Sunday, October 26, 2014
REVIEW: OF BONE AND THUNDER
Let me begin this review by saying that this is simply one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Alternatively humorous, dark, and saddening, Chris Evans' new novel is an exercise in the futility of warfare and the desperation of those involved in it.
We begin in a hot, steamy jungle with a troop of tired soldiers fighting against barely seen enemies for a kingdom whose politics are in turmoil. Evans here does a good job conveying the soldiers despair and exhaustion at doing this, especially as they tramp all over the mountain to find their foe, named “slyts” after their word for hello. Eventually, we are introduced to other characters, such as wizards, dragon pilots, and dwarves as each contributes their own viewpoint on how the war is going.
As I read, I encountered many similarities between Of Bone And Thunder and Harry Turtledove's “World War" Series; for those unfamiliar, a series of fantasy novels paralleling World War Two. While Turtledove's novels dealt with the higher up, influential people, Evans' novel is told mostly from the viewpoints of ordinary soldiers. This gives the whole book a much grittier, honest feeling. We can sympathize with these men and the stupidity of their officers and their yearning to go home.
Of Bone And Thunder has previously been called a reflection of the Vietnam War, and that comparison is clear when reading this book, from the obvious (the setting of a jungle) to the not-so-obvious (such as the fact of the slyts firing arrows at the incoming dragons, reminiscent of how Viet Cong soldiers would attempt to shoot down American aircraft). The best part of the novel has to be the death scenes. While these are common enough in both war and fantasy novels, usually there are a few major deaths surrounded by those simply created to be a body count. Not so in this novel. It is a tribute to Evans' writing that he can make the death of every character have an emotional impact, even those that died 'offscreen' as it were.
Of Bone And Thunder is heady, heavy novel and definitely not for the light-hearted, casual reader. But if you're looking to sink your teeth into a novel with something to say and a brutal way of saying it, definitely give this one a read.
Robert Green is a confirmed bibliophile and aspiring writer whose love of sci-fi has caused him to own many more books than he has physical room for. He is also the owner and creator of the up-and-coming company Verity Books, which can be seen at various cons throughout the year. Any questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/veritybooksanddvds.