Priest of Bones is a fantasy (grimdark) book written by Peter McClean and was published in 2018. It's the first book in the War for the Rose Thorn series. There are plans to adapt the series for television.
A warning that this book contains violence and abuse of children, so if that's something you're sensitive to you may want to steer clear of this one.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this, it was the first time dipping my toes in grim dark fantasy. I was expecting something really dark and depressing, but that's not at all what I found. There are elements in this book that are disturbing and dark, but all of it has purpose. Even the really difficult events serve the story and characters. The book is from the perspective of Thomas Piety and his experience coming home after a difficult war campaign. They find that the life they had prior to going off to war isn't what they remember. The world has gone on while they were away.
What I liked:
- I'm a huge fan of gangster movies. Movies like 'Goodfellas', 'The Godfather' and so on. This book is basically a grim dark gangster story. Loved the politics, the attempts to outmaneuver your enemies... not showing weakness. Or showing weakness to lure them in.
- The characters are mostly scumbags, murderers and thugs. But as the story goes along, you start to get attached to them. You understand why they do what they do, even if you find it appalling. Anti heroes are popular these days, and this reminded me of television shows like 'Breaking Bad' and 'Mad Men'. The more you discover about these characters, the more you care about what happens to them, and hope they are able to defeat their equally or even more revolting enemies. I'm not sure if I want to have a drink with these characters or run away from them, they float in the gray area of right and wrong. Are they a product of their world, doing what they have to do to survive, or are they just bad people?
- The dialogue almost reminded me of a Guy Ritchie movie. The back and fourth between characters was extremely entertaining and hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I would like to admit.
- The world and the people in it are defined, but not overwhelming. You aren't inundated with information. You know enough to get through the story and to understand the main players. The longer the story goes the more of the world becomes clear, but it's a good pace. One of the reasons I'm not a huge fantasy fan is because it can be overwhelming when too much of the world is dropped on your lap in the first few pages. And those types of books are great, but it's nice to have the world develop naturally.
- Speaking of pace, the book flows really well. The chapters are mostly short and very readable. If you're anything like me you like to stop reading between chapters, so there are plenty of opportunities to put the book down - if you can.
What I didn't like:
- A lot of the story references the war, but we don't hear a ton about it. Knowing more about the war and battles in it could have added to the story. There may be those answers planned for more books in the series, but I would love to read a prequel.
- I would have liked the environments to be a little more detailed, not a huge gripe but I found myself wanting more.
Conclusion and Rating:
This was a very enjoyable book. I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series. I liked it when I put the book down, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. It gave me a lot to think about: the effects of PTSD, what it does to people and how it can change you - mold you into something you never thought you would be. What used to be appalling suddenly becomes the norm. When they went off to war, they left their homes and families behind. While they were off fighting their worlds moved on without them. They come home to find they don't recognize what used to be their lives, and most if not all of what they had before is gone. That must be a horrible feeling, going off to fight for your homes and come back to find it's all gone and you have to start over, fight for what used to be yours.
Rating: 4 dead rats nailed to the door out of 5