Book Review: Hall of Smoke

H. M. Long

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 19th January 2021
spoilers? nope


Epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war, for readers of Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.

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.

Galley provided by publisher

Hall of Smoke was a book that suffered because I was reading it concurrently with The Jasmine Throne. I will freely admit that was a great big rookie error on my part, because The Jasmine Throne was amazing and probably my favourite book of the year. Of course anything I read at the same time would fail to stack up.

Of course.

So that was a major reason why I didn’t really get along with this book. It sounded great! But I think my focus on the other book led to my lack of real engagement in this one. Which meant that I was, for the most part, quite bored by it.

But apart from that, there were other bits I struggled with. For one, it’s a book that’s about 80% just travelling. Okay, so she meets people along the way, who help her or don’t, but it’s really quite boring just reading her travelling. Travelling because a god told her to, because she has been instructed to kill someone, sure, but at the end of the day, boring.

And it really didn’t help that I just couldn’t conceptualise where she was travelling to and from. This is where I can’t deal with fantasy ebooks, because I need the ability to flip back and forth with the map of the world. I couldn’t here when I needed it more than usual though, which compounded the confusion and boredom. (Of course, both these complaints massively “it’s not you it’s me” complaints. Feel free to ignore them. Feel free to ignore most of this review, since that’s all it amounts to.)

What I did appreciate about the book at first though is that it gets straight into the action. Okay, so it then wastes that start with all the travelling but within the first chapter, everyone the protagonist knows is dead and if that’s not hook enough, then I don’t know what is.

If only it had kept me hooked for the rest of it.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Hall of Smoke

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