Review of Bonesmith, by Nicki Pau Preto, read by Molly Hanson


by Nicki Pau Preto
read by Molly Hanson

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2023. 14 hours, 43 minutes.
Review written December 5, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.

Bonesmith is an epic fantasy tale in a world where smiths are born with magic and affinity for working with certain materials, and Wren is a Bonesmith, able to sense and manipulate the bones of the dead. (The living have too much flesh around their bones, protecting them.) As the book opens, she is ready for her trial in the Bonewood, and successful navigation of its obstacles will win her an official position as a valkyr, who fights the undead with weapons made of bone.

But Wren’s cockiness leads to her downfall — and a position at the outskirts of the Dominions next to the border wall. On the other side of the border are the Haunted Lands and the Breach which was caused when the ironsmiths dug too far. Before Wren was born, they orchestrated the Uprising because they didn’t like being left on the other side of the wall. Fighting in that was how Wren’s war hero uncle was killed. With his death, her father became heir to the House of Bone, but he (and Wren) can never please her grandmother like the fallen hero did.

Okay, the author does a much, much better job of explaining all this and smoothly building the world than I just did here. Let me say this: Wren ends up traveling with her supposed enemy, an Ironsmith, straight through the heart of the Haunted Territories and trying to cross the Breach itself, all while trying to fight off undead revenants and rescue a prince of the Dominions, but revealing more plots as they go.

I loved listening to every minute of this. The narrator has a British accent, and her voice is delightful to listen to. I wasn’t completely sure why Wren and her father have what I think is a Scottish accent, but maybe it was to show that even though they are nobility, they’re not as posh as the prince or even the Ironsmith.

The plotting was a little clunky in places. There was a big reveal toward the end that I saw coming a mile away, but still felt somewhat coincidental. Even worse was a climactic scene that Wren witnessed that I really had trouble believing she could have watched without getting spotted herself. And in that climactic scene, all of the big reveal was conveniently spoken for her to hear. (Kind of like the bad guy in the old Batman series always explaining how he did it when he thinks he has Batman trapped.) And then she conveniently had time to grab something that helped her escape. And I should stop, because I don’t actually want to give a spoiler.

So, I wasn’t crazy about the plotting — but I loved the characters. Wren’s a delight, and so are the two companions on her journey. The sexual/romantic tension is well-done. The whole enemies-to-lovers trope doesn’t yet come to fruition in this volume, but it’s off to a perfect start with legit misunderstandings and lack of trust between them.

And yes, that reminds me that the story is only beginning. The book stops at a good stopping point, but we definitely need to find out what happens next. I will make it clear that my reservations are only minor reservations when I say that I am going to make sure I read the next volume when it comes out next August.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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