Of Bone and Thunder is a dark, graphic, gripping military fantasy, with dragons, dwarves, and a great deal of combat. But that’s not what the book is about.
It’s about Vietnam.
That’s not any big surprise to anyone who has read the cover copy. I read somewhere that a science fiction novel deals with three times periods, the one in which it is set, the one in which it was written, and the time period that it’s actually about. I’d like to modify that, with apologies to whomever said it, to a fantasy novel deals with three worlds: the one in which it’s set, the one in which it’s written, and the one in which it’s about. This novel is about what it was like to be a soldier in the Vietnam War.
There are multiple viewpoint characters. You have foot soldiers, wizards, the dragon corps, and a host of other characters whose analogs are easy to figure out. There’s fighting in the tunnels, and an enemy who can disappear into the jungle like a ghost. There’s a huge battle in the last part of the book that looks a lot like the Tet Offensive. (At least to my rather limited knowledge of the war. Sadly it wasn’t something discussed in school, maybe because it had only ended a few years prior to my entering high school.)
I saw the book late last year when the hardcover edition came out. I wasn’t ready to take a chance on a new writer in hardcover, in spite of the impressive blurbs. The ebook was of course way over priced, as ebooks from the big publishers tend to be. (This is not the author’s fault.) Fortunately, B&N had issued a coupon for an ebook (something they rarely do), which brought the price down into the range I was willing to pay for an ebook. (This turned out to be the last Nook book I would buy, but that’s another story.)
Naturally, it took me a while longer than I anticipated to work the book into my reading.
Make no mistake, this is a book worth reading, although it’s not for the squeamish or the easily offended. The content is quite graphic at times. Of Bone and Thunder doesn’t glorify war. Just the opposite. What it does is show you the men and women who fought, warts and all, and it does so with respect. It honors our soldiers.
It’s also a gripping fantasy. I still hang out in B&N about once every week or two, just to read without dogs and children demanding my attention and to browse. I usually take the Nook with me and read on it there. I started the book, and found it a little slow, primarily because Evans was introducing multiple characters and bringing them together. After a couple of weeks where I dipped into it and then went back to my regularly scheduled read, it quickly took over. Once all the characters start to meet each other and work together, things really took off. I put everything else on hold last week to finish Of Bone and Thunder, and this was after I’d started the ARC of Jim Butcher’s forthcoming novel. (Yes, I put Jim Butcher down to finish Of Bone and Thunder.)
I’m still thinking about this book; it’s going to stay with me for a while. I’m not sure if Evans is planning a sequel. A number of characters didn’t live all the way to the end. This is at its essence a war novel, after all. I’m going to put Chris Evans on my shortlist, He’s the author of The Iron Elves Trilogy, which slipped past my radar. I’m going to have to track it down.
If you like military fantasy and grimdark fantasy, you’ll want to read this one.