Friday, January 1, 2016

Bone Eaters, by Glen Cook

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(Military Fantasy) A magical military company acquires some unwilling recruits, who may or may not be reliable when they encounter real danger and real evil. (9,100 words; Time: 30m)

Rating: ★★★★☆, Recommended

"Bone Eaters," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in Operation Arcana (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: This is Chasing Midnight's story, even though it's told from Croaker's perspective. It ends once she gets her revenge and leaves the Company. Everything else is the frame around that story.

We have plenty of hints that Chasing Midnight holds a grudge against Rusty, but we're still taken by surprise when we learn that she let a Hungry Ghost possess him. Nevertheless, Midnight earns her vengeance. Her strategy to destroy the Hungry Ghosts works, and it arguable saves the Company. It's important to understand the logic of her solution to appreciate it. The Hungry Ghosts could possess a human body, but the fresher the current host, the more difficult it was for the Ghost to move. By providing animal hosts for the discorporate spirits and then immediately slaughtering them, they destroyed the Ghosts, one by one. Rusty's Ghost was likewise trapped and perished when Midnight and her gang tortured him to death.

Beyond that, "Bone Eaters" is blessed with a number of distinctive characters: Chasing Midnight, Croaker, Darling, even Rusty.

Con: None of them inspires our sympathy, though. It's a great read, but not a moving one.

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