Of Bone And Thunder
Fantasy gets napalmed
Release Date: 6 February
614 pages | Paperback Author: Chris Evans Publisher: Titan Books
This book shunts the
Vietnam war into an alternate world where napalm is replaced by dragonfire, soldiers fight with crossbows and catapults, dwarves are the angry racial underclass and magic is a tool of cutting- edge army research. For all that, though, it’s still clearly ’ Nam. The wide- eyed, patriotic boys rapidly become grunts off- their- heads on drugs and atrocities, in a war without shape or meaning. Like many Hollywood ’ Nam films, it’s all told from the POV of strangers in a foreign land. The locals are inscrutable; instead of “gooks,” they’re “slyts”.
The most impressive worldbuilding concerns the dragons ( abbreviated to “rags”). They’re used both as weapons and transport, but they’re explosively dangerous and nauseously uncomfortable. ( Dragonflights involve torrents of puke and urine.) Yet these dumb beasts of burden have an animal nobility, well evoked on the page.
The humans fare less well. There are just too darn many, with their scenes getting in each other’s way. Much of the early characterisation is painfully over- obvious. Very slowly, good plot arcs emerge, but the characters themselves aren’t strong enough to register. The result is less a novel than a narrative swamp, with several different stories struggling to break free and become better developed books. Andrew Osmond When he’s not writing fiction, Chris Evans is a military historian who conducts battlefield tours in Europe.