In Speight’s debut fantasy, Jackson Walker uncovers a secret about his identity that has life-changing consequences.
Speight’s novel opens as Commander Rang leads his elite group of soldiers to investigate an unbelievable killing spree. The country is ruled by Emperor Mal, whose reign is so viciously absolute that forgetting to bow means instant death. When Rang reaches the site of the killings, the passages that follow are chilling and tense: an old man “shirtless and covered in blood” squats in front of a pile of bodies and limbs, holding “a long white stick” in his right hand and “a severed forearm which he had clearly been gnawing on” in his left. The old man springs to life and starts stabbing soldiers who are suddenly unable to move, yet when he is felled by an arrow, he whispers “thank you” before dying. This all happens in the book’s first seven pages. Subsequent chapters stay as short and briskly paced, but follow different characters from their points of view. In this way, Speight introduces readers to the book’s true protagonist, Jackson, and about 15 other unique and well-rounded characters. Jackson is a bone master. The previously spotted Bone of Evil, along with the Bone of Light, the Bone of Healing and the Bone of Fortune, can permit travel to other worlds. Speight’s unencumbered descriptions quickly lead from one event to the next as some characters search for the bones while others are embroiled in revolution. Weaving several story lines into one seamlessly interconnected whole, Speight pulls the strings together toward a climax that, even if slightly expected, feels like there was no other possible outcome. Most of the characters are refreshingly dimensional; however, in an effort to keep the characters from becoming caricatures of good and evil, Speight may have made his villain a little too sympathetic. Mal is written as if he’s always teetering on the edge of redemption and it’s hard to wish upon him the downfall any good villain deserves.
A fast-paced novel that delivers a satisfying read.