Quest for the Spark

Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book One
By Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith

The original Bone saga is amazing in its mix of mirth and drama, slapstick comedy and horror. The original writer, Jeff Smith, knew how best to use the comics medium to tell a delicious story to amazing effect. If you’ve not read the original Bone, go out and get it. Read it. You’ll like it.

And then this came out, the first in a trilogy written by Tom Sniegoski. Apparently he approached Smith with the story idea, and Smith was so tickled he insisted on drawing several images for the novels.

The problem comes with the jump to a new medium. Anytime a story moves from one medium to another, something is lost, but hopefully something is gained that makes up for that loss. Most people will likely be familiar with this occurrence in the many novels that have been made into movies.

The prose here is crisp. Sniegoski clearly aims his writing at younger readers, perhaps ten or eleven years old. He clearly sets up the characters and the situations.  Everything is good and fine… but the source material overwhelms whatever merits this novel has on its own.

This novel revels in slapstick humor. The original comics do it better and more clearly with pictures. The characters in the novel are likable. The original Bone cousins were more lovable. The situation in the novel calls for brave heroism. The original threat of Bone sought to end the world.

Quest for the Spark is a decent book; it just doesn’t hold up to what has come before, and because of that, it fails. Is it possible to read the novel by itself, without what has come before? Possible, yes, but it would leave the reader with many, many open questions. A one-paragraph recap attempts to explain the entire Bone saga somewhat successfully, but leaves a lot wanting.

Oh, the story? Sure.

The Nacht wants to take over the Dreaming. It moves, causing whatever it is able to touch in the Dreaming to fall into an endless sleep. The only way to fight it is to reunite the Spark which was shattered eons ago. Tom, a twelve-year-old turnip farmer, is immune from the efforts of the Nacht and gathers an unlikely group of heroes “because they’ve been chosen.” The new group includes three new bones – an adventurer and his twin niece and nephew. A disgraced Veni-Yan warrior joins them, as does a raccoon and two familiar stupid, stupid rat creatures.

Some images are very effective. The Nacht can take over the bodies of anyone he’s sent to slumber, creating some creepy moments as Tom must face down his family. The two stupid, stupid rat creatures’ return is very welcome, and they even get proper names!

Yet, the necessity of having read what has come before, and the inferiority of this product in comparison to that masterpiece, leaves me wondering if what follows is what blew Smith away. If the rest of the trilogy remains at this level, I have no desire to read it.

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