"Apocalypse Now meets Lord of the Rings" is an apt description of this book as long as you recognize anyone's comparison with Lord of the Rings is interchangeable with "Fantasy."
Not even high fantasy, which Lord of the Rings is, but in the case of Of Bone and Thunder it's more on the grimdark, realistic fantasy level.
The Kingdom (America) occupies the jungle of Luitox (Vietnam, pronounced Luto) and back home citizens of the Kingdom are blissfully unaware of how bad things are actually going. But, it's hard to come to grips with the fact when you already know your country can't be beat.
Chris Evans created an incredibly realistic world here with different peoples at war, humans, the slits (derogatory name for people of Luitox), and even dwarves.
The armies of the Kingdom ride dragons, or rags as they're commonly called, who have been domesticated as much as dangerous fire-breathing dragons can be. Plus, there's magic in the form of thaumaturgy and all the divided allegiances you could ask for.
What I liked about this book was the focus on the common soldier. Mostly, we follow a shield (a handful of soldiers) and their tasks on Luitox. We see their grumblings with their senior staff, their difficulties with the "slits", their treatment of the new recruits, and get to know them quite intimately. You easily feel at home with this grouping.
Also, we follow Jawn Rathim, a thaum, and later a grouping of dragon riders.
There's lots going on and it's obviously a well-thought out world. I also liked the use of the strange words that become commonplace by the end of the book. You feel part of the world and the soldiers who tend to have their own language as well.
Because it is a Vietnam-type book, there's lots of racial tension and even more focus on the grim. I have to admit to getting a little worn out by the end of the audiobook because it was constantly a downer. It's only natural given the circumstances, but it is wearing.
Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator, Todd Haberkorn, did an excellent job. He nailed the voices and quickly became unnoticeable, which is the sign of a great narrator - you forget it's being narrated. There are lots of gruff soldiers and yet he had a different voice for each and it wasn't even too difficult to recall who was talking with all those harsh voices.
Count me impressed with this book. I don't know what I expected, but Of Bone and Thunder is quite unique with its take on an unstoppable fantasy kingdom who's met its match. The world is all its own and the characters are relatable if not loveable.
3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)
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