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Bone and Jewel Creatures
Elizabeth Bear
Subterranean Press, 136 pages

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear shares a birthday with Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in central Connecticut. She lived in the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas, Nevada, but has returned to Connecticut. Elizabeth Bear is her real name, but not all of it.

Elizabeth Bear Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Seven for a Secret
SF Site Review: Dust
SF Site Review: A Companion to Wolves
SF Site Review: Undertow
SF Site Review: New Amsterdam
SF Site Review: Carnival
SF Site Review: Carnival

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Bone and Jewel Creatures Bijou is an aging Wizard -- she has been a Wizard of Messaline for eighty years. Her specialty is making creatures out of bone -- a sort of mechanical variety of magic. Her one remaining human friend is Brazen, another Enchanter. Brazen has long failed to convince Bijou to take an apprentice. Then one day he drops off a forlorn creature -- a child who has been raised by jackals, and who has had its hand poisoned. Bijou, out of a sense of duty, takes the child in and begins, in her curious way, to raise it, though it does not speak and continues to yearn for its jackal pack. Bijou also gives the child a hand.

All this, it becomes clear, is part of a plot tangle involving Kaulas the Necromancer, a more evil member of the Wizards of Messaline. And so things begin to move, and the tangle begins to unravel, and we learn a bit about Bijou's life, and how it was enmeshed with that of Kaulas, and a couple of other people, and indeed eventually Brazen. All these things also involve the politics of the desert city of Messaline, for Bijou and Brazen and Kaulas are all closely bound to the Beys of Messaline.

So much for the plot of Elizabeth Bear's lovely new novella, Bone and Jewel Creatures. The plot is nice enough, but it's not what makes the story so enjoyable. What I liked was the descriptions of Bijou's creatures, or Artifices -- pets or servants or companions, modelled on sloth or centipede or elephant. And the view of Bijou's way of working. And the interior life of the unspeaking child raised by jackals. And the dark messages Kaulas sends.

I can't place this novella within any of Bear's various previous invented worlds, though that may merely mean I haven't read the right works of this prolific writer. But I can say that it's an interesting world, or city, at any rate; and I can say that Bone and Jewel Creatures is a first-rate, very colorful, new story.

Copyright © 2010 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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