Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in a blog blast for Priest of Bones.  Check out the banner below to see which other blogs are taking part and make sure to pay them a visit and check out their thoughts.

PriestofPriest of Bones.  Where to begin.  Well, I think saying that I had a really good time reading this book is probably the best sort of opener for any review.  I won’t use the word fun because any story set in a grim and brutal world, where ruthless crime lords are battling for turf really can’t be described in such terms.  So, not fun, but definitely entertaining and, with perfect pacing, a gripping read.

Already there are many comparisons out there for Priest of Bones – most commonly likening this to the Godfather – and to be honest definitely hold that in your mind if you’re going to pick this up but also keep in mind that this is set in a different world and time where swords and axes are the weapons of choice.  I enjoyed this change of tack to be honest.  This isn’t about a dark overlord trying to kill all humans and take over the world, it’s not about huge sweeping battles.  This story brings the fighting to a street level and gives us protagonists that are more goodfella than knightly fellows.

So, as the story begins we make the introduction of one Tomas Piety.  Returning from war with his ragtag band of soldiers and his Lieutenant Bloody Anne, Tomas hopes to keep his soldiers on as Pious men.  Before Tomas was conscripted he was the head of the Pious Men, just one of the underworld gangs that run the streets of Ellinburg.  Of course, Tomas has been away for some time, as have most of the crime lords that were once in charge of the streets, and things have changed, not least of all the businesses once owned by Tomas having been take over by others.  Tomas is going to have to take swift and bloody action to reclaim what was once his.  Of course, not everything is what it seems.  Tomas may have lost his business interests but the other rival gangs are not at the heart of the takeover.  It seems that the streets of Ellinburg are being slowly infiltrated by newcomers who have a secret agenda, one that involves Tomas being forced to undertake work on behalf of the Queen’s Men.  Working for the Queen’s Men is tantamount to being a turncoat, if anybody finds out Tomas will be hung out to dry without any questions being asked.  As you can imagine, between trying to reclaim his businesses, keeping his crew in order and spying for the Queen’s Men Tomas really is sitting pretty between a rock and a hard place.

With a couple of minor reservations I really enjoyed this one.  I would plainly state that this is a book that doesn’t flinch away from the blood and guts or from the brutal scenes.  It’s not pretty and it certainly isn’t Middle Earth(ish) so you might want to consider that before embarking on Tomas’s story.  If you’ve read McLean’s Burned Man series you’ll be aware that his writing can be quite to the point, he doesn’t shy away from curse words or harshness.  For the record I’m not trying to paint this as overly grimdark because I didn’t find this as gut churning as some books that I’ve read in the not too distant past.  But, war is cruel and gangsters and crime lords are not renowned for their sweet and cuddly natures.

In terms of the characters.  Tomas is our pov character but he quite generously shares information about the other characters in his crew.  I enjoyed the way the back stories unfolded as part of the narrative and also with a degree of expectation that you would realise or understand the implied nature of things and reach the appropriate conclusion.  There are no info dumps here rather the inclusion of material as and when necessary that helps to build things in a steady but unobtrusive fashion.  Tomas is not necessarily a lovable character, he’s a gangster and a gang boss to boot.  In his favour however he won’t put up with certain behaviour.  He doesn’t condone drugs or rape and although he ‘taxes’ the people of Ellinburg he also wants to keep the place running smoothly and keep people fed and employed.  Regardless of his criminal proclivities you could say he cares.  He’s no Robin Hood but at the same time he’s not totally wicked or bereft of feeling.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve totally warmed to him just yet and he’s not become a lovable rogue but I would say that he has a feeling of ‘better the devil you know’ and like moss, that will grow whether you want it to or not, I think he’s started to grow on me.  I’m not going to give a breakdown of the other characters but I will give a shout out to the young boy called Billy – he fascinates me.  I want more of his character without a doubt.  I will even say please.  Pretty please sir, I want some more.

The setting could in fact be almost out of a Dicken’s novel.  It’s got that seedy dark underworld feel that some of Dicken’s stories had.  The streets feel ramshackle and grubby, people live in extreme poverty and there is a definite feeling of patience wearing thin.  I wouldn’t say that the world building is really strong here but I don’t mean that negatively.  I had enough to have a feel for the place and I think there’s plenty of room for growth in future books – I’m assuming there are more due but I’m not sure how many at this point

In terms of criticisms I don’t have anything significant.  I felt that at the start of the book Tomas repeated himself a little when he was talking about members of his crew – particularly in terms of their loyalty (or not).  It’s only a small thing and whilst it didn’t really bother me I was aware of it which in turn made me wonder if it was foreshadowing of things yet to come.  I also haven’t really become strongly attached to the characters.  They haven’t quite jumped off the page for me just yet but I do like Billy, well, I find him very intriguing, and Tomas is also starting to starting to grow on me as I mentioned above.

Overall, I found Priest of Bones a strong, entertaining read.  In a nutshell and simply put – I enjoyed it.  The plot develops really well, there’s a sense of ever growing threat and the pacing is absolutely spot on.  I cannot fault the writing  or the way that I was hooked to the page waiting to see what would happen next.  I very much look forward to the next book.

I would just say a quick word about potential triggers, this book is definitely not a YA read and contains violence and language.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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20 Responses to “Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean”

  1. alwaystrustinbooks

    Great review. I have a copy of this ready to go!

  2. waytoofantasy

    Sounds like an interesting one! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I found this one a really easy one to get into.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    I’m excited to start this! Hopefully soon, I feel completely buried in books right now but I hope to surface soon😉

  4. Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek

    Great review. I loved this book.

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The Dickensian vibe of the story is the element that I found more intriguing in your review, and I think it could go well with the overall theme of the novel. Worth giving this book a try, indeed.. Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the slums and poverty gave me a Dickensian vibe.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Carmen

    Great review, Lynn! You covered the main points, plus I liked “more goodfella than knightly fellows”. That phrase speaks volumes. 😉 It seems there is plenty room to explore and many directions future installments could cover. I hope that’s the case.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope so too. I think the next book will be quite different in some respects.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m glad you enjoyed it more than me, and I definitely had issues with the repetition too. IMO, he relied too much on that telling rather than showing. And maybe I’m at a point where I’m experience fatigue with grimdark-y books, and they really need to be unique for them to stand out.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the telling us about who he trusted or not was a bit overdone – I wasn’t sure if that was a big hint at things yet to come but like you said there was a little too much ‘tell’ going on in that respect. I know what you mean about being a bit fatigued – that’s why I’m putting so many different reads inbetween my fantasy reads otherwise I think i’d just burn out.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    “Gangsters and crime lords are not renowned for their sweet and cuddly natures”–now this just makes me want to read a book that *does* have sweet-natured gangsters. 😀 I love the Godfather vibe of this, and the fact that you compared it to Dickens makes me want to read it even more! 🙂

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