________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


The Bonemender’s Oath.

Holly Bennett.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
171 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-443-1.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Libby McKeever.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


None of them noticed when Tarkhet fell back from the fray and pulled his knife. To Gabrielle it seemed rather that the blade burst from beneath her skin, some disastrous, inexplicable rupture of her own body. She had fallen back against the cliff-face before she knew what was wrong with her. It was her hands, instinctively clutching the hurt place, that discovered a knife-hilt jutting from under her sternum. Tarkhet had thrown it at the exposed sweep of her body while she stretched up to block that last bow.

Healer, see to they wounds. Her old teacher Marcus's words were commanding, but Gabrielle's mind was too frightened and refused to obey. The noise of the fighting boomed and receded in her head. Pain clawed away her thoughts. Focus eluded her.

Her eyes closed, and the roars and screams of battle faded away.

So it was that Gabrielle never witnessed the event that Derkh and Féolan could only speak of afterwards in halting, awestruck words.

Derkh and Féolan stood shoulder-to-shoulder against four men, black-hearted, thinking now only to exact a high price for their lives. And then it was as if some raging storm flew in among them, a deafening wind that scattered men before it like so many leaves. Their assailants flew like rag dolls into the air, crashing down against boulder and scree. Only one was able to rise again to make his terrified escape.

Féolan’s firm hand restraining his sword-arm was all that stood between Derkh and panic. He did not know, afterward, if he would have tried to flee or attack. As it was, he stood paralyzed, beyond speech or rational thought. "They are seskeesh, rare creatures of the high mountains,” muttered Féolan. "I do not know why they have come down so far, but they are friends." The amber eyes that appraised him now did not strike Derkh as especially friendly, and alarm clamored in him as larger of the huge beasts shouldered past and hunkered down beside Gabrielle.

Making the strangest noise, a noise Derkh could only call crooning though deeper than any man's voice, the seskeesh scooped up Gabrielle's limp body as easily as Derkh would a baby and strode off.


At the close of The Bonemender (See Vol. XII, No.2, September 16, 2005), Gabrielle had found herself inexplicably "called" to her dying father's side only to find that her extraordinary healing powers were unable to save him. In Holly Bennett's thrilling sequel, The Bonemender's Oath, readers are reminded that the Verdeau soldiers were joined by a secretive Elvin army to help secure their conquest over the Greffaires. Battle-weary, but joyous in their victory, Gabrielle and her brother, Tristan, are anxious to be home, though the duty of informing their mother of the death of their father, King Jerome, is one that Tristan is dreading.

     As Derkh, a young soldier from Gref Oris, regains lucid thought, he realizes that he has been abandoned by his countrymen and saved by Gabrielle, a bonemender from his nation's enemy. Unaware of who his savior really is, a pall of dread surrounds Derkh as they approach Chênier, the capital of Verdeau. As the eldest son of Commander Col, chief of the Greffaire armed forces, Derkh frets about his immediate fate. When Derkh realizes that his destiny doesn't include slavery, torture or even imprisonment, he is baffled until he realizes that the castle is Gabrielle's home and she is the king's daughter. Relief is quickly replaced by apprehension and doubt, and Derkh continually rebuffs offers to dine with Gabrielle's family as he ponders why he is there and how he can live in a land that his country has invaded.

     It is apparent that Gabrielle and Feolan plan to wed, but, before that time, Gabrielle will spend the summer in the Elvin nation of Stonewater in order to meet his parents and make an effort to learn more of the Elvin ways and their language. At the same time, love has also touched Tristan, and he is delighted that Rosalie returns his affection. Their betrothal is marred by Pierre LaBarque, a ruthless wealthy man of dubious means and a spurned suitor of Rosie's. LaBarque makes it evident that he will not have his prize taken away, and he plots to slay Tristan.

     Tristan has stepped up to take the responsibility of ambassador for his country at the diplomatic talks, and it appears inevitable that the territories of the Kyrilan Basin will need to join forces against the probable threat of another invasion from the north.

     The weight of his debt to Gabrielle hangs heavily on Derkh's heart, as does his discomfort in staying in Verdeau. So Derkh asks if he can join Gabrielle's and Feolan on their journey, knowing that he must somehow make his way back to Gref Oris. His opportunity comes after a night of celebration in Stonewater. Determined to find his way back to Gref Oris, Derekh slips away. Once his absence is realized, Gabrielle and Féolan follow his tracks, convinced that the journey is one of certain disaster for the young soldier. Derkh's journey to find home is perilous and results in capture by his countrymen, Gabrielle's sustaining a grievous injury and their subsequent rescue by the seskeesh, huge powerful beasts from the high country.

     Meanwhile, the pride of the Emperor of Gref Oris has been sorely wounded by his nation's defeat, and it is apparent that he is willing to bleed his country of taxes and men who work the fields in order to service the Greffaire army in a plan to assuage the Emperor’s wounded reputation. Hungry men make poor soldiers, and the rumbling threat of civil war may squash the Emperor's plans for conquest. For the moment, plans to infiltrate Verdeau to investigate the abrupt turn in their battlefield fortunes may be the key to their victory.

     Readers who enjoyed the first book in this high fantasy series will take pleasure in this exciting sequel. Holly Bennett has continued to develop the characters of Tristan, Féolan, Gabrielle and Derek and has introduced readers to the feisty Rosie. Readers will find it hard to put the book down as each chapter ends with an exciting climax and the next one picks up a thread from a previous high point. I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel to The Bonemender and became quickly absorbed in this thrilling page-turning tale. Hugely satisfying, the chapters of The Bonemender's Oath are broken down to follow the characters, of Tristan and Rosie, Gabrielle and Feolan, and young Derkh.

Highly Recommended.

An avid fantasy reader, Libby McKeever is a library technician who works in the library at Whistler Secondary School in Whistler, BC.

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

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