Book Review: Marjorie M. Liu’s Mortal Bone

Posted November 6, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Marjorie M. Liu’s Mortal Bone

Mortal Bone


Marjorie M. Liu

urban fantasy that was published by Ace Books on December 27, 2011 and has 304 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Darkness Calls, A Wild Light, In the Dark of Dreams, Huntress, Wild Thing, Within the Flames, Never After, An Apple for the Creature, Holidays are Hell, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, "A Dream of Stone & Shadow", Labyrinth of Stars

Fourth in the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series about a woman whose family has been protecting the world for thousands of years. This particular story takes Maxine, Grant, and the boys all over the world, but mostly Seattle and Texas.

My Take

Whoa…this was a bit existential with the discussions about the Aetar, the Lightbringers, the true origins of the demons, and humanity. All monsters. Combine this with Maxine’s angst over the sudden collapse of her connection with the boys and it’s a conflict with a variety of permutations.

Does Maxine have the right to force the boys back? Is this how the Reaper Kings have felt, what Maxine is feeling now? How have they stood so many millennia with these emotions? Can they control themselves? Who can she trust? What about the human race? The demons have their rights as well, but not at others’ expense. Then there are the many sins of the Aetar. Her mother’s secrets and her latest bit of trickery at Maxine’s expense.

…the Mahati and the other demon clans would make all the worst genocides of the twentieth century look like puppy day at the playground.

Then there’s Grant. He’s terrified of his abilities. And they’re growing!

The start cracked me up with Grant’s reaction to Byron’s driving when he practically crawls out the window mouthing “save me”.

The boys do make me laugh with their appetites for metal, grenades, motor oil, and M&Ms as well as their habit of breaking into song to express their emotions on any given event. Zee’s preference for teddy bears is too cute, even if he does like to chew them up.

Watching him nibble nervously on a candy-coated [axe] blade was making me nervous.

Raw…lugged out a small missile…dragged a jar of Grey Poupon from the shadows…

There are a lot of cryptic references that drove me mad. This is mostly a bridge novel that, admittedly, does tidy up one crucial point, fill us in on more of the past history, and sets us up for Labyrinth of Stars, in which I suspect we’ll meet her parents.

The Reaper Kings’ freedom is rather terrifying. And Maxine doesn’t want to believe the things they will do. In some ways, I wish that Liu hadn’t tidied things up as much as she did. The tension of no resolution would have carried beautifully over to the next in the series. As it is, in spite of the building drama and tension, it seemed to conclude too easily. Beautifully, but just too clean.

I do love how protective the boys are of Grant.

The Story

Turns out the boys — Zee, Aaz, Raw, Dek, and Mal — are Reaper Kings, devourers of worlds imprisoned on the original Hunter millennia ago. And Maxine is their Queen. Except. What does it all mean?

Will the prison walls holding back the demon armies truly fall?

It’s the crystal skull dropped off at the Texas homestead that truly starts events in The Mortal Bone. An artifact that terrifies the boys.

And it is just the start. More artifacts wreak their havoc on the bond Maxine shares with her Reaper Kings, permitting an unexpected freedom that could lead to disaster.

It’s all a lesson in love. The heart of light.

The Characters

Maxine Kiss is a Hunter of demons and only recently became aware of the dark entity within her. She also wears five demons on her body as tattoos during the day. Tattoos which are reactive armor. When the sun sets, they flow off her body, leaving her vulnerable, mortal. Zee’akka is the leader, Raw’akka and Aaz’akka have spikes jutting from their spines, and Dek’akka and Mal’akka are serpentine in nature, preferring to coil over her shoulders or around her neck. Jolene Kiss is the mother who died when a demon shot her in the head six years ago. When the boys deserted her for Maxine. The Tinker, a.k.a., Star Man, is her father. Old Wolf was known to Maxine as Jack Meddle, her grandfather. An Aetar. He died in A Wild Light, although he’s expected to return anytime.

Grant Cooperon is a former priest who runs a homeless shelter and community center in Seattle. He’s also the last Lightbringer. A being who sees souls and manipulates energy, and he has just married Maxine. A woman almost forbidden to marry. To whom having a child is a death sentence. Byron is Goth in appearance and vulnerable in fact. A teenager whom Maxine and Grant have taken in, protected.

Rex is a human possessed by a demon, and he’s practically Grant’s right hand man at the shelter. He hates Maxine. Mary appears to be a slightly crazed old woman who lives at the shelter and ingests, on a regular basis, the marijuana she grows. Turns out she’s really a member of a family that terrifies the Aetar. A bodyguard assigned to protect Grant’s mother, who got lost for too long in the Labyrinth.

The Messenger is a genetically engineered slave of the Aetar and a descendent of the Lightbringers, trained to kill. Preferably Maxine. A Mahati demon is her bond.

Blood Mama is the weakest demon clan leader. She’s been the only leader free to prowl the world. Until now. Lord Ha’an leads the Mahati; Lord Draean leads the Shurik, who survived by raising their young to eat; Lord K’ra’an leads the Yorana; and, Lord Oanu leads the Osul.

The Labyrinth is passageways to different worlds and planes of existence. Open a door, if you have the energy, and you won’t know where you will come out. Time does not exist within it.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a somewhat lurid pink that overlays a ready-for-anything Maxine and Grant standing front and center. Black hair blowing back, Maxine is wearing jeans, a black patent leather, front-zipped halter top that showcases generous cleavage as well as lightly tattooed arms. Grant is in a well-fitting gray T-shirt and jeans, slightly behind her and looking off to the right. It feels as though they’re standing in an underground garage.

I have no idea where the title comes from. Anyone have any ideas?