I recently read Vox Day’s “A Throne of Bones”. Before I launch into a more thorough review, I’ll say this: if you are like me and enjoy Vox Day’s non-fiction and also enjoy epic fantasy, this is a book you will absolutely enjoy reading. For the rest of you, this review will cover why I devoured this book as intently as any I’ve read.
“A Throne of Bones” takes place on the continent of Selenoth. It mainly follows four patricians from the two most prominent houses of a Roman-inspired state, facing issues inherent with a republican city-state ruling an empire. They feature intersecting and overlapping plot lines. Three other plot threads include a dwarf on a far-flung adventure, a globe-trotting wizard, and a barbarian princess seeking the aid of a kingdom styled on medieval France.
The book fits soundly into the genre, delivering layers of plots starting and completing throughout the book, along with political structures befitting real nations.
Selecting books that compare to A Throne of Bones, is to endorse it. The most comparable books that I’ve read are A Game of Thrones and The Way of Kings. Having read the three books, your favorite is really just a question of preference.
If you’re familiar with Vox Day, you’ll be familiar with his love of military tactics and strategy. It really shows because Vox portrays battles with a quality that, to my knowledge, no other author has brought to the fantasy genre. The opening battle, where legions square off against goblin hordes, reads like The Killer Angels meets The Conquest of Gaul.
The other big strength of this book is Vox Day’s writing style. Unlike all other fantasy books I’ve read, I never found myself struggling to understand what was happening in the beginning. The pacing of new information was just right to keep me interested while not causing me to flip back pages or pause to try and sort through what I had read. The plot and setting are easy to digest while they are still as full and developed as any other.
Not all of the ease with which readers will feel at home at Selenoth is due to Day’s writing style. A big part of it is that many aspects of Selenoth play off of reader’s previous experiences. An appreciation of French, Latin and fantasy novels will help you feel at home quickly and to focus on the numerous things that makes Selenoth unique and interesting.
An example is the main character in the story, Corvus. His name is the first thing you see after finishing the prologue. If you’re familiar with Latin and Roman culture, this immediately tells an informed reader things about the character, before you’ve read anything more than his name:
- Corvus is a nickname, meaning Crow
- He has a nickname because he’s proven himself worthwhile in some way
- He likely goes by a nickname because he comes from a noble family where many people share the same names
- The nickname is neither superlative or diminutive, so Corvus is neither legendary nor a laughingstock
Now these things are also clearly laid out in the text of the story, but Vox makes the most of opportunities like these to communicate information to the reader.
Between the writing style and the use of reader’s prior experiences, this was by far the easiest piece of epic fantasy to dive into I’ve encountered. I got to skip the frustration of getting up to speed on a new setting and instead moved right into appreciating the rich world and story that the book contains.
In summary, A Throne of Bones delivers a deep and rich epic fantasy story effectively and entertainingly. It not only matches the quality of contemporaries, it exceeds them in several notable places.
There were a few things I wanted to add after publishing. Besides the extremely well done military portions, there are things about this book that stand out versus other fantasy I’ve read. Vox definitely makes use of the socio-sexual hierarchy as a way to model his male characters into realistic and distinct people. Also, as opposed to other contemporary works, traditional morals are present, accepted, and not treated like a bad thing the way they would be in other texts.