Hall of Smoke
by H.M. Long
e-ARC, 403 pages
Published January 19th 2021 by Titan Books
An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war
Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.
While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.
Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.
Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.
I received an eARC from publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in anyway.
What I Liked:
✔ I love how expansive and complex the world building is. The story mainy concerns Hessa area, which is called Eangen, but the story brought us exploring the world. There are the Soulderni, Arpa, and the Algatt, each having their own deity and different political system. The politics and religious sytem of each area are so well developed it’s easy to see why the conflict happened between them. As we journeyed from one area to another, we see the differences between the people and the culture which was interesting to read.
✔ The deities are mixed of various mythology from around the world. The main theme, the conflict between the Old vs New gods, stem from Greek mythology but there are also elements of Norse and other mythology. My knowledge is obviously limited, but it’s really fun piecing the story together and matching it with the stories it drawn its inspiration from.
✔ The plot is intriguing and as the pieces of the story is revealed slowly, I can’t stop reading as I want to know how the story would end.
✔ There’s no romance here 🤩 There are hints of it if you squint but they’re not explicit so the story really focuses on the plot of Hessa avenging her people, which is already dense on its own.
What I didn’t like
❌ Maybe it’s just me not used reading high fantasy, but I find some parts of the book to drag. Especially the middle part where Hessa is journeying from one area to another.
❌ Not enough magic. The story got interesting once we met Ogam the story got a bit more interesting due to his mischievous and unpredictable nature, but also because we got to see more action and magic. There are so many deities mentioned here but we barely met them.
❌ I’m not saying that the characters are not well developed, it’s just I couldn’t connect with any of them. Other than Hessa, none of them got any backstory and for Hessa herself, despite knowing a lot about her I just couldn’t connect with her.
Hall of Smoke has an expansive setting and epic plot; I certainly enjoyed getting to know different areas and explorign part of the world, as well as piecing the information together. Unfortunately, the lack of magic and connection with the characters made me unable to enjoy the story fully. However, if you’re looking for a standalone fantasy with no romance, this book might be up on your alley.