Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review: "24 Bones" by Michael F. Stewart

Title: “24 Bones” Author: Michael F. Stewart Pages: 238 Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Standalone/Series: Standalone Publisher: Drollerie Press
Seth, Horus, and Osiris are reborn, fated to re-fight their greatest battle. Samiya, an Egyptian woman, and Taggart, a Canadian professor of Comparative Religion, have nothing in common, until they find themselves on opposite sides of a bloody war for causes neither is sure they believe in. The Balance is in jeopardy, and either The Fullness: humanity, law, and reason; or The Void: animal instinct, chaos, and death; will soon rule the world. But which is the right side? Reason has ruled for centuries. Is it time for Chaos to have a chance?
I’ve reached yet another controversial for my preferences novel and it seems the year has been passing under this sign. I keep reading novels that hit the mark, check all the boxes that make me happy and yet, I am not sure whether or not I liked the experience or not. “24 Bones” has been checking the boxes from the minute I saw the cover, which is bewitching and then there is the fact that Drollerie Press is known as a reputable small press. As far as contemporary/urban fantasy is considered “24 Bones” is different from what is on the market right now or at least from what I have encountered. With a setting that is neither in the USA or in Europe, but in less investigated Egypt, and a mythology that is mostly known for mummies in popular culture, Stewart definitely strays from known tropes and thus evades the possibility that his novel might ring a belfry worth of bells. The experience with his take on Ancient Egyptian mythology had me thrilled and it kept me reading. The mythos about the god Osiris reincarnating, when his spine is assembled, captivated me. Assembling the spine however is in the hands of the three mythical societies: the brotherhoods Shemsu Seth [the darkness] and Shemsu Hor [the light] and the sisterhood The Sisters of Isis [destined to be in the position to force balance]. And these societies are in natural opposition. Power play is unavoidable and reading about their plans, machinations and secret strategies that resurface and change the game in the last moment certainly brought me joy. Stewart has a quality to his prose that borders on poetic and adds vibrancy to his descriptions, which I vastly enjoyed. In theory, this novel should have stood around the top in my list for book in 2009, but it sticks in the middle and I can’t say exactly why. The setting is fresh and so is the representation of the ancient struggle between good and evil, which never gets old as a story model for me, because the way it’s staged always changes. However there was no divine spark that hurled me into unhealthy reading and made me leave my answering machine to take reality’s calls. I didn’t click with the characters, because the novel was divided upon too many POV protags to be healthy. There were snippets upon snippets with different characters telling a different story, which ended up almost immediately dead or were re-introduced too late on. I had I hard time memorizing the new names, piecing the situations and sifting through everybody that makes an appearance. Given that the novel is on the thinner side this seemed unwise, because it didn’t give the primary characters that thought in the grand battle to reach the desired depth and fully flesh out. I have to say that the rehabilitated Samiya, who switched sides seemed to be most explored in-depth in comparison to the other characters that appear, but still I felt that the way she switched sides was rushed and I needed to witness more scenes that mark the doubt in what her place in the world is, her transition in mindset in order to accept her new role in the story. Volume would have solved this problem for me, but then again I am always greedy for more pages in everything, so it’s my individual opinion on the matter. The best “24 Bones” did for me? I got shown a glimpse into a mythology that people rarely show interest or appreciate for its value. I hope you listen to me vampire lovers. The worst the novel did for me? It poofed right off my memory, when I was done with it. Overall not a bad book, but as it turned out not the work to rock my world. However I do recommend it for the people that are dying to read something with Egyptian elements. There is much action and full blown wars going on in there.


SQT said...

I have this problem all the time. It's like too much of a good thing. When I find myself going "meh" with a book I would normally love, I have to put it down and leave it for later. I usually like it much better the second time around.

This does sound interesting though.

Harry Markov said...

To be honest I am not sure whether I would have the time to do that and I have this personal conviction never EVER to re-read. It's just something I can't do at all.