on April 28, 2016 :
I chanced upon A Treasure of Bone & Promises as I was browsing www.mythopoeticgames.com, the author’s website devoted to his own (free) roleplaying games. If you happen to like both roleplaying games and this novella, you might want to check out Wayfarer’s Song on the website.
Back to the review! The genre of A Treasure of Bone & Promises is fantasy, but not really "epic" or even "heroic" fantasy, either in tone or content. Forget The Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire. A Treasure of Bone & Promises reminds me of The Chronicles of Prydain, and The Hobbit (though not The Lord of the Rings). Essentially, it has a quaint feeling, quite unlike most fantasy books of today. Although it has its moments of darkness and suspense, it’s never “shocking” — no gore, no sex, no brutality. It’s a novella that one would not be ashamed to recommend to one’s grandmother or to a child. Characters think and speak and act like characters from faerie stories, not like modern-day people that go to "couple therapy" when they have "issues about their relationship with their significant one". Just in case it's not clear, I think this is a great (and rather rare) quality: it does not make the characters feel any less real, but it does make the setting feel magical. The tone is sometimes slightly tongue-in-cheek, but again, in the way some old faerie stories are.
The characters are nicely fleshed-out, and engaging, if not incredibly original. The story itself has a good pace, neither too slow nor too fast. It has a few twists that keep it interesting even though the ending is somewhat predictable. In general, there are many cliches sprinkled all over the place, in terms of both characters and events — but they neither bothered nor bored me, feeling more like purposeful literary citations than plagiarism or plain lack of originality. The background setting is somewhat generic and vague; I had the impression that the author did not put into thinking about it nearly as much effort as most fantasy authors do today. This is probably fine for a short standalone story, but A Treasure of Bone & Promises is supposed to be the first installment of a much larger body of work, which might require some more serious world-building (kept mostly behind the scenes) to avoid feeling shallow.
One nitpick I have is about punctuation and sentence structure which in a very few places have an unpolished feel reading a bit like this sentence if you get what I mean it’s mostly lack of commas where one would expect them but not just that. Alright, it’s not quite *that* bad, and it only happens here and there, but it did annoy me to no end.
Summarizing, although not the most innovative fantasy work I’ve seen, A Treasure of Bone & Promises is a pleasant and engaging read for all ages, and if you liked The Hobbit and/or The Chronicles of Prydain it might be just your cup of tea.
(review of free book)