Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - second book
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for HALL OF SMOKE*
After a brutal war between the gods, Hessa – High Priestess of the Eangen – has brokered a fragile peace. Through great sacrifice, she has forged an alliance between warring tribes and introduced her people to the true god.
But a new threat is growing across the southern border. In the remnants of the once-great Arpa Empire, three factions are vying for the imperial throne, and the vast well of raw magical power only accessible to the Arpa Emperor. Already beating back former Arpa legionaries at her borders, Hessa knows she cannot let this chance slip by. She must intervene, for the safety of her people.
With the peace she has sacrificed so much for at stake, Hessa must venture into the heart of enemy territory, where warring Arpa factions are not the only danger she must face. A sinister new cult is on the rise, one with the power to suck the life from everything it touches. With enemies on every side and her fragile alliance beginning to waver, Hessa must decide who to trust – no matter what it may cost her…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
If HALL OF SMOKE was more about the north, uncovering the secrets of the gods and bringing stability to a war-locked north, then TEMPLE OF NO GOD is about the south, the fight for the vacant throne and a new, dangerous magic that’s emerging.
It was nice to see more of the land that was a small segment of the previous book, and only really seen through the eyes of someone trying to get back north. This time, we push deeper into the south and get more of a sense of how their religion works with respect to their rulers, and the consequences of losing all their gods but not yet gaining a new one.
I thought, from the blurb, that there might be more politics in this book as Hessa got caught up in the different factions contending for the throne. Instead, it’s more about journeying to another land and trying to work out exactly what is happening – and how to twist it to best suit the north. She spends most of her time with an agent of one faction, seeing the strange new magic and trying to work out how well she can trust those with her.
There are a few recurring characters (Nisien, Estavious, Castor), but mostly we meet new ones, adding to the sense of exploring a new world. One of the new characters is Hessa’s second husband. It’s a strategic match, to unite their warring people into one (which hasn’t entirely worked.) They both have lost previous partners, and are having to deal with that as well as the distance between them.
Their relationship is the emotional core of the book, as they take tentative steps to be more united, but there are a lot of suspicions in the way. I liked how quiet and tentative the relationship was, more about building a better future for their people than any real attraction, particularly as it also grappled with remarriage after losing spouses. Not to mention it doesn’t all get wrapped up at the end with a nice neat bow, which made it feel more realistic.
The next book in the series is a true companion (vs this more sequel-leaning standalone.) At the time of writing, we don’t have much information (it’s snowy!) but I’m hoping we get some more soon, once we’re past the promotional window for this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this world.
Read my reviews of other books by H. M. Long:
Hall of Smoke (this series):