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The Thread that Binds the Bones

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Thread that Binds the Bones (1993) Nina Kiriki Hoffman

I really like Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing. She hasn’t written many novels, but I’ve tried to get my hands on as many of them as I could. The Thread that Binds the Bones is out of print, but my brother found a used copy for my birthday. I saving it for when I had time to enjoy it, but staring at my bookshelves the other night, I decided that I wanted to read something that I was almost certain to enjoy, rather than taking a chance on something new.

This is one of her earlier novels, and I didn’t always find it as strong as some of her later novels (specifically, A Fist Full of Sky which has touches I just love.) However, it has most of the strengths I like about her writing, including strong characters with complex relationships.

Tom has powers he neither understands or wants, and has spent years trying to repress the visions of ghosts that he sees. Unfortunately for him, one act of charity drives him from his comfortable existence to a small troubled town. It is there that he eventually meets Laura Bolte, and their meeting will change not just their own lives, but the lives of Laura’s entire family.

The relationships between characters are my favorite part of her books. Nothing is black and white, no one is good or evil, and everyone has a reason for their actions–their justification for what they do. Although I wasn’t initially sure about the relationship between Tom and Laura, this is magic, so I eventually just accepted it.

The problem I had with this story is that some of the later actions taken by the more troublesome characters seemed, well, out of character and not necessarily believable. Although this is eventually somewhat explained, I still wasn’t sure that I believed one of the more radical conversions–things happened just a little to quickly for me to be comfortable. In my mind, the process should have taken days, rather than hours.

However, as I said earlier, the strength of her stories likes in the complexity of the relationships, and her ability to portray families for what they are: complex organisms where the interactions between members are not always quite what they seem, and the love that families have for each other is something that goes beyond petty bickering and past hurts.

The other thing I especially love about her writing, is her ability to tell a story in a single book. This is coming to be one of my favorite traits in a fantasy writer, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman has it in abundance.

If you are a fan of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing, then you will want to search out this book to read. If you have not read any of her books before, grab this if you stumble upon it, but in the meantime, look into some of her other works, including A Red Heart of Memories, A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones.
Rating: 7/10

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