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Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596062740
Date: 31 March 2010 List Price $20.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

A charming fantasy novella by award-winning Elizabeth Bear, Bone and Jewel Creatures portrays an Arabian Nights tale of wizards, their creations, and a wild child raised by jackals. Bijou the Artificer makes and animates creatures of bone and enchanted jewels that she endows with a form of life to provide needed services. Those she creates for her own use give her loyalty and affection. The creatures she builds on commission for the wealthy provide sufficient income to support all her work.

Once Bijou's apprentice, the wizard Brazen finds technology fascinating and uses it to create his artificial automatons. He worries about her as age takes a heavy toll. Having reached almost the century mark, she refuses to rest and take things easy. She relies only on her artificial creatures.

Brazen, brings her an injured child with a deformed hand now riddled with an infection. Bijou cannot save the hand, but she can cure the child. Bijou discovers the source of the infection came from a venomous puss moth. She suspects her old enemy and former lover, Kaulas the Necromancer. He also sired Brazen.

The child, a wild creature without the power of speech, triggers Bijou's protective instincts. Once harbored by jackals, the child slowly succumbs to the care and food Bijou lavishes on her. She explores Bijou's workshop and finds Bijou's creatures fascinating.

A plague of diseased animals and humans spreads throughout the city of Messaline. Kaulas, nearing the end of his life, seeks to prolong it as long as he can and to eliminate those he considers rivals and enemies. He causes pestilence among humans and animals, taunting Bijou with vague signs and clues.

Brazen might almost be classed in steampunk, but Bijou fits the more traditional fantasy wizard type with a few twists. Bear portrays the warmth between Brazen and Bijou, between her, the child, and Bijou's creatures, and the child with her jackal family. The narrative flows well and the relationships and threats will hold readers interest.

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