Viking Inspired World Dealing With the Scourge of the Risen Dead
A Ritual of Bone
by Lee C. Conley
“Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead”
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.
The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people.
The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.
But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.
Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This Dark Fantasy Epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
A Ritual of Bone is one of those titles I’ve had on my radar since I heard about it before its release. The idea that it would be a Viking inspired world dealing with the scourge of the risen dead just pushed all the right buttons. I was curious to see if it would live up to the hype, so here’s my thoughts on that.
I was a little surprised when I started this book, because for some reason the premise made me think it would be like a popcorn film: wall to wall action with some interesting characters but not super focused on complex plot. Instead, we get a slow burn buildup which turned out much more complex than expected.
We start with a bunch of scholars at some ancient ruins in the mountains trying to recreate some sort of ritual, and not feeling particularly successful.
It’s a desolate site, and the author uses some really effective imagery to a sense of unseen menace, and you get the feeling there are deeper plans within the scholars’ ranks than are being shown. We get a very effective build to finally seeing the results of the ritual, but then get the cutaway to another location.
This is something he does several times to great effect, as it establishes the other settings and characters and their story arcs. One of the story arcs also shows that the walking dead are not the only threat facing the kingdom, deepening the suspense.
The story creates a world based on Viking culture, with various lords beholding to a high king, fulfilling duties as necessary to protect the kingdom. Each lord only has a small amount of professional warriors, with the rest called up from peasant militias. Its much more a Great Ax and spear culture, with swords reserved for the richer nobles and merchant sons.
It also has at least one larger setting, the capital city, where there is definitely some disparity in class and income, and the exploration of this through a teen girl named Nym, who’s tribulations keeping herself and her brother fed with a roof ever their head is effective in showing how its very much that caste type culture.
Again, the author uses really evocative imagery to show what kind of world it is. It really immerses you into the world and the story.
The narration is handled quite ably by RJ Bayley. I was unfamiliar with him before this book, but I was quite impressed with his ability to imbue each character with their own unique voice though just minor changes in tone, cadence and accent.
He has excellent narrative pacing as well, keeping the story moving along, never dropping into a monotone, or having any long pauses. I look forward to listening to him narrate the sequel.
I am so glad to discover that this book has lived up to the hype, especially after several disappointments for heavily hyped fantasy books that turned out to be turkeys. With a novel premise in mixing these particular genres, the author has created an engaging world that has lots of room for continuing stories.
This book should appeal to fans of Viking fantasy, as well as dark fantasy in general.
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I have literally been a fan of fantasy/magic my whole life, with some of the earliest memories I have being my mother stories of brujas and spirits in the town in Puerto Rico where she was born. What really flipped the fantasy switch on full, though, was discovering a battered copy of the Sword of Shannara that cost me 25 cents at the local used book store when I was 11. Its been a long journey since that day almost 40 years ago, and thousands of books later, here we are. Living with my wife, our two non-adult kids, four cats and a vicious attack beast Chihuahua about an hour south of Seattle, I’m glad to be able to share my love of fantasy and science fiction, especially Indie and small press, with anyone who’s interested.