A Ritual of Bone by Lee C Conley

First things first, if you don’t like violence and gore stop reading. This book won’t be for you. Don’t waste your time with it or my review. I will never try to convince you to read it because you won’t like it.

However, if you do like violence this book might appeal to you. It’s basically about zombies in a fantasy setting. And it’s cool. It’s a simple idea done well. As expected, it’s dark and brutal, layered with graphic descriptions of mutilations and death. There’s cannibalism and there’s murder and there’s lots and lots of blood. Zombies do get hungry after all.

The opening is strong and quickly sets the tone for the story. There’s lots of horror elements within the first chapter as an unknown presence lurks in the trees watching the Apprentice. He and his master are working on the bone ritual, necromantic magic that brings back the dead. And, of course, with such potent and dark magic come numerous unsought for consequences. And what developed was a suspense filled story that worked its way into an interesting dilemma delivered across multiple point of view characters.

Bjorn was my favourite. He just seemed to be a relatively normal guy, an honest and hardworking man of the land, shoved into a situation he was completely bewildered by. He spent most of the story trying to convince everyone of the approaching horrors. But he wasn’t without his own skills as he managed to bring a few down in some great action scenes. The novel takes me back to my teenage years and the countless hours I spent playing Skyrim. Around halfway through the book I even started playing the soundtrack by Jeremy Soule. And that’s a good thing. The warriors fighting the undead amongst the trees and the moonlight had a sort of Nordic feel to it. It had a great atmosphere to it.

Plot wise, character wise and structure wise this is all put together well. The pacing is solid too. My only criticism is with the prose itself. Some of the wording and sentences fell into similar patterns of expression and became repetitive. Lots of authors do this, Robert Jordan is the biggest culprit in fantasy, though here it was particularly noticeable. Some edits were needed but considering this is the author’s first novel and it is entirely self-published without a professional editor behind it, the overall quality of the writing is very high. Work is needed in places, but not so much that it drastically affected my enjoyment of it. It would be remiss of me not to mention it though.

If you like The Walking Dead and the Elder Scrolls franchise, then I’d certainly give this book a shot. It’s sort of a mix between the two in places. There’s no shortage of surprises and it’s pretty much action from the start. Plenty of monster killing too. It’s worth giving a go if you’re not squeamish.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review at Fantasy Book Review.

8/10 No shortage of surprises and it’s pretty much action from the start

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