Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Bone Magician (YA)

The Bone Magician. F.E. Higgins. 2008. Feiwel and Friends. 274 pages.

How I have come to hate this place of evil, this city of nightmares. Urbs Umida they call it, Dank City, and well it deserves its name. It has taken everything that was precious to me. But I shall leave one day, soon, when I know the truth. I shall pass through those gates and it would please me greatly to not look back. Imagine, never again to inhale the stink of rot and decay, never again to see despairing eyes in the shadows, and never again to hear the name Deodonatus Snoad or to read the lies from his poisonous quill. 

Don't judge a book by its cover. Just don't.  Especially don't judge this book by its cover. (I prefer the original cover, though even that doesn't seem like a good enough cover for the contents.)

In 2009, I reviewed F.E. Higgins novel, The Black Book of Secrets. And it was love. It really was. I fell in love with the atmosphere and tone created by Higgins. I just loved his writing. Sure it was a little over-the-top, but it worked really, really well. The way he created such quirky characters, how each quirky character had a name that suited them just so.

I was not disappointed with The Bone Magician. In fact reading the Bone Magician made me want to go out and reread The Black Book of Secrets. Not to mention picking up The Eyeball Collector and The Lunatics Curse.

So in this non-sequel, readers meet quite a cast of characters. The hero is a young might-as-well-be-an-orphan named Pin Carpue. (Pin's mother is dead; his father is just on the run, supposedly because he's murdered Pin's uncle, but Pin isn't really sure that is true and Pin's father could have just disappeared the day his uncle died by pure coincidence). And the heroine is a young girl with plenty of secrets named Juno Catchpole. I could tell you that readers first meet Pin after he's been drugged seemingly unconscious by Juno and her associates. I could tell you that Pin witnesses something incredible and unbelievable: he witnesses Juno 'raising' the dead corpse in the coffin on display at the undertakers. Or I could tell you about Benedict Pantagus, Madame de Bona, Deodonatus Snoad, Aluph Buncombe, or Beag Hickory. But I won't. I think the magic of this fantasy is in letting it surprise you.

I loved this one. I just loved it. I like the writing, the storytelling, the characterization. It is just charming and funny. True, the humor could be seen as being on the dark side. And perhaps dark dramas aren't usually considered to be all that charming. But in this case, it all works. It is not as dark and as creepy as the cover would have you believe. It is not a creepy-scary book. Even if it does feature the Silver Apple killer.

An example of the writing:
Whether or not Hickory Reds were the preferred choice of a potato thrower, it was certainly true that when it came to projecting medium-sized weighty objects through the air, there was no one to match Beag. It wasn't just the distance, you understand, it was also the accuracy with which he threw them.
Beag was a man with many talents and he had left his home village at a young age to see the world, to learn, and to seek his fortune. He was not going to let his lack of stature be an obstacle and by the ripe old age of twenty-four he had achieved two out of three of his fine objectives. He had certainly traveled extensively and had written songs and poems to prove it. Aluph was not wrong in saying he was an intellectual giant. Beag had acquired knowledge that few Urbs Umidians would believe, let alone remember, and he had forgotten more than most could even know. But on the third, the matter of his fortune, Beag had been well and truly thwarted. Of all the facts he had learned, the hardest had to be that there was no money to be made from poetry and singing. But perhaps there was a living to be earned from potato throwing. Certainly it was a talent that appealed to the stunted imaginations of the Urbs Umidians. (91-92)

Read The Bone Magician
  • If setting, tone, and atmosphere are important to you; this one has it in abundance!
  • If you enjoy quirky, charming, slightly-dark, but mostly-all-in-good-fun fantasy novels
  • If you want to like Dickens but don't quite; OR if you love Dickens for his eccentric, shady characters
  • If you're looking for a good YA fantasy
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


jenclair 3:38 PM  

Sounds interesting! One of the best parts of this challenge is finding new authors, new books, new series.

Lynn 2:27 PM  

That sounds amazing - and dark fantasy - I'm sold. It's going on the list! But don't write about any more good books please!!!
Lynn :D

Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous 8:24 PM  

Whew, those are creepy covers! The excerpt sounds funny though. And I have to admit...I want to like Dickens, but don't quite. He's just such SLOW reading...

Buried In Print 8:57 AM  

Charming and funny; great combo! I like the idea of the dark humour, so I'll watch out for these.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick 5:17 PM  

This is exactly why I adore these challenges! I never would have found this title without Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge. I just decided to create a Pinterest board to collect the book reviews that spark my interest. Yours is the first on my board! I love audio books and found that it's also available as an audio as well!

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
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I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

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4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
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