Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans
|Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The Viet Nam war portrayed via fantasy including medieval technology but unmistakable 1960s-style real-world rivalries. Vital, exciting, brooding, dark; this is full metal dragon! The book blurb calls it Utterly Compelling and I certainly won't argue with that.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 528||Date: February 2015|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
|External links: Author's website|
The conscripted men and women of the Kingdom's military forces are battling the Slyts in Luitox. The Kingdom's might may include the latest weaponry and the ability to thaum but the Slyts are elusive and have their own ways. The jungle is as hot as hell which is apt as they will all face their own hells and some may even survive. The odds aren’t good though; if the enemy doesn't get them, their own flying craft may. Nobody wants to be on the back of an overheated rag!
Someone suggested to Canadian author and military historian Chris Evans (not the British radio DJ chap) that he write a novel based on the Viet Nam war but in a fantasy world. As the idea settled, the writer of such fantasy fiction as the Iron Elves Trilogy decided he'd give it a go and this is the memorable result.
In doing this Chris has made the war that involved conscripted troops from the US from 1962 till 1973 (as well as those from other supporting nations such as Australia and New Zealand) accessible to many who would read fantasy rather than history. Within these pages aren't dry facts and figures but action, excitement and the transposition of a lot of the arguments and issues surrounding the real world war.
The helicopters may now be dragons and the weapons ballistas, cross bows and the most devilishly described arrows, but the enemy – here the Forest Collective of Luitox – are just as elusive and hard to tell from the local inhabitants as the Viet Cong were. The enemy has tactics at their disposal (such as tunnels) that would be familiar to the historians but there are also other inventive ideas that fly at us out of the blue.
Oh yes, we're there on the ground and in the air following among others the young idealist Jawn, a thaum or RAT (Royal Academy of Thaums) one of those who can divert natural energy with devastating effect. The battle weary realists are represented by Carney: tough, knows the short cuts including those to the best drug stash. Not all are that transparent however. Crownie RC Ketts may be a civil servant but he's more mysterious than your usual government bean counter.
Sounds stereotyped? Not a bit of it! This is so photogenic and vivid it's compulsive viewing as much as it is compulsive reading. We learn what happens when a dragon is overworked (not pretty!). We realise the huge distance that dwarf rights still have to go before they're considered equal. Our expectations are teased when we dare to guess the next man (or dwarf) to go down. But then from time to time the allegory, metaphor and transposition is peeled back to reveal the raw tension and raw terror, not to mention the dark military humour that denoted a guerrilla war that no one is destined to win. There's even an entertaining pop at Jane Fonda. (If you have trouble spotting her, look up information of Ms Fonda's 'Hanoi Jane' era.)
As the pages turn at a heck of a rate we understand that beyond the Apocalypse Now tribute cover there's a much more serious tribute. Chris wrote this for all the Nam veterans and in doing so shows us what they faced, helping us to understand a smidgeon more of the ongoing pain they must feel each time they're told the Vietnam War was senseless. War may sometimes be senseless but, as we witness in these pages, that doesn't negate the price paid by those who were there; a lesson that still has to be learnt, half a century later.
(Thank you so much, Titan Books, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you're interested in the Vietnam War, we heartily recommend The Trader of Saigon by Lucy Cruickshanks which looks at the aftermath from different viewpoints. If you're here for the war fantasy epic element, we are equally as evangelical about Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan. You might appreciate the rather unusual Snakewood by Adrian Selby, or maybe Shadebringer by Grayson W Hooper.
Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans is in the Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2015.
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