Recommendation: Bones of the Past

Munro - Bones of the Past - CoverThe Night Guard walk the streets of the old kingdom of Bialta seeking out threats that are beyond the abilities of the common soldier. Nial is one such threat a girl changed into something other and on the hunt for human souls. Salt, a sailor recently rescued by the Night Guard, has been inducted into their ranks. He s a quick study, but as new threats multiply all around them, will he have what it takes to survive?

Bialta is not alone in its woes. Sacral, a city that vanished in the distant past, has reappeared where it once stood at the heart of the Wastes. Like many of Sacral s people, Maura is content living a quiet life, ignoring the outside world. But she finds herself desperately fighting to save her home as war comes to the city returned.

Meanwhile, across the Great Desert, creatures are stirring. Carver, the last living master of the magic known as fleshcarving, has won the support of the tyrant of Tolrahk Esal. Together they will unleash his twisted creations to sweep across the land and forever disrupt the balance of power.

In this epic tale, there is no good and evil. Armies march, demons feed, and deities unleash their powers on a world that will never be the same.

Bones of the Past is the first installment in a new epic fantasy series by Craig Munro. It tells a sprawling tale weaving together stories from dozens of characters across an entire continent in a high-fantasy setting. The novel strongly reminded me of the Book of the Malazan Fallen series by Stephen Erikson, and is a powerful debut novel from Munro.

I enjoyed this novel and devouring its pages felt effortless. The characters are all well-realised, and the world-building is impressive. Munro has created an enormous world with a deep history. He has invested the time to provide us a fresh fantasy landscape, without relying on the cliches some fantasy series fall back on. This is a world that lives and breathes, unencumbered by stereotyped races coughpointyearedelvescough.

Munro does a good job of weaving between his various plot threads and POVs, setting the stage for his different pieces to coalesce into a cohesive whole. However, he’s playing the long game, and many of these threads remain separate at the end of the book. He doesn’t completely abandon us here, with the stage primed for those pieces to come together in the next book, but it is something to be aware of going in — when you finish Bones of the Past, you’ll be left wanting the second book (not yet out) in order to find satisfaction for some of those stories you’ve become invested in (for me, it is mostly to experience the rest of the Zuly / Nial arc).

Bones of the Past is a great novel for those who enjoy gritty, sprawling high fantasy such as that produced by Stephen Erikson.

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