Review by Louise Brecht
Page Street Publishing, May 26, 2020
384 pages, hardcover, $20.83 CDN, 978-1-62414-930-6
Ages 14+, Grades 9+
Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Action/Adventure
Revenge is a jealous master, Gran used to say. She meant it as a warning—a plea to always seek forgiveness instead of vengeance. But that was before Latham killed her. Before he killed my mother.
Now I’ve given my entire body—heart and soul—to my plan for revenge. I’m the handmaiden of vengeance.
There is no time for love.
As overcome by sorrow as Saskia is in the opening pages of The Bone Thief, she is fiercely determined to avenge the loss of her loved ones and to stop the man responsible for their disappearance dead in his tracks…if she can find him.
Saskia Holte lived dual lives in Breeana Shield’s, The Bone Charmer—the first book in the Bone Charmer series—but now only one Saskia remains to challenge Master Latham’s treachery and fulfill her tale of retribution. The rogue Bone Charmer who had stolen the lives of Saskia’s Gran and her mother has robbed her of their bodies and the bones that are her birthright. His nefarious omnipresence taunts her. He intends to kill Saskia as well: for her bones, for the generational magic they contain, and for the power he stands to gain from their possession.
Now eighteen, Saskia chooses Ivory Hall, her mother’s and Latham’s bone magic alma mater in Kastelia City, as the starting point for her quest. The apprenticeship she is offered will give her the anonymity she needs to research her enemy’s past, to ferret out his vulnerabilities, and ultimately, to get a bead on his location. But Saskia can trust no one. Even in hiding, Latham’s political influence is ubiquitous, and Saskia’s own abilities to read the past, present, and future are illegal. The only witness to her true capabilities is Bram Wilberg, a fellow apprentice from their home in Midwood, but Saskia questions his oath of silence to her as much as she distrusts her growing feelings for him.
In their previous reality, the pair had been bone matched, or selected as ideal mates. In this one, Bram is as oblivious to the past, to the feelings they had once shared, as Saskia is discomfited by the love tattoo that still bands her wrist, and by the heartbreaking memories that are slowly winding their way into her consciousness. Love, her mother had always warned her, takes time to nurture. Saskia’s time is consumed by her desire for revenge, and, once Ivory Hall’s bone games begin, by her determination to survive. Her team of six students—Bram included—face three daunting challenges so nefariously cat-and-mouse, they may well have been devised by Master Latham himself.
Ostensibly, The Bone Thief’s plot line is driven by the external conflict between the orphaned protagonist and her Bone Charmer adversary. Saskia’s crusade to avenge the loss of her Gran and her mother stands in stark contrast to Latham’s campaign for power. A face-to-face showdown between them is inevitable. Saskia, however, wages internal battles with herself that are far more nuanced but no less important to the crux of the author’s thesis. Bone game by traumatic bone game, Shields challenges her vengeful heroine to question life’s inequities: an absence of justice in Kastelian law, the power of psychic fear, the intrinsic values of fellowship and friendship, and ultimately, the power of knowledge.
Saskia, when the final battle begins, is just beginning to comprehend the ephemeral balance between the risks of righteous confrontation and the rewards that can attend equitable and honourable action. But has she acquired the wherewithal to change the trajectory of time? Can she set aside her quest for vengeance to protect Bram and the others who have come to her aid? Will she prevail against the older and more experienced Charmer? The climactic action is as unrelenting as the tension is palpable. There is mastery in the way Shields weaves threads of family, love, and forgiveness through her storied themes of avarice, power, and vengeance, a special touch of magic that blurs the boundaries between fantasy, fiction, and fact. This reader is spellbound by the ending that closes the curtain of this dilogy—without dimming the light of hope that Saskia Holte will, at some point, reappear.
Louise Brecht is a Creative Writing student at the University of British Columbia. An avid reader and aspiring author, Louise has published works of non-fiction, fiction and poetry in nineteenquestions, Pearls, Collage, and Sweatink.