Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Jeff Smith’s The Bone Series (II)

Eyes of the Storm (1994, Book Three)
The Dragonslayer (1995, Book Four)
Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border(1997, Book Five) 

Yesterday I chatted about the the first three books in Jeff Smith’s Bone series (beginning with the wonderful prequel, Rose): no spoilers, so do have a peek here.

Bone 3: Eyes of the StormWe get along well with the pages between us, but Fone Bone and I wouldn’t have much to say when it comes to Bookchat. He doesn’t seem like much of a reader, despite his love of Moby Dick.

But I do have a soft spot for a suitor who reads to his beloved. Even if he is reading from Moby Dick. So the opening of the third volume of this series only solidified my growing fondness for Fone Bone.

Though there is little time for book-reading in Eyes of the Storm. At least readers (and other interested parties) can, however, begin to piece together what’s happened in the past.

“It started back in the big war…we were fighting the rat creatures over who owned the valley. We had it and they wanted it.”

The politics are still sketchy, but what’s clear is that the opposing force is definitely not all rat-creature-ness.

That works for me (the rat thing was just too easy). As does the slightly-less-Barbie-ish Thorn, who seems poised to grow into something not-quite-expected and more interesting than some of the panels in the last two volumes seemed to suggest.

My Buried-in-Print girls would answer differently, but my favourite character at this point is Granma Ben…

Bone 4: The Dragonslayer

…and perhaps that’s why this isn’t my favourite book in the series. Granma doesn’t play much of a role in the story. But Ted does play a major role and he’s probably my next favourite (isn’t that the best part of a series…having so many ‘friends’ to keep track of?)

Granma is kinda off doing her own thing (about which I can say little without offering heaps of spoilers alongside).

Which is really the whole point of the fourth book in the series…keeping the characters splintered, messing with alliances that you thought you could trust, leaving others apart to be marvelled at.

But one character you can count on is Smiley: “It’s not like you’re actually doin’ anything about the dragons! Maybe they’re waiting’ to see if you’re really gonna slay one! HEY! THERE IT IS AGAIN! DID YOU HEAR THAT?”

That? It’s the sound of Fone Bone calling for help.

And he is…off the page and in the dark.

And Smiley is off to assist.

Book 5: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border

But now it’s certain: whatever the reason that I didn’t enjoy the fourth book, it wasn’t that Granma Ben wasn’t in it much.

Granma Ben wasn’t in the fifth book at all, and, so far, it’s my most favourite-est.

And you know how I said I was ‘interested’ after the first book and ‘invested’ after the third?

Well…after the fifth I was hooked.

This volume opens with Fone Bone, Smiley Bone, and Bartleby on the move. Smiley Bone asks Fone Bone: “Will you read us some Moby Dick? I wanna teach th’ little guy how to take a nap after lunch.” When Fone Bone objects (“Hey! This is a work of art, not a sleeping aid!”), Smiley responds: “Ooh! Debating its merits! Even better!”

So I was laughing before the end of the first chapter (because I haven’t even told you the best parts, which actually had me laughing out loud, even when I read it for the second time).

There is another part of the story that had me in a similar state, and I shan’t spoil it, but it revolves around this line, “Roderick’s missing? Anybody seen Roderick?” (which will be enough if you’ve actually read the stories, but not too much if you haven’t).

What makes the humour really work for me, though, (and it’s not just that I don’t get out much), is that I just want things to work out for the characters we’ve gotten close to, so I take the relief from their struggles to heart.

Just as when things weigh heavy for them (as they do in the final pages of the book, when one character’s worry oozes out of the panels with his solitary shape against the dark sky), I itch to find out what will happen.

I don’t yet know how I feel about our title character: “My name is Roque Ja, not Rock Jaw, and you needn’t worry about where my sympathies lie…”

But I’m curious. Yes, indeed.

What do you think it is that really HOOKS you on a series? Or do you avoid them as a bookish rule?

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