fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBook of Iron by Elizabeth BearBook of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

The novella Book of Iron is Elizabeth Bear’s prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures about Bijou the artificer. Bijou creates beautiful jeweled creatures by animating bones. I haven’t read Bone and Jewel Creatures but Terry and Stefan loved it, and the publisher promises that Book of Iron can stand alone, so there was no way I was passing on my review copy to Terry without reading it first.

Bijou works for her friend Salih, the second prince of Messaline. Another wizard, a necromancer named Kaulas, rounds out the trio of friends and adventurers and, at least for the moment, is Bijou’s lover. When another group of wizard adventurers comes to Messaline on a quest, Bijou, Prince Salih and Kaulas insist on accompanying them, partly for the excitement and partly to protect their land from these unknown magicians. And thus we go off on a journey through a deadly nighttime desert and a dangerous series of underground caves and caverns.

Book of Iron is a charming story full of wonderful creatures, fascinating magic, beautiful scenery and lovely prose. I was intrigued by the setting — a world that feels ancient but contains at least a bit of modern technology. I want to see more of Bear’s world, but I especially want to see more of Bijou’s artificing and I wanted to know about her relationship with Prince Salih and the necromancer Kaulas (I understand this relationship eventually goes sour and contributes to the conflict in Bone and Jewel Creatures when Bijou is much older).

I was able to thoroughly enjoy Book of Iron without reading Bone and Jewel Creatures, but now I regret letting that novella pass me by a few years ago. I will remedy that situation immediately.

Bone and Jewel Creatures — (2010) Publisher: Dark magic is afoot in the City of Jackals… Eighty years Bijou the Artificer has been a Wizard of Messaline, building her servants from precious scraps, living with the memory of a great love that betrayed her. She is ready to rest. But now her formerapprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, has brought her a speechless feral child poisoned by a sorcerous infection. Now, Messaline is swept by a mysterious plague. Now the seeping corpses of the dead stalk the streets. Now, finally, Bijou’s old nemesis — Bijou’s old love — Kaulas the Necromancer is unleashing a reeking half-death on Bijou’s people. And only Bijou and her creatures wrought of bone and jewels can save the City of Jackals from his final revenge.   Bijou the Artificer — (2013) Book of Iron is a prequel. Publisher: Subterranean Press is proud to announce Book of Iron, the standalone prequel to Elizabeth Bear’s acclaimed novella, Bone and Jewel Creatures. Bijou the Artificer is a Wizard of Messaline, the City of Jackals. She and her partner — and rival — Kaulas the Necromancer, along with the martial Prince Salih, comprise the Bey’s elite band of trouble-solving adventurers. But Messaline is built on the ruins of a still more ancient City of Jackals. So when two foreign Wizards and a bard from the mysterious western isles cross the desert in pursuit of a sorcerer intent on plundering the deadly artifacts of lost Erem, Bijou and her companions must join their hunt. The quest will take them through strange passages, beneath the killing light of alien suns, with the price of failure the destruction of every land.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsElizabeth Bear, Book of Iron


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.