Book Review – Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long
An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war
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.
I received this e-ARC for free and am leaving this review voluntarily. Thank you to Titan Books and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
I went into Hall of Smoke really not knowing what to expect. I’d already seen so many mixed reviews and in all honesty the blurb wasn’t really screaming anything special at me either. This is described as an epic new adult fantasy though and as you all know that is exactly my cup of tea so I had to give it a try didn’t it?
Right from the start I was pleasantly surprised by the style of writing. I found it really easy to get along with and also so descriptive but without being too much filler. I could easily imagine the world and the characters and that helped me become absorbed in it all pretty quickly.
The story is about gods and culture which I absolutely loved. There are different types of gods in this world. The New Gods, The Old Gods and The Pillars who are the real gods, the oldest of the old and the creators of all. The history of the world and all the different types of gods are so well explained and its all really easy to follow.
We are introduced to the main character, Hessa and you quickly learn that she is a warrior described as an Eangi. Hessa serves the Goddess of War, Eang and is currently in disgrace after having ignored a vision that she was sent telling her to kill a specific visitor to the halls.
Hessa is blindly faithful to Eang but over the course of the book starts to question that devotion and I really liked the way that it was all done. Hessa didn’t just switch sides for convenience and even at the very point when all seemed lost and she had no cause to believe in her goddess she still struggled to separate that part of herself that lives and serves Eang. She is driven by a desire to redeem herself and also to exact revenge on those who took away the people that she loved.
I found the world building and the magic systems to be well explained and fun. The Eangi warriors are described as having the fire of Eang within them which can burn hot and fast and turn the bones of their enemies to dust but at the cost of their own strength (so the fire has to be recharged, basically).
The story is action-packed from the beginning and doesn’t take long at all to dive into the fighting and the adventure. I really liked Hessa as a main character but it seemed like the book was only about her and no one else. I didn’t really relate to or care that much about any of the other characters even though it felt like there was so much that could be explored particularly with Hessa’s relationship with Nisien.
I would have also loved to see more of Ogam and Estavius as they were both very cool characters and it’s a shame to leave them as just side characters.
Hall of Smoke is very fast paced with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader intrigued. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy fantasy, adventure, stories about gods and standalone novels.