Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - first book
Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.
While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.
Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.
Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
My first 2021 debut read – and what a book to start on! HALL OF SMOKE is an action paced book that feels like the classic fantasy I grew up with – something I have been really craving at the moment (and appreciating, when I find it.)
Hessa’s journey to fulfil her goddess’ command takes her all over the continent as she struggles with her own grief, burying it under self-loathing and a desire to fulfil her goddess’ command. But the truth is never so simple, and she gradually learns the reason behind her mission – and the very gods themselves.
I really liked that Hessa’s mission is not centred on her own vengeance. Yes, she’s angry, but that’s not why she’s doing it. Revenge stories are pretty hit and miss for me, as it’s just so consuming and ought to be pared with a strong tragic element in my opinion. However, Hessa is fuelled by grief and the desire to be allowed into the afterlife with her dead loved ones. It gave the book a real heart and underscored her grief.
There is such a rich sense of mythology in this book. The gods make up the very fabric of the story, with more and more information about their nature coming through as we learn, but there is also lots of stories woven into the background. It’s in the rituals and the High Halls, but never a “let me sit down and tell you a story”. Rather, it’s intrinsically part of everyday life.
We see a lot of the world, and a lot of different people groups. You could see the ones that had similar backgrounds, and which came from another genesis – and yet they were distinct. There are also a LOT of characters in this book. I love big cast books, provided I can tell the characters apart – and I could here. The nice thing was that a lot of characters only arrived for certain points of the book, just one section and then you could “archive” them. It did help to follow along, knowing that you could forget about this character in the here and now, and trust they’d be re-introduced if they were needed again.
There is a companion book coming next year, and you can bet it’s on my TBR for 2022 already.
Read my reviews of other books by H. M. Long:
Hall of Smoke (this series):
- TEMPLE OF NO GOD (#2)
- BARROW OF WINTER (#3)
2 thoughts on “Book Review: HALL OF SMOKE by H. M. Long”
Brilliant review! I’ve heard so many good things about this book, I’ll definitely be adding it to my tbr 😊
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ooo, hope you enjoy it!
LikeLiked by 1 person