Jeff Smith first began Bone in 1991, and it’s clear he still loves it, despite ending the series in 2004. He hasn’t lost any steam over the ensuing years (he continues to do some of his best work in his ongoing, not-for-children series Rasl), and he is still visiting the world he created in Bone. Other books are in the works, but he has just recently released ROSE, along with Charles Vess, who handled the painting.
ROSE is a prequel to Bone, taking place years earlier and starring Gran’ma Ben as the title character. Her story begins with her as a young princess beset with a treacherous sister (the aptly named Briar), who is jealous of Rose’s ability to magically dream. More evil is afoot in the form of a dragon named Mim, once glorious and benevolent but driven mad when she was possessed by the evil spirit of the Lord of the Locusts, who could not enter the world physically (which is why he needed to possess another).
Vess offers a perfect pairing with Smith’s deliciously humorous and adventurous writing. The action is sharp, and the tale so pleasant and likable --- for all its moderate bloodiness and imminent danger --- that Vess’s work makes it all the more readable. His artistry sizzles under his vibrant coloring, which is what really makes the book shine.
ROSE is another winning entry in the entire Bone saga. It functions completely as a stand-alone tale, so you need not be familiar with the previous works. If you are, however, you will come across quite a few familiar faces, and you’ll love seeing this glimpse into Gran’ma Ben’s early life.
There are some chills as well as some violence in the book, but nothing too shocking for most young readers. Like most of Smith’s work, the wit behind the action makes it all easily accessible for most readers, young and old.
Reviewed by John Hogan on February 13, 2012
Bone Prequel: Rose