Crown of Bones by A. K. Wilder is a fantasy novel unlike any other I have read. Which is saying something. There is no magic in the traditional sense. Nor are there mythical beasts roaming the countryside. What we have instead is something I’ve never seen before, and it is awesome.
How to describe phantoms? Only a few people can raise them. From what I can tell, they are inner reflections of the self brought to “life” or called by the savant. A construct made from earth, the savant controls the phantom to the point where they become one. The savant can view the scene from the point of view of his or her phantom or remain in his or her body. These phantoms also come with certain powers. Most of the novel explores one of the character’s struggles to call and control his phantom, so we get to experience just how difficult a talent being a savant truly is.
What I like about this is the fact that the possibilities are endless. While Marcus’ phantom is a giant, others take the form of various animals. The powers are also unique. Some phantoms are callers, who, from what I can tell, excel at Accio. Their opposites are ousters, which excel at Expelliarmus, even if that means expelling weapons, buildings, or even internal organs. There are healers and warriors, and then there are the alters, who can change form based on the situation. While the powers and the forms are specific to the person, for the story, anything goes. There is even an instance of fog being a phantom.
For all the action, however, the characters are what make Crown of Bones so much fun. Marcus is your single-minded warrior/leader. Raised as the heir to a kingdom, his first response is to declare his title, while his second response is to fight. His love and affection for Ash, however, soften his edges and provide him with some complexity. Ash is his exact opposite. A lover of books and knowledge, she is the pragmatist of the group. She is also extremely empathetic, never wanting to hurt someone’s feelings.
Then we have Kaylin. Not part of the original group of adventurers, one cannot imagine the story without him. His larger than life presence is not only a blast to read but provide some fantastic interaction with Ash. You know from the first time we meet him that there is more to his story than we know or understand, but, despite everything we learn, you cannot imagine him the bad guy with his cheeky winks and infectious good spirits. Oh, and did I mention he is hot? That doesn’t hurt either.
The thing with Crown of Bones is that there is so much we don’t know. While this is normal for the beginning of a series, I feel as if Ms. Wilder is keeping more of her cards to her chest than normal because we really don’t receive that many answers. We also have only a rudimentary understanding of the dynamics at play towards the end of the story. Ten more questions spring up for every answer we receive.
There is a part of me that should be fuming at the lack of answers, especially when it comes to Kaylin and his intentions surrounding Ash. However, I enjoyed the story so much that I can’t be angry. I adore Ash, her kindness, her compassion, her love of learning, the fact that she cusses at the drop of a hat. She is the sun around which the entire group revolves, whether they realize it or not. Then we have Kaylin and Ash. Their moments together are so sweet and yet so fraught with romantic tension, it melts my heart every single time.
Because I enjoyed the characters, I enjoyed the story. Sure, I want to know more than I do. I want to find out why Kaylin joined the group and to understand what is going on with Ash. Plus, I want to understand what our heroes truly face because I know we have only scratched that surface. Despite all that, Crown of Bones was exciting and entertaining. I loved reading it and am excited to see where the story goes from here.