Title: Priest of Bones.
Series: War for the Rose Throne #1.
Writer(s): Peter McLean.
Publisher: Ace Books.
Format: Advance Reading Copy.
Release Date: October 2nd 2018.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★.
If there’s one subject that has always fascinated me, it’s that of crime families and their racketeering within the community. Their role as mediators to issues between different actors is truly fascinating. Just look at their ability to charm individuals—sometimes through blackmail or force or both—to the point where they become the better alternative to legal institutions like the police. But under their masks which screams a desire to be an indispensable source for every citizen, especially in terms of protection, is also a desire for power and control. It is that factor that turns their presence and their expansion so beautiful and dangerous, and even more so once we take into account rivals who live with similar objectives as their guidelines to success in life.
Priest of Bones is the story of army priest and crime boss Tomas Piety. Upon returning from a dreaded and unforgettable war, his crew and he realize that his empire of crime was robbed from him. If anything, Tomas Piety has no plans to let this pass and looks to put his gang of Pious Men back on the radar of those who thought of them dead and gone. As he attempts to slowly claim back his business and stolen territories right in the heart of Ellingberg, he unfortunately also finds himself entangled in a web of political intrigue that he must secretly handle for the Queen’s Men. If Tomas Piety thought that he had already seen the worse during the war he fought, he’s about to be dragged right back into an even more dangerous and costly war right in his home.
If it weren’t for the unique protagonist that is Tomas Piety, the story could’ve easily hit an obstacle and been unable to strive as it did in Priest of Bones. Told in the first-person, his voice is genuine and filled with good intention even in the macabre world he invests himself in. His leadership shines through the wise and carefully thought-out decisions he makes, but especially his employee managerial skills. With an epic cast to support him, from Bloody Anne to his reckless brother Jochan Piety, it’s safe to declare that this story features a beautiful diversity. The harmonious balance between humour and violence also constantly keeps the story fresh and rewarding, with each character’s personality shining through the gloomy atmosphere that wraps around the land of Ellingberg. Let’s also not forget that Tomas Piety isn’t just a crime lord, he also turned himself into a priest during the war. The dynamics that comes with such a role are intricately blended within his character and the plot to deliver some truly insightful moments on who he is and what he believes in.
The world conceived by Peter McLean is also an outstanding piece of this beautiful puzzle with it clearly conveying the dark and eerie vibes of the land. The political angle that creeps into the story also beautifully adds to the conflict at hand and keeps the world fascinating to discover. To top it off, this isn’t just a crime fiction. It’s epic grimdark fantasy. It doesn’t however venture into wild fantasy elements, but rather features a magic-light layer to the story. The very little magic present is actually a mystery in itself and helps develop the intrigue as well. How Peter McLean does this is marvelous and simply turns this adventure into a truly absorbing story with unexpected twists that reminds us that there’s more than meets the eye.
As a fan of the Peaky Blinders (2013—) TV series, I can confirm that the comparisons to it are undeniable and fans of the show will be pleased to find a solution to their craving and impatience in Priest of Bones. Expect a bloody and thrilling quest for conquest in Peter McLean’s latest debut novel.
Thank you to Ace Books for sending me a copy for review!