Bone Shop by T.A. Pratt is an origin story. Although it’s not a full novel, it definitely deserves a review.
This novella is available on the web as donationware. That means that you get to read it, and if you like it, you pay directly to the author.
T.A. Pratt isn’t just some random author, though; he’s the author of the Marla Mason urban fantasy series AMZ | B&N. I’d heard of this series before, but didn’t think I wanted to read more of the same old urban fantasy. But when I saw that there was a story in this universe, that I could check out for free… well, yeah, of course I’ll spend a little bit of time reading it and decide what it’s worth later.
As mentioned, Bone Shop is an origin story for Marla Mason, and so shares both the wonder and problems of all origin stories when you already know part of how things end up. Just like the latest remaginings of Batman or Spiderman can’t completely ignore what’s come before, Pratt can’t ignore where his character must end up, and this is the only real flaw in the work. The last quarter (or less) seems a little rushed, almost as if Pratt realized that his character wasn’t headed where she was supposed to go.
But when I say that is the only problem I had with the work, I meant it. This really is two or three novels packed into a novella, introducing both an entire world, many rich characters, and several major story arcs. It is a fantastic introduction to Marla Mason, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Let me clarify: Even the last bit – where it seemed a bit rushed and forced – was good. It is only in comparison to the rest of the masterful plotting and pacing that good pales in comparison to great.
This is not your lighthearted wisecracking urban fantasy – though there’s lots of smartaleckness and humor throughout. It’s a dark, gritty story, where weird and dark things exist without reason, where people are flawed, and sometimes you have no recourse but to choose the lesser of two evils.
(Bone Shop is available in print as well from lulu, but Bone Shop is listed on Amazon as a novel. I don’t know if there’s any difference between this and the online version; I suspect not.)