I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. During the past calendar year, there has been a plethora of new authors writing tales of Norse inspired epic fantasy. Tim Hardie is one of those aforementioned authors and boy does he know how to write a rich, emotional, and gritty novel. Hall of Bones takes inspiration from the works of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and I mean this in the best possible way. The plot was mysterious yet captivating, the world building was grand but restrained to the perspectives, and the characters were engrossing but seemingly distant in there thoughts and actions. Hall of Bones will remind you vividly of the stories you grew up reading while bringing in a fresh perspective to the genre.
Hall of Bones is a first person POV following the life of Rothgar. Rothgar is the second son of the Reavesburg Clan leader Kolfinnar Marlson. Rothgar’s older brother Jorik is destined to replace his father as clan leader and he goes about his day preparing for battles, strategies, training, and ultimately his marriage. Rothgar with no expectations placed on him is tossed into training to become a warrior in the clan to repel southern invaders. Olfridor Halfhand is chosen to train Rothgar and with the assistance of Etta the Crone, Rothgar moves high up in the ranks hen tragedy strikes. Kolfinnar Marlson is found dead at a time when Jorik is away battling the invasion from the Vorund Clan in the south led by the barbarian Adalrikr Asmarrson. A kings moot must be held and Rothgar takes it upon himself to defend his families honor from enemies from beyond and within the clan. That is the most information I can give without going into spoilers, but lets get into the similarities with Farseer and A Song of Ice and Fire..
The prologue begins with Rothgar in chains and caged, standing in horror at the bloody deeds of the past and how he got to this point. The first half of the book is Rothgar telling you his life story up to that point in his life similar to Fitz in Assassins’ Apprentice. From there Tim Hardie takes us through Rothgar’s upbringing, training, and how he is often overlooked for his older brother but as time will tell, not to be underestimated. As Rothgar gets older he starts to have a secret relationship with his servant Desta, while his family is planning to wed him off to the daughter of another clan for political alliances. Rothgar and Desta know that what they have can never last, but it will tear at your heart strings to know the powers that be determine their future and not themselves. The political maneuvering and bloody battles is where Tim Hardie draws his inspiration from George R.R Martin. Hardie is also not one to be very kind to his characters as you will soon see on more than one occasion.
There is magic in this books and it has to do with ancient spirts that were brought into this world with the banishment of the Gods. This death spirits prey on the weak and become skin thieves by taking over the hosts body. This comes into play in the later portion of the book where the plot and focus of the narrative shifts. The only way to spot these skin thieves is with the gift of the Sight. I will leave it there with the magic as it will get into spoilers. One final note I would like to touch on is how Tim Hardie uses his first person perspective. Most of the story is told through Rothgar’s perspective, but later in the story we get certain glimpses of other characters perspectives and it is done in such a unique and interesting way. I have not seen this type of thing done before and Tim Hardie should be commended for this accomplishment. Rothgar goes through a lot of pain both physically and emotionally. You will feel it with every swing of his sword.
Hall of Bones is a smashing first entry in this epic fantasy series. Fans of Robin Hobb, George R.R Martin, and Viking inspired stories should pick this series up and not look back until the cows come home. There will be war, blood, backstabbing, and twist and turns around every corner. The brotherhood will be formed if you can survive the brutality of the clan.