I’m a judge for the first-ever SPSFC (Self Published Science Fiction Contest), but couldn’t help noticing the parallel SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off) contest happening. I always love finding some new indie authors and books, so I decided to read through the finalists of that contest and review them on my site. As always, let me know your own thoughts in the comments.
Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie
Hall of Bones follows the epic story of Rothgar’s coming of age as his clan suffers from brutal attacks from its rival. That rival is powered by dark magic and ancient evil, and the novel reads as a great first entry in a long saga.
The story starts off as a kind of hero’s journey, complete with love interests, numerous rivals, and familial tension. The plot doesn’t stay wholly trope-y, though, as things go off the rails with both political drama among the clans and a greater evil threat to the whole way of life of all those within the world.
It’s easy to get lost in Rothgar’s narrative, in ways both good and bad. The cacophony of Norse-inspired names and places can become overwhelming, even from the first pages of the book as numerous characters are thrown at the reader on every page. On the flip side, the wealth of characters and detail makes the world feel full and robust. I did occasionally feel like I needed a printed off dramatis personae sheet, though.
When the narrative works, it works well. Readers will be drawn into the alcohol-soaked halls filled with revels, the language the people utter, and the dramatic buildup of conflict throughout the story. While the narrative occasionally flounders in the midst of the sea of characters and names that can make even the most focused brain feel a bit muddled. Rothgar’s own destiny is questioned throughout the novel, as he struggles to figure out what the dark dreams he has mean, and what his abilities entail.
Hall of Bones reads like a Viking epic, complete with all the positives and negatives that might engender. Readers wanting to dive into a richly realized fantasy world with a darker turn of magic should check it out.
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