by Philip Overby
Horns of the Faceless Amazon is a series of book reviews that focuses exclusively on audiobooks and will primarily be in the darker edge of fiction (Grimdark, dark fantasy, weird fiction, horror, etc.)
Sometimes one seeks a tale with a less epic sprawl, a tighter POV, and characters with grayer motivations. Despite Priest of Bones taking place in one city, it feels like a lived-in, massive city, with gangs living in tenuous harmony after conscripts return from a brutal foreign war. People keep comparing it to Peaky Blinders but I haven’t seen that. But I want to now. All I know is Priest of Bones had me riveted from start to finish, wondering what would happen to Thomas Piety and the Pious Men.
The story takes place almost entirely in a city where gangs control different neighborhoods. There is this pall over everything due to the fact a lot of the characters have just returned from a shitty war to find their city is now shittier than they left it. Each place feels run down and used. This adds to the mood of the book because no one truly feels safe or at ease due to a tenuous agreement to not kill each other.
For a book with dark subject matter, it certainly has a colorful cast of characters. Tomas Piety, a priest of sorts, leads his gang of Pious Men, which includes his hotheaded brother, a boy with strange powers, and his loyal, but paranoid lieutenant. As you can see, I didn’t mention them by name because this is an audiobook review and I’d probably butcher most of their names (except maybe Billy the Boy). That said, there is a large cast of characters, but it never feels overwhelming or confusing lik it might in other books. That’s because McLean writes each character with distinct quirks, goals, and traits to make them memorable.
I can’t really do the story justice, but it’s excellent. Full of tension, dread, and blood. It ranks highly with some of my favorite recent reads (listens?) and I’ve been anticipating the next one since then. I believe if you like fantasy with dark slant to it and something different to the usual fare, then you’ll dig this book a lot. What I found most intriguing was the epic feeling of the world without really going outside of one city. There is a lot more to explore and I’m interested to see where it goes next.
I believe the driving force that keeps someone listening to an audiobook is the narrator. A bad narrator can turn me off a book pretty quickly, but the version I had with John Lee’s narration, really drew me in. He changes characters smoothly without ever forcing anything too much. There are subtle changes in some instances, but I believe he’s one of the strongest narrators I’ve come across. I’d probably even pick up an audiobook simply because he is narrating it.
All in all, Priest of Bones is a stellar start to the War for the Rose Throne series and I’m definitely looking out for more of Peter McLean’s work.
By the way, Priest of Lies is now available, so pick it up! Click here!