The novel was first published in the United Kingdom as a hardcover on 1 March 2006. The first mass-market paperback edition appeared in April 2007. The first United States edition was published in September 2007.
The Bonehunters begins two months after the events of House of Chains. The Malazan Fourteenth Army has destroyed the army of the Whirlwind, and Adjunct Tavore Paran has executed Sha'ik. The Fourteenth is now pressing westward, pursuing the remnants of the Whirlwind rebellion (under Leoman of the Flails), as it seeks refuge in the fortress city of Y'Ghatan, where the Malazan Empire had previously faced its greatest defeat. Meanwhile, Onearm's Host, restored to the favour of Empress Laseen, has landed on Seven Cities' north coast to complete the task of subduing the rebellion, but a deadly plague has been unleashed. Ganoes Paran, the new Master of the Deck of Dragons, arrives from Genabackis to help deal with the chaos. Elsewhere, the balance of power is shifting in the Malazan Imperial Court, and strange black ships have been sighted in the waters surrounding Quon Tali and Seven Cities. The quest of the expeditionary force of the Letherii Empire to find warriors worthy of facing Emperor Rhulad Sengar in battle is about to be answered twice over.