SPSFC Book Review: “Of Cinder and Bone” by Kyoko M.

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Of Cinder and Bone was one of only three books that my group unanimously selected to go into our round of full reads. The group was intrigued by its strong, fun characters and hints of a dragon plot mixed with some sci-fi. I personally thought it was a kind of Jurassic Park with dragons and stronger characters scenario and was all in from the get-go.

Now I’ve finished the book, and I think the strengths that were clear at the beginning didn’t let me down. The characters in the novel are real, living people that you want to root for or smack upside the head by turns. Even minor characters get significant development, with a few of them almost supplanting the core three characters to take over the story. That last bit hints at my main problem with the novel, but more on that later.

The main story follows Jack and Kamala, two scientists struggling to bring back the long-lost dragons from the grave. Alongside them is Faye, a fireball of a woman who carries the plot in every scene in which she appears. Although she’s “just Kamala’s roommate,” she steals the show time and again as her interactions with the others move the character development in sometimes surprising ways. The scientists manage to get a dragon in a very Jurassic Park-esque manner, but then it’s promptly stolen, thrusting our mains into a dark world of Yakuza and more to figure out what’s going on.

This is where I have a minor gripe–the story gets pretty drawn out at times in this major middle section, as Jack, Kamala, Faye, and many, many side characters hop in to create a sometimes dizzying narrative of hard science fantasy, dragons, and corporate intrigue. It becomes necessary to truly slow down and concentrate on the flow of the story for fear of missing major plot points. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it did detract from my personal enjoyment as the novel moved from an expected fun, easy-to-read romp to a jungle of names, locations, and people each with their own motivations. Some of the major points about dragons that were raised early on disappeared into the background until they were suddenly thrust at readers again towards the end. I found myself almost experiencing whiplash with how quickly big movements happened in the last quarter. All of this is to say, don’t let the first fun impressions fool you–this book requires some thinking and effort. But lighthearted humor and great moments are found all the way through.

The bulk of the enjoyment comes, again, from the characters and their interactions. Yes, dragons are cool. Yes, there’s some hard sci-fi and made up history of dragons thrown in there. I honestly wanted way more fake paleontology related to dragons. I would have eaten that up. But the core of the novel’s strength is in these characters, and there are some major side characters who direct the plot along. These feel like real people, with some true development happening between chapters. I loved them.

Kyoko M. has created a truly fascinating alternate now that is carried by some of the strongest characters I’ve encountered in this contest. While it didn’t maintain the tone I personally hoped for all the way through, the plot was satisfying and the conclusion has me wanting more. Of Cinder and Bone is a great story with fantastic characters.

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Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

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SDG.

Announcing Team Red Stars SPSFC Round of 100 reads- The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest

We’ve done it! Team Red Stars has narrowed our 31 selections for the SPSFC down to 10. 10 groups have done so, which means the remaining books are the top 100 out of about 300 entries into the SPSFC! Without further ado, here are our 10 books for the round of 100, along with some comments on each!

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Our whole group was enthused about this read from the sample we read. We loved the character-driven drama and the hints at science-y, dragon-y plot. I have since finished the book and will have a review coming… eventually!

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

The group was sold on this AI/Robot mystery that seemed to get deeper the more we read of it. I personally quite enjoy the cover art–it’s not often you see art in this style, which looks like a kind of advanced colored pencil drawing.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I may as well say it: I’m a sucker for the mashup of science fiction and mystery. The Trellis has that from the get-go, and Cantor also sprinkles in some commentary on unfettered capitalism and more as the novel gets going. I am about halfway through and it’s captured me completely.

Zenith by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Another character-driven drama, with this one set in space. I found the characters compelling, and it was exciting to see representation of characters outside the norm for science fiction.

Refraction Wick Welker

This story takes place in three different time periods spanning from our past to a future a few hundred years from now. The group was into the main characters, as well as intrigued by the way the plot hinted at bigger things to come.

Age of Order by Julian North

Our group had a bunch of dystopias, and this one was one that stuck out from the crowd with its setting and potential for big implications about its world. We also liked the main character, for whom we’re all rooting!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I couldn’t stop reading this first contact/hard sci-fi novel by Peter Cawdron. It just kept getting bigger and more intriguing as it went on, and I think it’s just a wonderfully told and timely story. Others in the group enjoyed the tone and were interested to see where the plot goes.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Our group enthusiastically selected this no-luck military sci-fi drama that intensely focuses on character-driven plot. I have finished it since, and I’ll save my main thoughts for the review; for now, let’s just say the story is as good as its cover.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

Artificially intelligent robots are trying to revive the human race in this touching novel about robots. I wasn’t entirely sold on it until I got about 20% in, but it truly starts to ramp up from there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Our group dug this dystopia (maybe–it’s not clear if it’s a dystopia or simply playing on the subgenre’s tropes yet) about a looming threat that lingers above the sky. I admit I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a good moment to start truly diving in. I anticipate savoring it based on the sample I read.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you think in the comments!

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!– Red Star Reviews has his own write-up related to our group’s reads.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.