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Bone and Jewel Creatures

(Bone and Jewel Creatures)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  417 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Dark magic is afoot in the City of Jackals...

Eighty years Bijou the Artificer has been a Wizard of Messaline, building her servants from precious scraps, living with the memory of a great love that betrayed her. She is ready to rest.

But now her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, has brought her a speechless feral child poisoned by a sorcerous infection. Now, Messalin
Hardcover, 133 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Subterranean Press
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3.96  · 
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 ·  417 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Text with pictures at my blog:

A jewel of a novella.

“Bijou’s fingers angled from her palms as if someone had bent them aside under great heat and pressure. She shuffled about her cavernous, shadowed workshop in parody of a bride’s hesitation step. Eighty years a Wizard of Messaline–the city of jackals, the empire of markets–had left their wear.“

How often do you find an elderly, arthritic heroine in fantasy? From the first sentence, Bear had my attention. H
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
Superb and very imaginative novella, with a 96(!!) year-old arthritic heroine - I don't think this was done before, at least not if the 96 years meant really old and not just some vampire-or-something years :) - that has a unique (I think) talent to design creatures from bones and metal and jewels and give them life.
It would have been nice to find out more about the magic system, the castes, the political and social environement; the idea of the known name and the secret power-name I read in som
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Bone and Jewel Creatures has an interesting setting, which I’d love to explore more – it barely scratches the surface of the potential magic, and the political situation seems fairly sketched in – and an interesting character. How often do you get a 96 year old protagonist with arthritis? Although being a stubborn old lady isn’t unique, the fact that the effects on her work are touched on and the concern other characters have for her is quite cool.

Because it’s a novella, there’s a lot of stuff t
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
One of the reasons I love novellas, is that authors will often be a little experimental, more daring. In one sitting, you can be drawn into a well crafted and imaginative piece, that offers something a novel cannot. It's almost as if novellas are our adult fairy tales - they use a strange and simple story to give a moral lesson, like an old fable.

I realize that my description is vague. I do not wish to spoil the story. Rather, to express my appreciation of a good old adventure tale, with genuin
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bone and Jewel Creatures is set in the same world as the Eternal Sky trilogy, but other than the shared setting they are unrelated. This novella focuses on the 96-year-old wizard Bijou, who also appeared in the prequel novella Book of Iron. Although it's not absolutely necessary to do so, I am glad I read the prequel first since it provided more background on the conflict in this story.

This isn't a book to read for the plot, which is slow moving, but one to read for the lovely writing, the imagi
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A short novel set in the world of Bear's Eternal Sky trilogy, although essentially unrelated. In the city of Messaline, the sorcerer Bijou, whose specialty is creating intricate animated constructs of bone & jewel, takes in a street orphan, a feral girl sent to her as the opening gambit in a war between wizards. Intricate and delicate and beautifully written.
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This little novella is probably one of my favorite things Elizabeth Bear has ever written.

Bijou the Artificer is a wizard of Messaline, and she has remained such for over eighty years. Now, near the end of her life when she only wants to create her fantastical metal animals in peace, a former apprentice has brought her a feral child, poisoned by a sorcerous spell. It is the clear work of Kaulas the Necromancer, Bijou’s old enemy. He has plans afoot, and both Bijou and the unnamed child will find
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fantasy, ebook
The problem with Elizabeth Bear's writing is that she sets herself a really high bar. I have nothing to fault in the execution or construction of this story, just that it didn't tug at my heartstrings or explode my mind.

The best part of the book was the world, and the magical creations that exist in it, the bone and jewel creatures of the title. Those shimmer against the dusty city. The least compelling part is probably the plot, which hits predictable emotional notes. It's possible I actually y
Tim Hicks
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is a good example of why there are novellas.

I'm sure Bear must have thought, "Suppose there was a place where someone can make weird prosthetics, and that place had a necromancer. They'd have to be in conflict, of course. How might that work?" Too much for a short story, not enough for a novel. Maybe the setting is a tad too weird for a novel; we have to get the story over with before we dig too deep into the details.

