure. It's a story about what happens after the climax, when the heroes are left to pick up the pieces of their ordinary lives. In many ways, it's a story of friendships and second chances, but it's also a story about the end of a legacy, the acceptance of one's own mortality, and the pursuit of immortality.

The characters are as much the body of the story as the soul. They're fantastic personalities who get inside our head, making us care (deeply) for their sacrifices, their fears, and their futures. At the same time, they represent a cross-section of retired heroism. Kreya, their leader, has retreated into seclusion and neglect, and become entirely consumed with her dead husband. Zera, her best friend, has gone the other way, embracing her legacy to become the vain, shallow, wealthy celebrity she always despised. Marso has fallen into dirty, hermit-like madness, unable to cope with the frayed, dangling threads of their victory, while Stran is the only one to have found a comfortable retirement, living quite happily with his new family on a farm. Jentt, of course, is dead, which leaves him sort of frozen in time, a hero still in his prime and at the height of his purpose.

Then, of course, there are Kreya's rag doll constructs, which are a welcome (if surprising) source of humor and empathy. They're small things with a small role, but I guarantee you'll stand up and take notice every time they appear on the page. It's not steampunk but bonepunk, and the contraptions that Kreya crafts throughout are a welcomes source of wonder and delight.

While plenty of books (and movies) have explored the cliché of getting the old team back together for one last mission, Durst makes it compelling by putting the doubts, fears, and uncertainties of it all front-and-center. These characters are older, they're damaged, and the trust they once had in one another isn't quickly restored. For that matter, the world isn't even convinced it needs them anymore, which is all tied up in a theme of redemption that raises questions of just what horrors we're willing to forgive for the right price.

There are three narrative arcs to The Bone Maker, with the transitions between them transforming the story, keeping the reader wondering where it's all headed. There were genuine surprises here, twists and reveals I didn't see coming, but which are completely in line with the themes being explored. How you build a satisfying climax to a story that's all about what happens after the climax is a challenge, but Durst does a stellar job of navigating all the action, bone-magic, death, and undeath to find a new path to resolution. Highly recommended.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Reading this one right now, and hoping to finish it up today. It is so good, I'm having a great time with it!

  2. I will definitely add this one to the list. I love your review.
    Lynn :D


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