#SPFBO Review : Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle #1) by Tim Hardie

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Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is nearly complete and team LB=TC2 (Lynnsbooks and the Critiquing Chemist) will be posting final reviews for the semi finalists before making a finalist announcement this forthcoming Saturday.  This week I am therefore aiming to post my thoughts on the three SF’s put forward by my teammates.

hall

Today I will be reviewing Hall of Bones which was a very enjoyable Norse inspired saga that brings us Vikings, clans clashing spectacularly, betrayal, magic and a narrator who simply pulls you in from the prologue.

As the story begins we meet Rothgar, youngest son of the chief of the Raevesburg Clan.  Rothgar is imprisoned and slowly dying and has plenty of time to reflect on the chain of events that brought him to this sorry state. To be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book that started in this way but  I can genuinely say that I was immediately drawn in by Rothgar’s voice and confess to being hooked from the first page! 

From this rather grim, but effective, opener Rothgar takes us back to happier times within Ulfkell’s Keep, this may be the seat of power for the clan but it is also the family home and the love and warmth shine through as he recounts his tale.  Rothgar is but a boy, still young, innocent, desperate to be more like his brother and completely unaware of the cruel twists of fate that lie ahead of him.  Even in these earlier chapters there is a jostling for power between the five clans but the hatred for the Vorund clan (their shared enemy) helps to strengthen their bonds. The chapters quickly pass as do the years, tragedy strikes and allegiances swiftly turn until a much greater threat, rooted in evil, begins to take shape.

I don’t want to elaborate on the plot in this review so will instead focus on my thoughts and emotions during the read.

I loved the start.  Rothgar has a wonderful storytelling voice that keeps the pages turning swiftly.  His life in these early chapters is intriguing and helps the reader to firmly understand the politics between the clans.  I really enjoyed reading about the family and their lives together and think Hardie perfectly judged the amount of detail to pass onto readers whilst maintaining a decent pace.  I found myself easily forming attachments to the family and other characters as they became firmly rooted in my mind until, with a few cruel strokes of his pen, the author ruthlessly turned everything on it’s head.

The world building is another strong aspect.  To be fair, with the viking feel (and vikings being so very popular at the moment) I think I would have been able to conjure the place with ease even if the worldbuilding had not been so good.  There’s a really interesting blend of the ‘already established’ and new elements such as the history of the place, the warring Gods and the Fallen Age that almost made me feel like I was actually reading a novel set in a place from the past – there’s just a ‘realness’ to this that stands out – although I’m not really describing it very well (and this is why I’m a reader with no ambitions of writing whatsoever).  

Moving on.  The characters are very well drawn. I really liked Rothgar, in fact all the supporting cast were equally well defined.  There is definitely an element of masculinity here, the focus tends to shine more often than not on the warriors of the tale, but, I thought there were two female characters who really stood out.  Etta is the ‘wizened old crone’ of the piece. I could imagine her looking into the stormy clouds and shaking her fist at the Gods.  She is like the oldest family retainer ever.  She teaches the boys as they mature but her influence stretches much further than you first imagine.  She is spinning webs and pulling strings with deft like subtlety, I really need to know more about Etta (in fact if Etta dies I may very well spit my dummy out – just saying)..  Nuna is the younger sister. Her role, like many young women from powerful families, was dictated from an early age – she would always be a pawn in the political maneuvering of the clans, used to curry favour and broker peace, and yet I found myself strangely attached to her.  She has a grace and charm that easily shines through and I’m hoping for more from her in the next instalment.

I think Hardie writes, and, probably more to the point, plots, really well,  I loved the change from young boy to young man.  Rothgar really grows during the course of the story and his character arc is easy to believe. Definitely a coming of age type feel to this but the twists that eventually take place really help to give it a fresh take.  And there are twists!  And bloodshed.  This is definitely not a bedtime story so be warned in that respect.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I think that the author walked a very fine line here in terms of pacing on a couple of occasions –  but, to be honest I think he managed to turn the tide both times just as the thought occurred to me.  The other thing I would mention is that given this is epic fantasy with convoluted clans clashing and the inclusion of the whole family saga – well, comparisons to other books of this nature are kind of inevitable.  I thought it stood its ground very well though and I really enjoyed the fantasy aspects in terms of the evil and the magic.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hall of Bones. I think it makes a great start to series and I look forward to reading more.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review. The above is my own opinion.

4 Responses to “#SPFBO Review : Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle #1) by Tim Hardie”

  1. Tammy

    This sounds like a good one. I love how close you are to the finish line!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s always a relief to be close to the end – and to eventually find your finalist.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Norse mythology adds a further fascinating element to any fantasy, indeed…

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