A Tree of Bones: Volume 3 of the Hexslinger Series
by Gemma Files
Cover Artist: Erik Mohr
Review by Benjamin Wald
ChiZine Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781926851570
Date: 12 June 2012 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Tree of Bones marks the third and final volume of Gemma Files Hexslinger trilogy, an innovative fantasy trilogy that mixes a wild west setting with resurrected Mayan gods, sorcerous hexslingers, and steampunk-esque arcane science. This third volume sees the conflict between former lovers and fellow Hexslingers Chess Pargeter and "Reverend" Rook reach its climax, a conflict that in this book drags in a host of other supporting characters and literally has the fate of the world in the balance.
While Files does a decent job of juggling the many plotlines and characters introduced throughout the trilogy, at times this novel felt a little over crowded, with a few too many climactic battles and last minute saves. Still, while this novel is somewhat weaker than the previous two in the series, it is still a suitably epic conclusion to a highly entertaining series.
As the final volume in a trilogy, the plot is difficult to summarize succinctly without spoiling earlier volumes. Suffice it to say that a resurrected Mayan God named Ixchell threatens the entire world, forcing a diverse assortment of sorcerers and shamans to oppose her. The plot is fast moving, with numerous well written and evocative magical battles and confrontations. However, it feels a little unfocused at times as it tries to tie together the stories of what has grown to be quite an array of characters.
One of the strengths of the first novel was that it focused quite closely on two main characters of Rook and Chess, who are both fascinating characters, and the nature of their tempestuous relationship. While Chess is still well represented in this novel, Rook seems to have fallen by the sidelines a bit. His motivations have become somewhat obscure, and he is a less interesting character because of it. Also, the love/hate relationship between him and Chess has faded into the background of this novel, which is a shame since it was one of the best elements of the series to my mind.
In many ways, the focus of this novel is on forgiveness and reconciliation. Many characters who have been foes learn to work together and forgive, even understand, one another. Some instances of this work better than others. The added detail of the relationship between Chess and his mother, and their at least part way reconciliation, is well handled and touching. However, some other characters have similar changes of heart that are given less time and attention, and so sometimes feel overly sudden or inauthentic. I found myself wishing for at least one character to hold on to his or her grudges, if only for contrast. However, despite these quibbles, I did find the reform of the charmingly immoral Chess into someone who at least wants to do better was well handled, and manages to make him a better man without making him any less interesting, a difficult trick to manage.
Tree of Bones has a big task in trying to wrap up all the plot threads of the first two volumes, and it is not entirely successful. Some of the focus that made the first two volumes gripping is absent here. Nonetheless, Chessís character growth and development is nicely handled and quite welcome, and there is plenty of spectacle and action to keep the plot moving. Even with this less than perfect ending,
I highly recommend the series as a whole, it provides a refreshingly different variety of fantasy.