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 (IV)

Crown of Horns (2003, Book Nine, Conclusion)
Tall Tales (2010, Stories to be read afterwards)
Bone Handbook (2010, Bonus materials)

Book Nine: Crown of Horns

At the heart of this volume is the story’s resolution. Readers have waited for eight volumes (nine, if they started to read the series after its prequel was published in 2002); they’re eager to find out what happens. And the storytellers oblige.

This volume is action from start-to-stop. And, necessarily, a focal point is the characters’ allegiance. Most interesting (as it has been since the fifth volume when he was introduced), is the amorphous question of Roque Ja’s (or Rock Jaw’s) loyalty.

As here:
“We may not need to worry– Roque Ja is a mountain creature. I don’t think he’ll take sides in a valley conflict.”
“Really. He attacked you and Thorn — sounds like he picked sides to me.”
“He’s also a big cat. You can’t always explain cats.”

And so it goes. What’s impossible to discuss without spoilers is how the story winds its way towards a conclusion, but what’s fair game is to say that it’s satisfying overall.

Of course, there is no perfect conclusion, and no perfect plan, but that’s just as it should be.

“Ooh. I hate this plan. It’s a TERRIBLE plan.”

Well, admittedly, it did sound like a terrible plan. But that’s part of the fun.

Tall Tales (2010)

When I finished Crown of Horns, I set the book aside for a couple of weeks, content not to read another.

I suppose that’s a mark of a good series, one which leaves you satisfied enough at the end that you aren’t yearning for another installment.

I even debated whether I’d bother reading Tall Tales, but then I picked it up and the opening pages pulled me back in. I did, after all, want more.

And, besides, I needed to know that there are, in fact, female bones. (More correctly referred to as Lady Bones, in contrast to Gentle Bones.) Well, I wanted to know.

And, as for other matters of gender/sex, it turns out that Gentle Bones can grow scruff on their chins and Lady Bones can wear lipstick. All depends on the bone in question.

For most of this volume, the bone in question is a new one to readers of the series: “I have seen the face of terror and it is the Big Johnson Bone.”  Despite my initial resistance (call it loyalty, call it small-mindedness), I did – finally – warm up to this new bone.

And found myself laughing at unexpected bits (“If it wasn’t for the puking, I’d say that looks like fun!”)…really that’s just not normally my style of humour, but…

And laughing at the irony of the tale-telling (“Being afraid doesn’t run my life — it just offers valuable guidelines. Marching straight into the rat creatures’ cave is idiotic!”)…which is far more likely to provoke a chuckle from me than puke-jokes.

Bone Handbook (2010)

And as far as measuring my commitment to the series, not much goes further than the speed with which I snapped a copy of the handbook off the bookstore shelf.

You see, the library copy would have taken more than a year to arrive (we aren’t the only Bone lovers obviously), and this volume had taken on the feel of a rumour, a highly sought-after volume that we’d never actually seen.

One which the non-Bone-reader in me would have dismissed readily as a moneygrab on the publisher’s part.

But the Bone-reader in me leafed through the pronounced it essential reading. I was the one grabbing…grabbing it right off the shelf.

Having so freshly read the series, the volume summaries and the character lists weren’t as interesting to me as the other material. I absolutely love the Fun Facts. Like read-them-aloud loved them. (“Oh, did you KNOW?!)

And the portions by Jeff Smith, about his writing process, and by Steve Hamaker, who coloured the complete bound series, added another dimension to my enjoyment of the series.

As much as Crown of Horns felt like a fitting end, following up with these new additional volumes only added to my sense of satisfaction. Good stuff.

But now…who’s read Quest for the Spark?

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