Monday, June 02, 2008

Book Review: The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

I've seen Monette's name here and there but for the most part, this collection of short stories was a blind purchase. The Bone Key deals with the exploits of Kyle Murchison Booth which are homages to M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft. Now I'm not familiar with the former but I can attest that Monette captures the mood of the latter with this book. Even the protagonist himself is similar to Lovecraft's "heroes" although Monette improves upon the concept and provides us at the very least with an interesting character instead of simply delivering a verbose narrator who can't hold a decent conversation. There are ten stories in The Bone Key and each features an element of weirdness or horror. Unlike Lovecraft, Monette is readable even to the casual reader, although while she does improve on Lovecraft's protagonist formula, Booth still isn't one of the most sympathetic of characters.

"Drowning Palmer" was reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007 and I do agree it's one of the best stories in the collection, especially due to the length in which the story was able to develop. The reluctant hero attempts to solve a mystery, all through the lens of a high school reunion. "The Wall of Clouds" is another long story and while it utilizes some misdirection, it was executed in such a way that the ending was satisfying. I also enjoyed "The Venebretti Necklace" as Monette's hero is paired up with a foil of sorts and the story works with the numerous build-ups. Fans of Lovecraftian horror should give Monette a look as this is a decent collection of short stories with an appropriate theme.

Rating: 3/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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