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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