The first three-quarters of ‘Crowbones’ was a lot of fun. There are some stand-out scenes, some chilling horror and some great humour. As usual, there’s also the satisfaction of knowing that, eventually, the humans doing bad things for selfish reasons will get what’s coming to them. The plot is more complicated than usual, which added to the tension and mystery and produced some good action scenes. Unfortunately, it seemed to leave a lot of things to explain in the closing chapters of the book, after the action was over. I found this clumsy and a little tedious. I’m not sure every plot detail needed to be explained, the explanations felt too neat and tidy to be credible and the exposition was very static.
Overall, it was a fun read but could have been more fun if the ending had been structured differently.
So what’s it about? Well, we’re back at The Jumble, the setting for ‘Lake Silence’, a Terra Indigene settlement that Vickie Divine manages on behalf of The Others as a rustic resort where humans and The Others can interact without anyone getting killed, as long as all the rules are followed and no one forgets that The Jumble, is in the Wild Country where there’s no safety in the dark. The action starts with Vickie running a Trickster Night party which goes badly wrong when someone shows up pretending to be Crowbones, the bogey man of the Crowgard, terrifying the Crows in the party. Then the pretender is found dead, killed in a way that suggests the involvement of the real Crowbones, a hunter even other Terra Indigene are afraid of.
What I liked most about ‘Crowbones’ was that, for once, not all the bad guys were human. This time, some of The Others are part of the problem, acting covertly in ways so unacceptable to the Elders, that the perpetrators are seen as a contagion that has to be isolated and eliminated. Part of the fun was trying to figure out which of The Others were part of the contagion and which humans they were working with and why.
Some of the strongest scenes were in The Jumble itself. The Trickster Night scenes worked well. As did the way in which the Elementals Air and Water satisfied their curiosity about why two humans had gone into a bathroom together. The creepiest part was the disembodied voices calling out ‘Monkey Boy’ from the woods in a tone like a menacing lullaby. You knew that whoever was being addressed was doomed.
Unfortunately, the end of the book seemed to wobble out of control. Nothing was left hanging but the excitement drained away as the storytelling moved from Show to Tell.