Author: Peter McLean
Title: Priest of Bones
Publisher: Quercus Books
Plot: It’s a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.
The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war. With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen’s Men, everything gets more complicated.
When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life it becomes clear; the war is not over.
It is only just beginning.
I received Priest of Bones from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
You know you’re behind on reading when you get around to a book – and the sequel gets released. After some re-planning, I dived into Priest of Bones eagerly.
I have to admit; I wasn’t certain on the first chapter. You are introduced to the characters as the main protagonist executes one of his men for attempted rape. The language is explicit, but in a way that you notice – it doesn’t flow in the dialogue but draws attention to itself. It was jarring and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the book.
But this isn’t the first time where the opening is extreme to set the scene, the tone and let you know this isn’t going to be an easy ride. The language settles after the first chapter; it’s still explicit, but it becomes part of the characters and the dialogue and you stop noticing. It’s not there for the sake of it but becomes part of the men, their struggles and just how they speak.
You also warm to the characters. Tomas Piety is the least likely man you would think of being a priest, but war changes people and needs must: it gets him to where he needs to be. He is a gang-boss, a businessman running his streets with the threat of violence.
Our regiment had gone from being three thousand paid, organised murderers to three thousand unpaid, disorganised murderers.
That had gone about as well as might be expected.
Early on in the book, however, you realise Tomas is, in fact, a good man. He genuinely cares for the people on his streets and won’t sit by and watch them go hungry or be without work. His methods might not be the best for rectifying these problems, but money isn’t the only thing that drives him.
With foreigners taking over his city and threatening war, Tomas and his crew try to claim back what is theirs, through manipulation and bloodshed if needs be. But while Tomas leads his men, his decisions aren’t his own; the crown has an interest on who has control and Tomas has to follow orders, whether he likes it or not.
I loved Tomas as a character: he’s flawed, he’s haunted and he is determined, whatever it takes. His brother – Jochan – is dangerous but ultimately follows his brother, knowing it’s for the best. Tomas’ second, Bloody Anne, is a complicated woman with a tragic past and she, too, will stand by Tomas.
There are a number of interesting characters: Billy the Boy with his powerful magic; Fat Luca with his unwavering loyalty while there is silver in his pocket; Cutter with a hidden past and a skill-set to be reckoned with. And Aelisa, a Queen’s Man with influence and power hidden behind a barmaid’s smile.
The plot is fast-paced, intense and violent. There’s fights, skirmishes and politics all mixed together and the underlying concern that Tomas is in over his head and won’t be able to get his crew through unscathed. For a violent character, you feel for Tomas and want him to come out on top of the problems.
An engaging and gripping read – I’m looking forward to the second.