If books are meals, this is a delicious lunch from an expert cook/chef
Peter Tillman
Jan 01, 2018 marked it as to-read
"The world-building here is very good, but even better is the characterization of the two viewpoint characters. The first is of Bijou, who is one of the most believable portraits of an aging artisan I've ever read. She's set in her ways, frustrated at the failings of her body, and taciturn, but also wise in how to interact with others and able to be decisive. Bear shows in her relationship with her creations all the time-worn rhythms and silent comfort of
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
In Bone and Jewel Creatures, a beautiful new novella by Elizabeth Bear, Bijou the Artificer creates her own servants and companions by animating bones. When her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, brings her a feral, mute child, she is presented with the challenge of fixing its misshapen arm... which is also infected by a mysterious disease that soon turns out be the first sign of a sorcerous plague.

At just under 140 pages, Bone and Jewel Creatures packs a strong punch. Bijou is a fascinati
Kae Cheatham
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Stories about wizards and sorcery aren't usually my preference; the interesting title and cover compelled me to take this from my public library shelf.
I was not sorry. Elizabeth Bear's story about a wizardry power struggle was--enchanting :-)

Protagonist Bijou, is an artificer who creates and animates creatures from bone, gem and other inanimate objects. She is old, and her thoughts and struggles with her infirmities are well told. The reader will also sense she has a "past." This aspect of myst
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Aged wizard Bijou is living a fairly quiet life creating golems for the locals and herself (the bone and jewel creatures of the title), until her once-apprentice Brazen brings an injured feral child to her doorstep. A growing number of necrosis-plagued creatures begin arriving at her workshop after that, bringing Bijou closer to her past, and Messaline, city of jackals, closer to an uncertain future.

This writing in this novella is very pretty, polished to a shine. The golems are fascinating, won
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first work by Elizabeth Bear, but it absolutely will not be the last.

Being a fantasy reader, I had made the unthinking assumption that "bone and jewel creatures" was a metaphor for ... something. No. The book opens with literal creatures made of bone and jewels, and I was immediately drawn in.

The characters and world are sketched incredibly vividly. It may take awhile to fully grasp the reality of the world , but once it settles in, it's a remarkable place. The backstory between the
Crystal Hilbert
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love Elizabeth Bear's writing and I've read so many of her stories, but this is the story I come back to again and again. Such an interesting take on magic practitioners and the various disciplines. Such a fascinating depiction of necromancy in several different shades and moralities.

My deep, abiding joy for this story reminds me of an anecdote of Maurice Sendak's, where he sent a little boy a drawing of a Wild Thing and the boy's mother wrote him to say, "Jim loved your card so much he ate i
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book kind of plodded along, despite being a quick read. I felt like nothing really happened, and there was too much description for my taste. It wasn't a bad story, just kind of boring and slow. The concept of wizards and such is interesting, but it was never fully explained. Like you had this character called the Bey, who is referred to as important, but in the end he barely serves a purpose.
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
An intriguing little read. The world and characters were rich and innovative, truly delightful. I would love to explore more of it, though I don't believe this particular novella should have been any longer. In fact, I did feel it dragged a bit in the first half; it may have been better served as a short story. Still, an enjoyable read with interesting concepts and memorable characters.
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The novel has decent world building and an interesting plot but it's not fully developed, maybe because of the length. It's kind of steam-punk. It is the type of book that begs for a few illustrations.
Olga Godim
Too much death: necromancy, rotting flesh, skeletons, maggots. Not my cup of tea.
Michelle Sonnier
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story is profoundly disturbing, but well told, and I will be chewing over the themes and philosophy for quite some time.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A novella glittering and interesting as Bijou's enchanted constructs. Just the right length to get where it’s going, without sacrificing pathos and development.
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is another novella, but it really draws you in to the center of the story very quickly. While it can be read as a stand alone novella, I feel like that reading The Book of Iron first made a more cohesive story. Elizabeth Bear has a masterful grasp of language and knows exactly how to design a simple phrase to have the most emotional impact.

