Jun 1, 2009

Bone by Jeff Smith

Bone by Jeff Smith

This epic story begins with the three Bone cousins – Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone – lost in the desert after having been run out of Boneville thanks to Phoney Bone’s antics. The cousins run into a swarm of locusts and get separated, but they all end up in the same mysterious valley. We follow Fone Bone as he meets a girl name Thorn and her grandmother, who let him stay with them and promise to help him find his cousins. And that’s only the very beginning. The Bone cousins stay in the Valley for a year, and their adventures involve being chased by Rat Creatures, discovering an Evil Overlord who is after Phoney Bone, seeing dragons, revealing the identity of the lost heir to the throne, and finding themselves in the middle of a war.

I read the one volume edition of Bone, and I’m very glad I did. Bone is a series in the sense that The Lord of the Rings is a series—a single story in multiple volumes—so finishing one volume and having to wait to get the next would have been agony. Instead, I was able to fully immerse myself in this world, and what a world it is.

The world of Bone is an immensely satisfying fantasy world, the kind that seems to have a life of its own, to go on existing when you close the pages. The Valley is a semi-medieval setting, but there are hints that this isn’t the case with Boneville. Phoney Bone, for example, is much frustrated when he realizes that the trade system they use doesn’t involve currency. But my favourite thing was probably the mythology – the Dreaming, the Lord of the Locusts, the story of the first dragon. It’s so rich, so interesting, and the way it’s revealed to the reader is so perfect. We learn about the world bit by bit, in a way that feels completely natural, and so we get to the end without quite realizing just how much we’ve learned. There’s no sudden dumping of information, nor are there any moments when we feel lost because we don’t know enough.


But more than the world, what really made me love Bone was the characters. They’re all of them full-fleshed, and presented with such warmth that by the end you can’t help but love them all, even greedy Phoney Bone. They all have their own back stories; they all have complexity and depth. Don’t let the Bones’ goofy appearance deceive you: this is a story with heart. The war is a serious war, the characters experience serious homesickness and serious fear, and they develop serious ties.


Bone is epic and occasionally dark, but it’s also immensely funny. However, it’s never funny at the story’s expense. The jokes don’t make the threats go away. There are moments of lightness, but they never actually make what is happening in the story at large seem light.

Let me give you a few examples: Fone Bone’s favourite book is Moby Dick, and he has a copy he always carries with him. There’s an instance where he and Smiley Bone are attacked by Rat Creatures in the forest, and they manage to escape by reading the first few passages and putting the creatures to sleep. (All this poking fun at Melville is done with obvious fondness, though, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that Moby Dick actually is Jeff Smith’s favourite book.)


There’s also a great running gag involving two Rat Creatures who are fond of quiches, and which, like all successful running gags, is absolutely hilarious by the end of the book for reasons you can’t really explain.


Another reason why I loved Bone was because it really shows what comics can do as a medium. This story couldn’t be anything else. The art is so expressive – it does so much for the worldbuilding and characterization. It is the worldbuilding and characterization. Fone Bone’s different facial expressions, for example, say so much about him. The edition I read has black and white art, and in a way I’m glad, because black and white allows me to pay more attention to the lines. But the books are being reissued in colour, and the panels I’ve seen look absolutely gorgeous:




I love Bone enough to want to own multiple editions of it, so I have a feeling I’ll be collecting these new editions. Bone joins Fables and The Sandman as one of my favourite comic book series, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know how much that means. Jeff Smith created a world I’ll always want to return to, peopled with characters I’ll never tire of spending time with. I would gladly have read another 1300 pages.




Reviewed at:

Beth Fish Reads: Out from Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eyes of the Storm, The Dragonslayer, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border, Old Man’s Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, Crown of Horns

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Reviews: Out from Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eyes of the Storm

Bermudaonion’s Weblog: Out from Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eyes of the Storm

Everyday Reads: Out from Boneville, The Great Cow Race

Books of Mee Out from Boneville, Eyes of the Storm, The Dragonslayer, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border

Nothing of Importance: One Volume edition

(Did I miss yours?)

27 comments:

  1. Ha! this is sitting on my desk right in front of me :) My hubby just finished reading it and really enjoyed it,too.

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  2. Fabulous review! Thanks for the links. I think reading the entire Bone all at once is the way to go, but I really wanted to read it in color.

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  3. I think that is the best graphic novel review I have ever seen - I find it so hard to review them

    I have Bone sitting here waiting to be read too. I really should give it a go.

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  4. Neil Gaiman has raved about Bone and even wrote the forward for one of the editions. I guess this means I need to read it!

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  5. Great review. I read the Bone series last summer. This is one of the best series I've ever read. Now I want to read it all over again.

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  6. Nice review, as usual!! Another one I have to add to my list. This looks great! You are so bad to my TBR list!

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  7. I love their names - they are so funny.

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  8. Do you know if they're coming out with the all in one edition in color? I really want to read the big volume, but I want to see it in color too :p I know...I'm needy, lol. This series sounds so good. I'll get to it eventually.

