Authorguy's Blog

My favorite character

Posted on: July 17, 2010

Not my own.  Just thought I’d make that clear up front.

I recently acquired my third copy of a fabulous little fantasy novel, The Thread that Binds the Bones, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman.   I don’t know where the first two went, but they just sort of…vanished.  The story is about Tom Renfield, a man of great power and little desire to use it.  Through some miraculous chance, he meets and marries Laura Bolte, a member of a large and powerful clan known as the Family, who live in a place called Chapel Hollow.  They also have great powers, and are not at all afraid to use them.

This book has two main characters.  Tom Renfield is the main male lead, with powers beyond anything even the Family can boast.  The central plot arc of the book is him claiming his power, and learning to use it within his own moral limits.  In and of itself, this would make the book a keeper for me, since I love stories about people who don’t aspire to power but who have to claim it when it gets thrust upon them.  Lawrence Watt-Evans and Patricia McKillip are other authors in this line.

Laura Bolte, the main female lead, is a member of the Family who has been carefully coached into believing she has no power, which doesn’t much bother her since she doesn’t like the way her Family uses the power they have.  She learns otherwise, but fear of turning into a typical Family member holds her back.  Another female lead is Maggie, a normal human girl who was taken by the Family and enslaved.  Tom, who doesn’t hold much truck with slavery, frees her as one of his first acts in the Family.  This sets off one of the greatest character development arcs in any of the stories I know.

Carroll Bolte is the man who enslaved Maggie, three times worse than any other Family member in the history of the nearby town of Arcadia.  He is insulting, arrogant, powerful, desirous, and rude.  His first act when Tom enters the Family is to turn him into a jackass.   Tom undoes the spell and turns Carroll into a raven, a spell no one can undo except Tom.  And he wants Maggie back.  He comes after her a second time, and this time Tom does something much more interesting.  He casts a spell on Carroll which turns him into ‘that which he victimizes, that which he most desires.’  Carroll turns into a little girl, and powerless.   But Carroll is a strong character, multi-dimensional, and an event that might destroy lesser men only makes him stronger.

I will refrain from spoiling the story for those of you who may actually get it and read it and love it as I do.


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