I guess I've reviewed my share of Bone books now. After releasing just about every bit of Bone comics material by the end of last year, Scholastic is now publishing a text novel series written by Tom Sniegoski with illustration from creator Jeff Smith. Sniegoski wrote some of the comics in last year's collection, Bone: Tall Tales so he's not a newcomer to this world. Still it's a leap from collaborating with the creator of a comic on a comic to taking on writing Bone: Quest for the Spark – a text novel (the first in a planned trilogy) based in the Bone universe.
And a bit of a leap for me to review too. While I have a couple of voracious, word-consuming kids who would give Matilda a run for her money, it's been awhile since I've read a lot of novels aimed at the pre-tween to tween set. Comics yes, but not so much text novels. Having said that, the x-girls LOVED Bone: Quest for the Spark (in fact it took me awhile to get it back from them to actually sit down and read) and maybe someday they could sit down and write the review for it. Maybe if I raised their allowances.
Besides the change from comic to text, the story also shifts from the three Bone cousins to a 12 year old turnip farmer named Tom Elm. We do however still get a bit of Queen Thorn and Gran'ma Ben to open and close the book. This book sets up the series with a quest to find the pieces of the "spark" which will help defeat the Nacht (who are the bad guys threatening the Valley in this series). In some ways the plot feels very familar to the quest in the original series but Sniegoski adds enough original characters and challenges to make it feel new. Tom's "team" includes his pal Roderick the racoon, Percival Bone and his nephew and niece, and Lorimar, an earth spirit, and Randolf Clearmeadow, a Veni Yan warrior.
It is a really nicely done book (no surprise from Scholastic) and the plentiful illustrations from Jeff Smith (many taking up an entire page) really ease the transition from the comics to straight-ahead text. I wouldn't say that it completely satisfies in the way I would imagine another Bone comic would — the comicness of the Bone universe is just too much a part of it for me — but Sniegoski is pretty funny and does manage to inject a lot of slapstick humor into an adventurous story. Anyone who was a fan of the original books will want to get this. And in a reverse of the usual, this book might get some kids into comics who otherwise haven't gotten the graphic novel bug. If they read this book first, I bet they'll eagerly reach for the original series.
The publisher provided a free copy to ComixTalk for review purposes.