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The Servant of the Bones is in many ways a classic piece of Rice fiction, following her prefered format but introducing us to a few new ideas. Fans will love it, those not already taken with her work will probably find no reason to change their minds.
As is so often the case with Rice, we find ourselves presented with a modern human setting, and a chap called Jonathan who is in something of a retreat in a cabin. He falls ill, and it is during this period that a striking young man enters his life. Azriel is the eponymous servant of the bones, and appears to have come largely to tell his tale ( a familiar format.) Through his narration, we travel back to ancient Babylon, witness strange magics and rituals that take him from innocent youth, to a brief glory representing a god, followed by what has to be one of the msot horrible and prolonged death scenes I have ever read. Babaylon is as splendid and mysterious in this book as any past Rice has set out to capture.
Azriel's tale in one of rage, violence, occasionail evil and hope. Bound to his bones (Now covered with gold.) he must serve whoever owns those bones. Endowed with supernatural powers, he can travel the world, steal, interact with the living and seems to have few limits. His story however is more often sordid than noble. Having given you the outline, I will spare you the details as discovering exactly how he became as he is, (always a theme with Rice.) is key to the book and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
The theme of confession runs strongly through Rice's work - the notion that by telling the story we are some how redeemed and the evil of our actions can be lessened. it is tempting to point towards Rice's catholic inclinations as an explanation for her format. This is another haunted, troubled book that will delight you as you read it, but leave you with a strange hollow feeling in your gut once you've got to the end. I am addicted to Rice - I have to read her work but often I find her very depressing.
For anyone looking to get in to Rice, this may be a good place to start - it is typical of her work, but less daunting for being one moderately long book rather than part of some enormous series. It's better paced than the mayfair books and isn't as hampered by hype as the Vampire chronicles. A good read.