Review: HALL OF BONES by Tim Hardie

Publisher: Self-Published
Page Count: 426
Release Date: November 25th, 2020
Rating: 3.75/5 Stars – Liked it!

Hall of Bones

Rothgar is the second son to the chief of the Reavesburg Clan, groomed to one day be the right hand to his elder brother Jorik when he becomes chief. Although Rothgar is just coming of age, he finds himself all to soon thrust into the bloody politics of clan warfare as the Vorund Clan becomes an increasing threat to Reavesburg and the surrounding lands. Rothgar has trained his whole life for battle, but this is one war that can’t be fought with swords alone. A dark power is on the rise, one that hasn’t been seen in centuries since the War of the Avatars, and one that may be too much for the clans to defend against.

HALL OF BONES is a steady-moving saga that invites you to settle next to a fire for a long but enthralling yarn. The first of a planned four-book series, this is not a fast-paced book, but one that takes its time to show evolving threats and relationships over the years. If you’ve come looking for magic, be warned you won’t see it until well into the back half of the book. Instead, HALL OF BONES is carefully setting the table for the conflict to come. While most of the story takes place when Rothgar is roughly 16 or 17 years old, it first begins when he is 10, establishing the players and long-running alliances and enemies. But though the plot takes place over years, it is almost entirely from Rothgar’s first person POV, keeping it a focused tale on one character, rather than a sprawling epic jumping about all the lands.

Even though the book is on the slower side, I still found myself hooked by the story. Watching clans circle each other, trying to decide who to ally with, who could be trusted, whether or not it was time to make peace with those who had been enemies for decades, was a tense dance I enjoyed. I found myself reading uninterrupted for long periods of time, eager to see if gambles had paid off, or if a proposed alliance was doomed to end in blood. The magic, when it does arrive in the plot, fits well into the Viking-esque flavor of the fantasy, relying more on the mystical and shadowy side of the supernatural, rather than flashy powers.

Where I struggled a bit with the book was some of the character writing, particularly for the women. Let me start by saying there were definitely some characters that stood out to me. Rothgar, as the first person POV protagonist, is well-written, and we see him struggling to step into the role of both leader and advisor as times change for the Reavesburg Clan. Other characters serve well as foils, allies, and adversaries – I thought in particular Rothgar’s brother Jorik, as well as close ally jarl Johan, were well done, evolving over time as they adapt to new circumstances.

Most of the women, however, had little to offer beyond their assigned role of wife, love interest, or sexy magical temptress. Rothgar is in love with a young serving woman named Desta, but I could not tell you a single thing about her besides those facts, even though she appears throughout the book, and Rothgar’s concern for her safety is an on-going factor in his life. This lack of development was an area that disappointed me a bit. I understand this world has a male-dominated society, but there’s always ways to flesh out female characters, as seen by the evolving role of Nuna, sister to Rothgar. Nuna begins to realize ways she can help her people by the end of the book, and I’m curious to see if her role is expanded going forward. I realize this is more of a personal thing I bumped on, but I noticed it enough I had to mention it.

All that aside, however, I still enjoyed my time with HALL OF BONES and am looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here. A larger war has been established by the time the book comes to a close, and it looks like the future will continue to be a bloody one for Rothgar and his allies.

Note: I was provided a free review copy by the author in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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