(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Channeling the turbulent period of the Vietnam War and its ruthless pitting of ideologies, cultures, generations, and races against each other, military historian and acclaimed fantasy writer Chris Evans takes a daring new approach to the traditional world of sword and sorcery by thrusting it into a maelstrom of racial animus, drug use, rebellion, and a growing war that seems at once unwinnable and with no end in sight. In this thrilling epic, right and wrong, country and honor, freedom and sacrifice are all put to the ultimate test in the heart of a dark, bloody, otherworldly jungle.
In this strange, new world deep among the shadows under a triple-canopy jungle and plagued by dangers real and imagined, soldiers strive to fulfill a mission they don’t understand and are ill-equipped to carry out. And high above them, the heavy rush of wings slashing through the humid air herald a coming wave of death and destruction, and just possibly, salvation.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
As always, I’m going to be honest with you guys: I had a really, really hard time getting into this book. I’m sure that some of you out there would have a similar problem because of all the new vocabulary, culture, characters, etc. With that said, by about the second half of the novel I really began to appreciate Chris Evans’ writing.
His world-building is frankly amazing. Not only has he created a somewhat unique fantasy world (something that I haven’t seen a lot of lately), he has populated it with very interesting creatures, different races and cultures. My favourite part of the entire book was the dragons, or the ‘rags’ as their drivers call them. They’re so unique and yet at the same time, it makes perfect sense for them to have done all of the things Chris Evans thinks of: they can overheat, there are many different species of dragons, young dragons are more ornery when they’re first being ridden and they have their favourite roosting spots. My favourite seen was when one of the characters rides on a rag for the first time and they have to make a quick landing to cut it open because its core was overheating (because of old age). It was hilarious to read about his reactions to what was his first day in the Lux.
Really, you can’t fault anything with Chris Evans’ world-building the same way you can’t fault his characterization. He has such a diverse cast of characters that are so well fleshed-out that you can’t help but feel for all of them. In particular I liked Vorly because he was a rag driver, but Jawn, Wraith and Listowick were also right up there. Everyone in his book has their different reasons for fighting in the war: glory, honour, nowhere else to go, a chance at a better life, etc. It’s very realistic and I love the depictions of the soldiers who have been in the Lux for a long time compared to the new recruits, particularly the heavily devout ones. It certainly makes for inter-character tension and plenty of conflict.
My only real problem with the book was the pacing. It took me a little over half the novel to really get into it because even though I recognize this is epic fantasy, the plot crawled along at a snail’s pace. Yes, it helps to go slow to get your reader oriented, but that came later in the book so Chris Evans really could have sped up the beginning a little to hook readers better. It’s not a long book, only 496 pages, but in the beginning it did feel like an eternity. Once you get past the beginning, however, things get pretty crazy as the forces of the Kingdom and the slyts get ready to face off in a battle that has not been seen in the thus far guerrilla-style war. So yes, there is some sag in the middle and the beginning but the rest of the book is very, very fast-paced.
In the end, I’m very glad that I didn’t give up on Of Bone and Thunder as I was very tempted to in the beginning. Chris Evans is an excellent writer despite the shaky beginning and I’m definitely adding his Iron Elves trilogy to my ever-expanding to read pile.
I give this book 4/5 stars.