________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2005


The Bonemender.

Holly Bennett.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
203 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-336-2.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Libby McKeever.

***½ /4

Reviewed from advance reading copy.


"Your friend is alive but dangerously weak from loss of blood," she explained. "If we move him off this horse now, it will open the wound and make him bleed more. I'm going to stabilize him right here, seal the cut blood vessel, before we move him. It will take some time, all right?" She glanced up looking at the stranger full in the face for the first time.

He looked different. There was nothing she could put her finger on, though he was disconcertingly handsome. Long dark hair, straight brows, luminous grey eyes, a grave manner. Nothing you couldn't find in a local village, well, except maybe those striking eyes. Yet Gabrielle was oddly sure he was not from Verdeau.

He stared at her and his brow cleared. He smiled with a kind of wonderment. "You're a healer." A statement, not a question. "I never hoped to find such a one in a place like this."

She thought back to that afternoon's war council. The troops, she had been told would start to muster in a fortnight and begin the trek to the Krylian foothills by month's end. "What if they don't come, after all this?" It was Poutin. "What if all this fuss and expense is for nothing?"

"They will come." Gabrielle surprised herself by voicing what she had only meant to think. "What makes you so sure?" snapped Poutin. How she wished she had said nothing. "I have dreamed it," she confessed.

In her dream, Gabrielle struggled to join together a rising tide of dismembered bodies. They were everywhere, awash with blood-legs, arms, trunks, and worst of all, heads, crying and imploring her-the more she tried to match them up and piece them together, the more they piled up around her. In the backdrop of her dream, the battle rages, unseen, but terrifying, unquestionably real. She was sure now. The Greffaires were coming.


Gabrielle is unique amongst her peers; she a princess in the royal household of Verdeau, unmarried at 27 and a bonemender of such exceptional talent that she is able to knit damaged tissue together with concentrated thought. Loved by her family, she cherishes a special bond with her younger, fun-loving brother Tristan who is able to lighten the mood of this serious, talented healer. Though very gracious, Gabrielle's solemn demeanor has left suitors a little rattled and unsure, and it appears that her life is mapped out before her, one of devotion to her family and her craft. That is until one day two lone Elvin scouts appear at the palace, one of them in desperate need of her skills. During the elf's subsequent convalescent period, the royal household learns that the Kingdom of Verduea and the entire Krylian Basin is threatened by imminent invasion from the Greffaires, the ruthless countrymen from Gref Oris, a land bordering the inhospitable mountains to the north.

     Gabrielle is drawn to these Elvin men, and she is shocked to discover that she shares their uncanny deep understanding of each others thoughts, something she hasn't known before. In particular, the elf Féolan forms a bond with Gabrielle that stirs the seeds of bourgeoning love. The news of the threat of invasion soon throws the Krylians into a desperate turmoil, a race to gather troops from neighbouring kingdoms to ensure their survival. Their only hope seems to be to form an alliance with the elves, but, with little interaction or understanding between the two races, this alliance appears unlikely. Gabrielle is also facing an internal turmoil as she finds herself pulled between duty, family and love. Her heart is tested further when she inquires about elfin life and Féolan reveals that their average life span is 300 years. The notion of a life with Féolan, who would seem ageless as he watched her wither and die, causes Gabrielle to turn from her heart's desire and bury her hurt in her work.

     Bonemender is a captivating fantasy tale that delivers warm, believable characters who continue to develop throughout the book. Bennett's tale contains added depth as she allows readers an informed look into the bonemender's apothecary with detailed description of their healing procedures and methods. In addition, as we travel with Gabrielle to the Elvin city, we are enchanted by new characters that reveal the mysteries of their enchanted lives. Young readers will enjoy reading this tale of courageous heroes, charming characters and intense battles. Readers will no doubt anxiously await the sequel, The Bonemender's Oath, to continue to enjoy the account of Gabrielle's quest for love with Féolan, the unfolding of her true identity and the inevitable bloody clashes that plague the territories.

Highly Recommended..

Libby McKeever is the Library Assistant at Whistler Secondary School, in Whistler, B.C., a Library Technician student, and an avid fantasy reader.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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