The Bones of the Earth by Scott Bury is a part of the Book Club Reading List and is truly an asset to the fantasy section of the website. Fast paced and detailed, it will keep readers hooked until the last page.
“Civilization is abhorrent to them… Civilized men learn how the world works, which gives them power over darkness and ignorance. The monsters know this and hate it. Their power is based on fear and ignorance… Knowledge banishes ignorance, banishes fear.”
The Bones of the Earth
The Bones of the Earth is a historical fantasy novel set during the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Dark Ages. Javor, a young man from a small village far from the Empire’s borders, thought his life would never change. He would marry his sweetheart, continue to work alongside his father and mother, and be content. When his girlfriend is captured by raiders, Javor and his friend set off with his grandfather’s dagger to rescue her, setting off a chain-reaction which leads to his parent’s deaths, a confrontation with an ogre, and a dragon following him home. The village elders decide to cast Javor out, convinced that the troubles that have beset their home will follow him and leave them in peace. Javor sets off for Constantinople with an old wanderer as his guide, who tells him that he has been chosen to fight monsters and the forces of darkness seeking to destroy the world.
“Of old, a race of immortals arose on the earth and they began a war to rid the earth of the monsters. Some they imprisoned deep under the earth, others they pushed into the depths of the Ocean Sea, and some they simply slew with swords and other weapons. These monster-killers traveled around the world, destroyed many monsters and earned many names for themselves: Zeus, Apollo, Gilgamesh, Herakles, Siegfried. There are many stories, and some of them are simply fabrications. But doubt not, dear boy, that all those stories have some essence of fact, or at least they once did.”
Variations on a Theme
At its heart, The Bones of the Earth has a lot in common with fantasy novels like Eragon and The Sword of Truth saga. It follows the familiar pattern of a young boy who has lead a seemingly normal life suddenly having tragedy and destiny thrust upon him and learning that he is much more than he thought he was. This theme has been played over and over in fantasy, those familiar with Star Wars or The Wheel of Time will recognize it. However, just because it has been done repeatedly, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still work. Bury has done a wonderful job of using this framework to set his story into motion, while keeping it fresh and interesting.
Are monsters sneaking up on us? Javor wondered. I never used to believe in monsters. Now I suppose I have to.
One thing that sets The Bones of the Earth apart from other novels like it is the way it incorporates actual historical places, customs, and ideas into the story. Bury has used the superstition and lore of the Dark Ages to weave a story that maintains a thread of realism and veracity in the face of dragons and demons. The details of village life at the time, the rise of Christianity, and the slow decline of the Roman Empire, all contrast nicely with vampire attacks, secret sects, and dark magic rituals. Bury has clearly done a great deal of research for this novel and it truly sets The Bones of the Earth apart from a novel of pure fantasy set in a mythical land.
Why do gods and dragons, with all their strength and so called wisdom, why do they care if men worship them?
I am giving The Bones of the Earth 5 stars for its vivid characters and intriguing plot twists. The story continues to evolve and reveal new betrayals until the very end. The ending will leave readers satisfied with the resolution of the plot, while also aware that there is more to come from Javor in the next novel.