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Review

A Ritual of Bone by Lee C Conley

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: https://www.leeconleyauthor.com/
SERIES: The Dead Sagas
PUBLISHED: June 17, 2019 (2nd Edition, Self-Published)
PAGES: 386
GENRE: Dark Fantasy, Horror

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Blurb

“Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead”

Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.

The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.

But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.

Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.

This Dark Fantasy Epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.


Review

ALSO REVIEWED AT: Goodreads

Her love, replaced with a terrible rage as her spiralling descent into madness consumed all that she was. Perhaps it was easier to forget, to fall deeper into the darkness, to leave guilt and grief behind.

A Ritual of Bone is volume one in Conley’s debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas, and is a seamless blend of dark fantasy and unrestrained horror, filled with obscure mysteries and harrowing adventures. The pages are littered with resolute warriors, arcane necromancy, frenzied zombies, savage cannibalism, whispering shadows, and gore aplenty. It’s a true attestation of the concept that one should never assume the role of god to alter the rules of natural law, illustrated by the catastrophes resulting from tearing the dead from the cold embrace of Old Night. An account of companionship and courage and loss, this story stuns with its level of brutality, but also reveres the raw emotions exuded when facing adversity.

This is a tale expertly weaved with a great deal of attention paid to its many moving pieces. Four separate yarns involving different sets of characters drop us into a world being bombarded by bloodshed from every possible angle. While each remain a somewhat independent thread surrounding two distinct plot lines – one of the walking dead, and the other of a mysterious virulent disease – the entirety has the workings of a grand convergence, which only future installments may or may not confirm. Alternating chapters end with such notes of suspense, but also present tiny pieces of the puzzle for those looking closely enough. With so many facets to direct our focus to, it’s surprisingly easy to follow.

I believe this could possibly be the first story I’ve encountered that blends a traditional fantasy environment – the ancient north of a medieval setting – with the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. It’s one we’ve heard before, but never executed quite like this. Its singularity and imaginative aspects of the saga within makes this a highly engrossing read that not only keep you guessing throughout, but also leave curiosity festering well after the final pages are turned. We end with the consequences of fear and displacement, so don’t expect any semblance of closure…I’ve personally been left champing at the bit for more, which I truly hope will arrive sooner rather than later.

‘They test us…because here dwell men who will fight, and we should be honoured that they have chosen us–perhaps the finest warriors of Arnar–as their champions. Old Night will be denied my spirit this night.’

Conley triumphantly delivers a story led by beautifully crafted characters that, while are of incredibly diverse backgrounds, all share two things in common: utter desperation and bolstered resolve, fitting flawlessly within this menacing and grim world he has created. Exceptionally immersive and eerie surroundings with evil approaching on winter winds add another superb layer to this ruthless and macabre saga of life and death. The tension accomplished is thoroughly palpable as two grisly and seemingly unconnected threats violently lash the populace with a promise of more cruelty in the future. My only criticisms would be directed towards a few instances of misplaced focus that didn’t seem to bear any fruit throughout this particular book, as well as some unnecessary repetition.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Ritual of Bone, more so than expected as I’m not usually a fan of tales of zombies. Conley has created an impeccably solid foundation for a potentially noteworthy series to be enjoyed by fans of fantasy and horror alike. The final chapters were an emotional whirlwind, and it’s evident carnage lurks just beyond the horizon. I’ve already been on the hunt for a release date for the next book in the series because I’m dying (no pun intended) to find out what happens next. I highly recommend.

Note: A huge thank you to the author for providing me with a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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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