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  9. Wow, what a fantastic review. I immediately went over to see if my library had them, and they appear to have the first four volumes. I'm going to get the first one tomorrow. =)

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  10. Jupitersinclair: Are you going to read it as well? Do it, do it :P

    Beth: Next time I read them, it'll be in colour! But even in black and white it was amazing.

    Jackie: Aw, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy Bone :)

    Loren Eaton: That's one of the reasons why I picked it up :P

    Vasilly: Definitely one of the best!

    Stephanie: You'd enjoy this for sure!

    Scrap Girl: lol, they are. And they really suit them too.

    Chris: That would be awesome, wouldn't it? But a book this huge in colour would probably be insanely expensive :/ Anyway, regardless of the version you read, I'm sure you'll love it!

    Meghan: yay! I hope you enjoy them!

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  11. I've been wanting to start reading this ever since I got it a few months ago...I think the sheer massiveness of it has held me back. Yeah, and everything else I keep wanting to read too. I swear when school's over, I'm just going to take a whole week off and read, read, read for fun. Nation, Bone, the rest of Fables...

    Anyway, I'm sooooo glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!!! Now you've got to get your hands on Rose.

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  12. Cute! I love the name Phoney Bone that is just too funny.

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  13. finishing one volume and having to wait to get the next would have been agony.It was!!!! I got so frustrated with my library, (which took well over a year to process the last six volumes), that I bought myself the one-volume edition. I was so, so glad I did so, because once I started reading again I did not want to stop. BONE's one of my favourite comics, too. I love how it's epic and personal and funny and sad and uplifting all at once, and I love what the Bone cousins mean to one another. They may get on each others' nerves, but they're still willing to go above and beyond to help each other out.

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  14. I've seen this in our bookstores! I'm impressed that I've actually noticed them. Book blogs are making an impression on me! LOL especially yours, dear Nymeth. Sorry I've been quiet for so long, I haven't been on much while dealing with stuff. SO along I come today, and what do you review but a comic book that looks so very interesting and fun! Great review, Nymeth, and I especially like how you bring up books and the comics for us to get an idea of the writing style.

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  15. This series has been on my wishlist for ages! (and you are not helping! I want it NOW!) ;)

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  16. Gotta get to this. I've been remiss in reading and writing about graphic novels lately- thank you for keeping up with it! :-)

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  17. I've been wanting to read this ever since edited an article on graphic novels a while back for my day job, and the author of the article recommended this series. Your review confirms that it is worth looking for. If it's anywhere near as good as Fables, I'm bound to like it.

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  18. I first stumbled upon this series after reading Beth's reviews, and now you. :D This sounds like a great series, and I like the illustrations. They're cute. :)

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  19. I can't keep these book on the shelves...the boys love them and as I'm shutting down my library for the summer I always start a box of books that come home with me to read...these of course are already in there!! Thanks for the wonderful review and I can certainly see what the buzz is all about!!

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  20. Debi: I think you more than deserve a whole week of fun reading! I can't wait to read Rose. I so loved her in Bone. I found out why I was under the impression it was out of print, btw: because it's out of print in the UK. But! It's being reissued very soon, so I'll be able to find it easily :D There's another spin off too caled Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails. Can't wait to read them both!

    Jaime: And it suits him too :P

    Memory: epic and personal and funny and sad and uplifting: you said it perfectly! I loved the cousins' relationship too. It's such a good series <3

    Susan: I've missed you, but no need to apologize! I see you have a new post, which I can't wait to read. I'll be by your blog very soon. I've just been tyring not to strain my wrist too much, so I approach Google Reader with caution. Anyway....this series is right up your alley!

    Bart: Sure I'm helping! I'm helping you realize just how much you need to read it. Aren't you grateful? :P

    Marie: I think you'd enjoy this! And I love how you bring attention to the medium and help me discover great new comics so often, so I'm happy to do my small bit to help too :D

    Teresa: Like Fables, it has great characterization, and that's what I value the most. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Melody: The art really is cute, and sometimes that contrasts with the story's dark moments, which creates an interesting effect!

    Staci: I'm not surprised to hear they're so popular! I have a feeling you'll love them too :)

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  21. Oh wow you got to read them all at once! I'm so jealous!

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  22. I really want to read this! I am going to have to buy it, though, because it is too popular to bother with at the library. :)

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  23. I just finished this - I had to steal it back from my 14-year-old stepdaughter. She looked for it the minute she walked in the door!

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  24. Mee: I was lucky: I found the complete edition on sale for a good price.

    Kailana: Yeah, that's the problem with popular books! I got this for £12 from the Amazon marketplace...maybe you'll be able to find a good deal online too!

    Jessica: Looking forward to your review!

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  25. I'm such a dud, I just saw this book in the special discounts section last week and I didn't buy it because I had never heard of it. Damn, thanks for the review Nymeth, I'll go and buy it this weekend :)

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  26. Wow, Ana, you've just added another one into my wish list! I'm seriously considering banning your blog. LOL!

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  27. I really do have to get this someday...

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.