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Bewildering Stories

Walter Rhein, The Bone Sword

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

The Bone Sword
Author: Walter Rhein
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing, 2010
Length: 221 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-9827437-2-0

Deserter on the Run

synopsis by the author, Walter Rhein

Malik emerges from the swamps of Plaiden seeking only shelter, food, and the time necessary to take the chill from his bones. But after a barroom brawl lands him in trouble with the local authorities, he flees to the mountains with two orphaned children who have the power to heal.

Pursued by the vicious Father Ivory and his Nightshades, Malik and his charges become the center of a grassroots movement that quickly blossoms into a full-fledged revolution. Their problems are compounded when news of their exploits draws the attention of Malik’s former Captain, a swordsman of legendary prowess who will not stop until Malik and his followers are dead.

As the final battle approaches, Malik must face both his inner demons and his former master in a duel that will determine the fate of the free people of Miscony.

When I worked as a librarian, I was always amazed at how popular R. A. Salvatore was. The patron requesting the umpteenth next book was almost always male and always young (high school or not much past). They wanted the next book, and then the next, and carried on reading the series sometimes year after year. And they didn’t usually read other authors.

I dutifully handed over the next request, though sometimes I wanted to buttonhole those young men and hiss: “Read some Roger Zelazny! Try some Heinlein! For crying out loud, at least give Andre Norton a try!”

Sometimes I did. But it didn’t matter. R. A. Salvatore met all their needs. A few let the earnest librarian talk them in to a few forays into other authors, but without much enthusiasm. R. A. Salvatore was always on the list.

So who am I to turn up my nose at what obviously appeals. That’s action, brother, pure and not-so-simple, because the plentiful fight scenes in these works are choreographed as elaborately and colorfully as zinging pinballs.

And The Bone Sword, Walter Rhein’s first book, is no different, though he’ll need time to polish those fight scenes to the jaw-dropping master class level of R. A. Salvatore. After all, the hero only wields one sword at a time.

So we’ve got Malik, the Drizzt-like master swordsman on the run from a bad past, slicing and dicing in true R. A. Salvatore style. Along the way Malik, with his human bone-handled sword, rescues a couple of orphans who have magic healing powers.

The bad, bad Earl, and the bad, bad local priest (as Catholic as can be, only in purple papal) have gone maniac and are burning and chopping and torturing with evil zest. The mistreated population rouses itself to throw off the tyrant and the blood-crazed religious fellow, led by the healing peasant orphan queen and her handy swordsman Malik. And that’s the simple plot.

What made R. A. Salvatore occasionally readable even for me was he did sometimes manage to make his stock fantasy characters halfway appealing. The three-way love triangle between Drizzt, the barbarian Wulfgar and the woman Catti-brie was almost touching at times. Occasionally, even his stock villains weren’t too bad.

And that, I’m afraid, is where Mr. Rhein needs to improve. His villains in particular sneer, roar, boast, strut and all but twirl their imaginary mustaches. We’ve got the caricature-evil Earl, the torture- and pyre-loving bad priest who shrieks and slaps faces, the vengeful swordsman from Malik’s past he must beat in climactic one-on-one combat. These were such one-dimensional nut-case bad guys that I started rapidly turning the pages past them as fast as I could. You know, most villains don’t reach the pinnacle of evil success without something a little more complex going on.

But still, if you’re an R. A. Salvatore fan, this one’s for you. Get out your imaginary bone sword and slash along!

Copyright © 2011 by Danielle L. Parker

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