What It’s About:
Soon after Kolfinnar Marlson – the chief of the Reavesburg Clan – falls ill, his youngest son, Rothgar understands and fully accepts his duty of service toward his older brother Jorik’s rule. But the Vorund Clan, led by the fearsome Adalrikr, has other plans; plans for conquest; plans for power; and plans laid out by an ancient evil that’s returned to the land of Laskar.
What I Liked:
Rothgar’s character arc took turns I did not expect. It’s always important for the protagonist of any novel to experience change. Whether that shift in character be positive or negative, if the story is done right, and the character is written well, the outcome should not matter. This is certainly the case for Rothgar. A warrior at heart who has had to work twice as hard as everyone else to earn the respect he believes he deserves; a loyal servant – a man of his word – to those in charge, Rothgar will always do what is right for his clan; a man who knows his place in his society and does everything in his ability to succeed where he’s needed. However, this all changes for Rothgar during an unexpected night of horrors, and Rothgar – with the aid of a host of other characters – must learn to adapt to his new normal. I don’t like to give away too much in my reviews, but I will say that Hardie truly impressed me with the progression of his protagonist, and I am eager to see Rothgar’s continued development during the rest of The Brotherhood of the Eagle series.
Etta is a badass, enigmatic, and sometimes terrifying elderly advisor (and incredibly manipulative!) – and I can’t get enough of her! She steals every scene she’s in from the other supporting characters, and even from Rothgar himself. Her calm, wise demeanor, while helpful in certain circumstances, is often used as a shield; for it’s when that wisdom and experience is used to strike fear into the hearts of those she’s talking to – no matter how powerful the person may think they are – that it becomes clear that Etta is more than just a feeble old woman. And as the novel takes shape and shifts into unforeseen territory, so too does Etta become even more engaging and mysterious, and her skills of manipulation evermore clear.
I absolutely love the Norse-inspired setting. While the setting itself isn’t overly descriptive, the characters (and their names), the way of life – clan politics, vying for power amongst tribes, their history – I find all quite intriguing. Perhaps this is because I absolutely love Viking history (though I am by no means a historical buff), or due to the fact that I haven’t read much norse–inspired fantasy, Hardie drew my attention to this aspect like a fleet of Vorund warships on the horizon.
The villain, Adalrikr, is fearsome, yet never seen. In Adalrikr, Hardie has created a villain so frightening that he doesn’t even need to be seen in the book to be taken seriously. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in which the main antagonist is only mentioned by word of mouth and by those who’ve sworn fealty to him, or by those he desires to destroy. This is a unique way to develop a character, and Hardie has done so in expert fashion. I can only imagine how powerful and horrifying Adalrikr will be once he’s actually introduced into the series.
What Didn’t Do It For Me:
The first half of the book is too slow. I read the paperback version of Hall of Bones – just over 400 pages – and it took almost 200 pages for me to truly feel invested in the characters. While there were a handful of events that elicited excitement, much of the first half of the book was dedicated to character development, and understanding the cast of characters’ motives. While this would typically be fine, it often fell flat for me because the only two characters to whom I felt any attachment for the first 200 pages were Rothgar and Etta. Which brings me to my next point:
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped. Rothgar and Etta have clear, distinct voices and it’s easy to understand their desires and motives (well, maybe not Etta fully because she’s so crafty), because of Rothgar’s first person narration and his various interactions with Etta. However, the other characters – and there are many – don’t seem to be given enough time to grow, making it difficult for me to care much about them. I care for Rothgar in dire situations; I care for Rothgar when he witnesses others he cares about in dire situations; but I don’t care much for those he cares about.
Hall of Bones is a difficult book for me to review, mainly because the second half of the book feels like a completely different book – and I enjoyed the second half quite a bit. I will say this: while the first half of the novel was difficult for me to get through due to its pacing and underutilized characters, the second half left me with the desire to read book two.
SPFBO 7 Rating for Hall of Bones: