Tuesday, July 09, 2024

#BookReview: Hall of Smoke (The Four Pillars #1) by H.M. Long

Synopsis: 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.


Rating: 4 Stars
My Review: 
"Hall of Smoke" by H.M. Long is an engaging epic fantasy novel that presents a rich world steeped in Norse-inspired mythology and gods. The story follows Hessa, a warrior-priestess of Eang, who is on a quest for redemption after failing to fulfill her goddess's command.

The novel's world-building is one of its strongest aspects. Long creates a vivid and immersive setting with detailed landscapes, distinct cultures, and a pantheon of gods that play an active role in the lives of the characters. The lore and history are well-crafted, providing a solid foundation for the story.

Hessa is a compelling protagonist. Her journey from disgrace to redemption is filled with personal growth, inner conflict, and physical challenges. Her resilience and determination make her a character readers can root for. The supporting characters, while interesting, sometimes lack the depth needed to make them fully memorable.

The action scenes are well-written and dynamic, adding excitement and tension to the narrative. Long's descriptions of battles and encounters with mythological creatures are vivid and thrilling, making these moments stand out.

However, the pacing of the story can be uneven. The novel starts strong and ends with a bang, but the middle sections sometimes drag with slower plot development and repetitive elements. This uneven pacing can make it challenging to maintain engagement throughout the entire book.

Additionally, the complex mythological elements, while intriguing, can occasionally be overwhelming and confusing, especially for readers not familiar with Norse mythology. A bit more clarity and explanation would have helped in these areas.

Overall, "Hall of Smoke" is a promising debut that offers an exciting adventure in a richly imagined world. Despite its pacing issues and occasional complexity, it provides a satisfying read for fans of epic fantasy looking for a strong, character-driven story with a mythological twist.

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