Desa Kincaid set out to save her world from the machinations of a madman.
Now, she finds herself a prisoner in her own city, navigating a web of political intrigue. Hope beckons in the form of the mysterious Spear of Vengeance, a weapon forged by the gods.
To recover it, Desa will take a journey into the very heart of the ancient world and confront an enemy more powerful than any she has faced so far… Her own guilt.
I received a Kindle version of this book in return for an honest review.
Described as a Sci-Fi Western, Bullets and Bones opens with a prologue in which Bounty hunter Azra Vanya is chasing and catching her prey through a narrow canyon.
We then move into the main story, written in third person with different characters being focused on as we learn more about each of them.
Desa Kincaid is in jail in her home city of Aladar. She is a Field Binder able to use the Ether to infuse items with forces and make them blow apart, illuminate, or become extra susceptible to gravity.
We learn from one of her companions that she is particularly good at this
“Almighty preserve us,” Kalia whispered. “She’s so fast…”
“She’s one of the best Field Binders Aladar has ever known,” Miri replied.R. S. Penney
It turns out that Desa has been away from her home city of Aladar for a decade and much has changed in her absence. There are now cars and electric light, for instance. She left to chase and try to stop a Field Binder called Bendarian who found a way to use another form of the Ether (referred to as the nether) differently, making him more deadly. It seems people able to use the Ether in this way are susceptible to being possessed by a more powerful being. Adele Delarac has now also discovered how to do this and been possessed by a powerful entity calling itself ‘The Weaver’. She has sent the deadly bounty hunter Azra Vanya after Desa, who is determined to leave Aladar once more and go to stop Adele.
I was told I would not need to read the first book in this series first, in order to follow the story – but I think that was doing a disservice to the author. The magic system in this story is well thought out, but it is complicated and I wish I had read book one first to be able to understand it better. It took about half of this book for me to feel like I understood it. There are also a large number of characters whose relationships are not clear without reading the first book first. I will read book one and then reread this one at some point.
There are some exciting western style fights between Desa and other characters, some of which take place in a typical western style dusty road setting in Aladar. However these fights are not between gunslingers but magic users who also happen to carry guns.
Some of the characters are described as dressing in a similar manner to typical western gunslingers too:
Marcus still wore dungarees and a duster, and he still carried a pistol on his hip. The wide-brimmed hat atop his head did him no favors either.R. S. Penney
Once Tommy, one of Desa’s companions who came with her to Aladar, has discovered how to sense the Ether, he gains confidence as a character and Desa begins to train him in Field Binding:
That was the key. The shape of the lattice determined what the Infusion would do, and the thickness of the strands determined how strong it would be.R. S. Penney
At the end of Part 1 of the book, around 50% through, there is a big fight between the heroes and the Eradian militia, who are acting on the Weaver’s command by invading Aladar. During this fight Desa discovers how she might be able to defeat Adele once and for all.
The descriptions of the fights are very well done and make them easy to visualize, lending a cinematic feel to them.
Tommy has discovered he is also a talented archer which helps him to gain even more confidence and the character develops into a more assertive self confident fighter, an asset to Desa’s band of heroes.
Aladar has a well thought out history and mythology. It turns out that some of the mythology is actually history and Desa and her companions will need to seek the legendary Spear of Vengeance in order to defeat Adele. They embark on a quest through many different lands in order to find the spear and encounter both monsters and ghosts along their way.
I would recommend Bullets and Bones to most fans of Sci-Fi and fantasy genres. The western elements make it a little more interesting than the average ‘group of companions going on a quest’ story. There are a lot of nuanced romantic relationships going on in the story as well which is unusual for a quest type of story, but I did not find it distracted from the main story arc. I would suggest that readers start with book 1 before reading this one. There is also a lot of diversity, both cultural and sexual which was a particular goal for the author and he certainly achieved it. The writing style was easy to read and made the book difficult to put down.
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About the Author
I grew up in Southern Ontario, and I’ve been writing fiction since I was sixteen. When I first started out, I planned on writing epic fantasy in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien or Robert Jordan, but I quickly discovered that I don’t have the patience to thrive in that genre. I’ve never been all that fond of describing long treks through the countryside. So I took the characters I love and brought them into a modern setting. I’ve always been an advocate of diversity in fiction. I remember noting, at the age of sixteen, that one big problem in epic fantasy is the fact that all the characters are white. So I try to create a cast populated by people of all genders, ethnicities and orientations. If you like genre bending stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll love my books.