Today I have an audiobook review for you. I tend not to listen to a lot of audiobooks but since we were doing a long road trip for our vacation, I thought I would give this one a listen, and I’m glad I did. Lee’s books have been on my radar for a while, since he lives in my hometown of Lincoln, UK, which automatically made me curious about his work.
‘Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead’
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.
The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.
But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.
Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This dark fantasy epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
I was sent an audiobook of A Ritual of Bone by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much Lee C. Conley! Apologies for any name misspellings which are due to me listening to this book rather than reading it.
My thoughts on the audiobook:
The audiobook is narrated by R.J. Bayley, who has an excellent, dramatic voice which conveys tension brilliantly. I really appreciated all of the different voices he gave the characters. Trude, Nym and other females were just high pitched and feminine enough to be believable and my favourite was the rich throaty accent given to Bjorn the hunter/tracker. Occasionally the narrator sounds like Sean Bean – particularly at one point when he spits out the word “Bastard!”, which made me chuckle. I prefer fantasy narration to be with a British accent – I tend to get more distracted when the narrator has an American accent. So R.J. Bayley was perfect for this.
Now on to my review of the story…
Layers of atmospheric description add to the chilling spookiness in this horror-fantasy set in the Norse inspired world of Arnar. A Ritual of Bone is definitely grimdark – its grisly, gruesome themes hold no bounds. I have never encountered zombies in a Norse inspired fantasy – but here they are in this novel, along with a plague, an arcane ritual which causes the dead to walk and unleashes all kinds of horror, warriors, shieldmaidens and even what appear to be a tribe of Stone Age cannibals!
There are multiple, fully fleshed-out point of view characters in this novel, which I always enjoy as I think it helps a reader to become invested in a wider range of characters and understand their motivations better. I particularly enjoyed the short sections where we were treated to the zombies’ perspectives, Darek the leader of one small pack of three zombies and that of his mate. They have become more animalistic but are not yet fully zombified. The woman still remembers that she was a wife and mother and feels horror at her memories of eating her children…
Conley’s worldbuilding is solid and the villages, forests, port and Arnulf’s Motte come to life around the characters and feel like a typical medieval style Norse fantasy world.
There is more horror in this book than I usually read – but I enjoyed its uniqueness. I would recommend it to horror fans and to fans of Norse fantasy who have a strong constitution!! I will be continuing with the follow up A Ritual of Flesh as I have some questions I want to know the answers to!
About the Author
Lee is a musician and writer in Lincolnshire, UK. He lives with his wife, Laura, and daughters, Luna, and Anya, in the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Alongside a lifetime of playing guitar and immersing himself in the study of music and history, Lee is also a practitioner and instructor of historic martial arts and swordsmanship. After writing his successful advanced guitar theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is now studying a degree in creative writing and working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.
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