Priest of Bones – Peter McLean

About the Book

It’s a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war. With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen’s Men, everything gets more complicated.

When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life it becomes clear; the war is not over.

It is only just beginning. 

352 pages (paperback)
Published on October 2, 2018
Published by Ace Books
Author’s webpage
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This book was a review copy sent by the publisher.

Priest of Bones is another book I got an ARC for a hundred years ago, and then subsequently read and haven’t had time to review because I’ve been busy writing my own book and editing for clients. Now, things are changing and I find myself in a bit of a lull so I can catch up on all the books that have fallen by the wayside, like this one.

Priest of Bones is pretty interesting in a lot of respects. It’s grimdark, but of a kind all its own. What I mean is, there are aspects of this book that will remind readers of other books that have come before, but that’s not a bad thing, because whatever is similar has been twisted enough to make it uniquely McLean’s own. Basically, what I’m saying is, whatever similarities you’ll see are more like faint perfume more than anything else.

And truthfully, I really enjoyed those similarities when I found them. I tend to enjoy picking influences out of books. None of us write in a vacuum.

This book is told in the first person, through the perspective of Tomas Piety. Tomas is returning to his hometown from a long war, and is looking forward to claiming his old turf again. Come to find out, other crime bosses and criminals have moved in on his territory while he was gone and he has to make heads roll to reclaim what he once had.

This is really an anti-heroes grimdark fantasy, which means that I just loved it. Tomas is an interesting character in the fact that he’s a criminal, and he’s not above doing dark deeds to get his own aims, but he also has a moral core. He’s against rape, he doesn’t tolerate violence against (unarmed) women, etc. I really enjoyed these nuances in his character, a dark anti-hero with his own moral core, that sometimes caught me by surprise.

The plot is pretty quick moving, and sometimes characters came and went so fast that they really weren’t more than a footnote in the events that transpired – faces and names, but not much more than an impression. That’s fine, really, because the people who were important to know, were the ones that really stood out, and were very well crafted.

Tomas has a lot of respect from those who served with him. He’s a boss, and a businessman, and he’s not really afraid of confrontation. The respect for those who work with him, and under him, is felt through all the dealings. Each of the supporting characters has their own voices, their own aims, and their own unique mentality.

The writing is direct and to the point, and the world, this gritty, dirty, dark corner of it was crafted so well. Events never really stopped moving forward, and the characters that drove things were just as interesting as what was happening. This book wasn’t terribly long, and it was a good break away from the sprawling epics that deal with apocalyptic events.

I really enjoyed how McLean managed to take this notably diverse cast of characters, and push them all in very different, creative ways. I enjoyed how he played with loyalties and relationships, pushing everyone until they frayed and then watching how things fell apart, or together, as the case may be. It was quite enjoyable, and he managed to keep me guessing despite myself.

While this book has been poo-poo’d by some reviewers for being too similar to other books, I really found that Priest of Bones was its own beast, and McLean was a fantastic author to take readers through this morally gray, dark almost noir-ish (at times) story. I loved his writing, and I adored his characters and really look forward to seeing what comes from him next.

This is one of those books that surprised me. I ended up reading it a lot faster than I expected to, and was a lot more into it than I thought I’d be. In truth, this one left me with a bit of a book hangover.

I can’t wait to see what McLean comes up with next.

4/5 stars