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Review

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: https://talonwraith.com/
SERIES: War for the Rose Throne
PUBLISHED: October 2, 2018 by Ace Books (US), October 4, 2018 by Jo Fletcher Books (UK)
PAGES: 352
GENRE: Grimdark fantasy, Dark Fantasy

AVAILABLE AT


Blurb

It’s a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war. With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen’s Men, everything gets more complicated.

When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life it becomes clear; the war is not over.

It is only just beginning.


Review

ALSO REVIEWED AT: Goodreads

Those were the times we lived in.

Tomas Piety – soldier, priest, crime boss – returns home after three long years at war, only to find all of his once-thriving businesses stripped from him by an unknown foe. With his brother and fellow soldiers at his back, he means to take back what is rightfully his, no matter the cost. But there’s more to this battle than meets the eye and the future of the whole of Ellinberg rests in Tomas’ hands. With powerful and influential allies working from the shadows, he must make the hard decisions that will not only keep his men alive, but also ensure the well-being of those he has sworn to protect. This is the beginning of the War for the Rose Throne.

What can I say other than I absolutely LOVED this book. Priest of Bonesis definitely one of the most entertaining and intriguing books I’ve read in a long while, and I wish it never had to end. Right from start I was completely engulfed in a story of the bonds of brotherhood, whether through blood or tried and tested by the horrors of warfare. It’s a tale of holding fast to your ideals and staying true to your word, even when it may not be completely beneficial to your own needs. It’s about loyalty, faith, and fighting for what’s yours, all while making due with the hand you’ve been dealt. And it is one hell of a story of harsh justice.

Priest of Bones recounts the events of the Pious Men reclaiming their streets through the eyes of Tomas Piety in such an awesome, immersive way, ripe with street slang and colloquialisms that make this feel as though it’s a story told and not a story read. Honestly, it’s really all the tiny insights that add up that make this book pretty damn amazing. A firsthand account of the effects of battleshock, and how it can push people to feel and act a certain way. The uncertainty faced when the mind and heart battle for supremacy, being forced to choose what’s needed rather than what’s wanted. The violence, often quite severe, conveyed in such a cool, apathetic way that only a seasoned crime boss or former soldier could ever exude. Tomas faces some serious and dangerous obstacles, yet I can’t recall one moment where the tone shifts to one of panic. Everything is executed in just the perfect way, keeping the pages turning, and making it hugely difficult to put the book down.

Sometimes a leader has to keep things to himself and make the hard decisions alone.

The cast of characters McLean has crafted is so beautifully diverse, each complex with their public facades masking their inner demons, rich and tragic histories, and mysterious backgrounds. Each serves a purpose, and none go to waste. I found it pretty impressive that I actually grew to care for many of the large number of players in the game, especially when most can be considered secondary or auxiliary characters. In addition to Jochan, Tomas’ unhinged younger brother, Bloody Anne, his trusted second-in-command, and Ailsa, barmaid and fancy lady, there are so many others that add a rich depth to the story – Fat Luka, Cutter, and Billy the Boy being amongst some of my favorites. I feel the removal of even one of these characters would be noticed, and if I’m being honest, I’m a bit afraid for their futures. The enigmatic baddie keeps Tomas and the gang on their toes, and I’m excited to see what happens when they finally clash.

The majority of this book takes place in the city of Ellinberg, a moderately industrious city now decimated by plague and poverty. Each of its districts is aptly named for its redeeming qualities and controlled by a certain group of people. The Stink, seat of Tomas and his Pious Men, named for its lovely smell. The Wheels, home to Ma Aditi and The Gutcutters, a rival crime gang, and named for its dominating water wheels. Trader’s Row, pretty self-explanatory and somewhat of a common neutral ground. We find ourselves exploring the majority of the city in the dark of night as Tomas plots and executes his many plans. Sometimes I feel as though stories set in one city can get a bit cramped and confined, but I didn’t feel that way at all with our misadventures through Ellinberg.

I can talk about this book all day, but I’ll leave the rest for you to discover yourself. There are secrets and treachery around every corner, and the only way to truly experience it all is to have Tomas tell you himself. Priest of Bones is a gritty read that tackles some pretty dark themes, never pulling any punches, and skillfully uses them to explain and accent the story at hand. It’s refreshing to see these heinous aspects being exposed for a purpose and not just because. I went into this book a bit blindly, as I’ve yet to read anything by Peter McLean, but my expectations have greatly exceeded to say the least, and I don’t think I can truly convey how excited I am to jump back in with Priest of Lies. If you’re looking for something dark with some splashes of sarcastic humor and some pretty intense action, this is what you’re looking for. I highly recommend.

Justine Bergman

Web developer by trade, ravenous reader, excited reviewer, dark fantasy enthusiast, mother of pups, drinker of strong coffee, and player of games. I'm also a contributor over at Fantasy Book Critic and The Fantasy Hive, and I love sharing the love.

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