In this story a 90+ Bijou the Artificer is pitted in a last battle against her former lover Kaulas the Necromancer. With the help of Kaulas' own son and
What a lovely discovery! I'd heard so many good things about Bear's Eternal Sky trilogy that I finally took a look at her author page on Amazon - and spotting this novella at a bargain-bin price, decided to see if I enjoyed her writing style in a shoter-form piece first.

I'm very glad I did! "Bone and Jewel Creatures" is everything a good novella should be: roomy enough to give you a feel for the universe, but self-contained enough to cover exactly as much story as it needs. Bijou alone is a fabu
David Gillon
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Messaline, the city of Jackals, Brazen the Enchanter brings Bijou the Wizard an injured feral child, and as Bijou and the constructs she builds of bone and jewel examine the child, she realises it is the first move in a war against her and Brazen by Kaulas the Necromancer, the three of them bound by old ties of family.

As Kaulas’ plan plays out and death walks Messaline, Bijou fights corruption with artifice, replacing diseased flesh with bone and jewel, and Brazen joins her, adding his skill
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I've sat on this novella for a while. I tend to do that with novellas and I just wait until I want to read an entire story in one sitting but don't want to commit a lot of time to it. I'm happy to say that I can read more about this universe since it is set in the same world as the Eternal Sky series. Now this means I will have to start reading it in my spare time.

The story is set in a world of magic and the beginning of a wizard war in the city. The necromancer is making a bid for power over t
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another Bear novella. Another world that I'd love to spend more time in.
The plot was predictable, but the setting and main character were amazing. The bone and jewel creatures of the title are the creations of a wizard named Bijou, now at the end of her life. Her talent is to animate skeletons with the addition of metal and precious stones. Her animations include Ambrosius, with the head of a ferret and a centipede-like body made from a long spine with the ribs of cats for legs, a mirrored sloth
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novella was terrific. The story and characters all intrigued me -- even while part of my brain stood back in admiration for how Elizabeth Bear drew me so quickly into her story. She managed to plug my emotions into the fate of her characters -- including those created from bones, jewels and the skill of her wizard Bijou.

As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to re-read it and figure out how she did it.

Elizabeth Bear is shaping up to be one of my favorite authors. Earlier this year I read
Abby Miller
Jun 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another winner from Subterranean Press

Wonderful descriptions, and I was totally enchanted by the setting and the mechanical creatures Bijou created from bits of bone, jewels, metal, and fabric.

What I also found enjoyable was the head-hopping that took place between Bijour, Emeraude, and even Brazen. Through the three points of view the story unfolds of this beautiful, although brutal desert city.

I only gave it four stars due to the fact that I had trouble with the plot and charactes. I was unsu
Tristan A.

A fun experiment, fascinating characters. I wish the story could have been longer, I enjoyed it so much. Especially good was the inclusion of two unusual character types: an old woman protagonist (a black woman, no less!), and a feral child. In fact, several scenes were from the point of view of the feral child, which I don't think I've ever seen before anywhere else.

The story is paced to match the old creakiness of the protagonist and antagonist, while still engaging the reader's attentio
Jeremy Preacher
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Bone and Jewel Creatures is a lovely little novella, but long on inventiveness and full of delightful, mostly non-human characters. (The feral child who thinks she's a jackal is excellent.) The plot is a little oblique, as what's primarily of interest to the characters is Bijou's advancing age and Emeraude's immediate jackal-ish concerns. The machinations of the Necromancer, while creepy, seem almost like background. It's not really clear what his motivations are up until the end, and he's not p ...more
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Other books in the series

Bone and Jewel Creatures (2 books)
  • Book of Iron