Review: City of Bones – Updated and Revised Edition by Martha Wells





Before Martha Wells captured the hearts of MILLIONS with her Murderbot series , there was Khat, Sagai, and Elen, and a city risen out of death and decay…

The city of Charisat, a tiered monolith of the Ancients’ design, sits on the edge of the vast desert known as the Waste. Khat, a member of a humanoid race created by the Ancients to survive in the Waste, and Sagai, his human partner, are relic dealers working in the bottom tiers of society, trying to stay one step ahead of the Trade Inspectors.

When Khat is hired by the all-powerful Warders to find relics believed to be part of one of the Ancients’ arcane engines, he, and his party, begin unravelling the mysteries of an age-old technology.

This they expected.

They soon find themselves as the last line of defense between the suffering masses of Charisat and a fanatical cult, bent on unleashing an evil upon the city with an undying thirst for bone.

That, they did not expect.

This updated and revised edition is the author’s preferred text.


When I came across City of Bones by Martha Wells on Netgalley, I must confess I felt a bit confused. I had previously read the book, and at first, I assumed Tordotcom was merely republishing it. However, after some research I discovered that it had been updated and revised. While I cannot precisely identify the specific revisions (given that I read the book quite some time ago), I can certainly attest that City of Bones still remains exceptional a second time around.

If I were to provide a single-word characterization of City of Bones, it would be ‘unique’, as it stands out in every conceivable manner. While the narrative unfolds in a post apocalyptic realm, unlike the majority of novels that plunge us into nascent societies struggling amidst chaos, power conflicts, and the process of building themselves up, the world depicted in City of Bones is already considerably advanced and resides on the cusp of scientific breakthroughs and exploration.

It is no secret that Martha Wells is the queen of world building and City of Bones is no different. Every aspect of this book is exquisitely distinctive, distinguishing itself from any other work I have encountered. Firstly, Wells skillfully delves into the themes of xenophobia, bigotry and prejudice, vividly portraying a tiered social system in which Kris (genetically engineered humans created by the Ancients) and humans belonging to lower tiers and non citizens face discrimination in a manner that is both captivating and unflinchingly honest.

Furthermore, City of Bones unveils a meticulously constructed law enforcement system that is both intricate and well-conceived, complete with its own hierarchies and ranks. This system provides a comprehensive portrayal of the society that Wells seeks to present to the reader. Moreover, the novel introduces a distinctive monetary system based on tokens, where the value is derived from work days—an innovative concept that adds another layer of originality to the narrative. Additionally, the political landscape and power struggles between the law enforcement entities and the scholars further contribute to the richness of the story, establishing a captivating dynamic within the world Wells has crafted.

Martha Wells skillfully portrays the Ancient Remnants, colossal structures left behind by the Ancients, with a vividness that captures their awe-inspiring presence. These remnants stand as a testament to a bygone era and contribute to the sense of wonder and mystery in the story. Equally remarkable is Wells’ imaginative depiction of the Waste, an expansive desert teeming with deadly creatures that she has ingeniously crafted. This perilous environment becomes a breeding ground for pirates who prey upon traders and relic hunters, adding an element of danger and excitement to the narrative. Lastly, the fringe and free cities, where the present-day humans reside, are described in such a way that their unique characteristics and role in the story are vividly brought to life. Wells’ skill in describing these various settings contributes to the immersive nature of the world she has created.

In City of Bones, the narrative centers around three key characters who drive the story forward. Firstly, there is Khat, a relic hunter belonging to the Kris lineage. Khat’s expertise lies in unearthing and recovering artifacts of historical significance. Secondly, we have Sagai, Khat’s companion in the perilous endeavor of relic hunting. Sagai, a non citizen from the lower tiers of the Patrician class, adds a unique perspective to the dynamic duo. Finally, we encounter Elen, a Warder possessing the ability to wield magic. Together, these three characters embark on a series of adventures trying to recover certain Ancient Relics that would shed light on Ancient Arcane magic and help scientific advancements in the current world, their paths intertwined as they navigate the challenges and mysteries that unfold in the captivating world of City of Bones.

The interplay among these three characters is masterfully crafted, evoking both heartwarming moments and gut-wrenching honesty. One aspect I particularly admired was Martha Wells’ skill in depicting the interactions between Khat and Elen, gradually developing their friendship with subtle hints of romance sprinkled throughout, without ever imposing it upon the reader. Initially, suspicion and prejudice stemming from their disparate backgrounds and past experiences serve as barriers between them. However, as time progresses, an unbreakable bond forms, transforming them into an inseparable duo who can genuinely claim to be true friends, despite the obstacles their society throws their way. This progression not only showcases the growth and evolution of their relationship, but also adds depth and authenticity to the narrative, making their connection all the more compelling and relatable.

The plot of City of Bones is ingeniously constructed, leaving readers in constant suspense and intrigue. Just when I believed I had figured out the direction the story was taking, Martha Wells skillfully steers it in a different and unexpected path. This element of surprise and unpredictability adds a delightful twist to the narrative, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. The suspense woven throughout the story enhances the overall development, capturing the reader’s attention and heightening the sense of anticipation. Wells’ ability to maintain a captivating level of intrigue ensures that the story remains engaging and leaves a lasting impression on its audience.

In conclusion, City of Bones is one of the most unique stories written by Martha Wells I had the privileges of reading. While the book could serve as a satisfying standalone novel, it also holds great potential for expansion into a series. Personally, I would eagerly embrace the opportunity to delve back into the immersive world of City of Bones, as there is a wealth of possibilities waiting to be explored. The desire to revisit the intricate storytelling and engaging characters is a testament to the lasting impact of this remarkable tale, leaving me yearning for more.

My sincere thanks to Netgalley, Tordotcom and Martha Wells for providing me an advance copy of updated and revised version of City of Bones, giving myself to enjoy the story once more.

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