Bone: Quest For the Spark, Book Two by Tom Sniegoski (2012)
Something I did not know until I picked up this book: new prose adventures from Jeff Smith's world of Bone have been published. Tom Sniegoski has worked with Smith and has published the collection Tall Tales and the Quest for the Spark series. Good news, indeed. And under which rock had I been hiding while this was going on?
For those not familiar with Bone, if Caspar the Friendly Ghost and the Stay-Puff Marshmellow Man ever got drunk at a party and woke to find they had a big-nosed kid, the kid would be a Bone. Bones come from Boneville and a very few have been known to stray from their homeland and end up in The Valley, a place where many animals talk and where magical things can happen. Beginning in 1991, Jeff Smith began self- publishing their black and white adventures, concluding with the 55th comic book in 2004. Along the way, he released the entire series , bit by bit, as nine graphic novels. After the last in the series was done, the entire series was issued as one masssive (1300-plus pages!) volume. Smith went on to colorize the original graphic novels from 2005 to 2009. The series scooped up a gazillion awards (actually ten Eisner Awards and Eleven Harvey Awards, and a slew of nominations) and was named one the ten best English graphic novels ever written.
Sniegoski's The Quest for the Spark trilogy -- Book Three is due out in Febrary 2013 -- reveals a great threat to The Valley and, ultimately, to the world. The Nacht is the Dragon of darkness; his power to eliminate the light has been awakened. One power of the darkness is to put people into a permanent sleep. Opposing the Nacht is The Dreaming, a force of light. Things are looking pretty grim when The Dreaming chooses young Tom Elm, a twelve-year-old turnip farmer, as it's hero to conquer the Nacht. Tom had found a shining crystal -- a piece of the original Spark, the very first ray of light to vanquish the dark. All Tom has to do is to find and bring together the remaining pieces of the Spark. A simple quest, right?
Opposing Tom are the giant Rat Creatures under the leadership of their king, Agak. More deadly than the Rats are the evil spirits sent by Nacht to inhabit the bodies of the Constable and four of his men and to lead the Rats to more destructive ways.
Joining Tom are three Bones: Percival Bone, explorer and tinkerer, and his young niece and nephew, Abbey and Barclay Bone. With the young Bones is Roderick, their talking raccoon. Also on the quest are Randolf Clearmeadow, an former Veni Yan priest, and Lorimar, supposedly the last of the First People. Lorimar is spirit energy who has taken up a body made of leaves and plant matter. Two stupid Rat Creatures, Stinky and Smelly, on the run from King Agak because they have stolen a very dead squirrel from him, have also become part of the quest. The dead (and getting deader all the time) squirrel is Fredrick and Stinky is in love with him, taking him everywhere he goes. (By the way, "stupid Rat Creatures" is a reduncancy.)
Book Two opens with our heroes in search of supplies for their airship Queen of the Sky. (They especially need potatoes to power the airship.) But the darkness, as well as the Constable and King Agak and their horde, has also come to town. Tom and his crew barely escape and their search for the spark leads them to a colony of giant, angry bees, and also to three stupid bears who would rather steal honey than save the world. In the meantime, the Nacht is setting the stage for one of Tom's crew to betray them.
It's great to be back in the world of Bone -- that scary, funny, wonderful creation of Jeff Smith where things seem simple but are really not, where characters can be both stereotypes and individuals at the same tine, and where humor and adventure meet. Smith provided the illustations for the book and, while not credited with any of the writing, clearly had some input on the package.
Now I have to find those other Bone books I hadn't known were published. There're addictive, you see. In a good way.