Welcome to my review of the first book in The Dead Sagas by self published author, Lee Conley. This is an honest review of a book that I purchased directly from the author because I couldn’t stop seeing his book(s) whenever I opened Twitter and knew I had to get into this world.
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“Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead”
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.
The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.
But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.
Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This Dark Fantasy Epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
The first thing I took from this book is the cover. The artwork on both of these books is actually brilliant and does a great job of conveying exactly what you can expect from this story while also drawing you in. This is a Nordic fantasy tale with an ever looming threat of zombies present, among other smaller threats to each character. With a multiple cast of colourful characters, it gives you lots of different people to root for while you read about them and their individual predicaments.
I like to outline three separate parts of any book I review to make it easier to review and these are normally the characters in the book or first person perspective, the worldbuilding in the book and any unique elements which in this case are so blatantly obvious, let’s start with them.
Unique Element: Zombies. The thing that sets this book out from others is that you have zombies (normally a horror trope) in a fantasy story. What works so brilliantly about this is that zombies normally have to deal with guns, stone walls, fences and locked doors but in the world of Arnar, these things do not exist and so you have a much scarier trope of zombie – one that cannot be stopped very easily at range. This means characters have to get up close to beat the threat.
I really like the way Lee has done zombies in this first book (and I hope the encounters get bigger and better with each following book). Lee slowly introduces the zombie threat, from character perspective to the way they’re shaping the land, he has drip fed me a horror element while building upon the world he has sought to create. This keeps the zombies interesting and allows Lee to develop the characters but this does not mean that characters are not suffering or that he doesn’t have any shocks hidden between the pages.
Worldbuilding: Arnar is a world that would fit into many different shows or games such as The Last Kingdom, Vikings, Skyrim, The Witcher and anything else that has a Norse/sword & shield vibe about it. Steel and iron weapons, armour and furs, horses and keeps, wooden towns and Lords. It has everything you could want with more hopefully available in sequels. The locations feel real, especially the one involving the character Nym who is my favourite, and some are much more elusive such as the college which has a mystery about it which only serves to make you more interested when any character related to it is on the pages in front of your eyes.
I like the parts of the world that we don’t know much about possibly more than the parts we do have clear information about. There are distant lands over the sea and there are much closer parts yet to be explored. There are mentions of giants which is exciting because you could have a zombie giant but even if they were normal giants, that is a brilliant fantasy trope to squeeze into any fantasy story and I wish more fantasy stories had them.
Characters: There are a multitude of characters in this book and that is sometimes a thing I found hard to follow. I found myself having to re-read certain parts where multiple men were talking or Lords because I couldn’t remember which person was which. This didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story in the end and I found some characters I liked more than others and wanted to know more about them.
It is saying something about Lee’s ability to write when you can create a person out of your imagination that a stranger wants to hear more about. For me, this character is Nym. A young girl trying to protect herself and her brother at a town by the sea. She has her own problem to deal with and a little brother to manage and even with the actual zombie threat not getting to her part of the world until much later in the book, her story is for me the most interesting and I wanted more. In fact, I think Nym has the least amount of information about her out of all the characters.
There are others I liked to read about such as Bjorn the hunter and interestingly I found the most interesting characters the ones that weren’t under threat of being eaten alive. This might be because the characters have more time to think and not be under attack and thus allows me to get to know them as if they were real people telling a story although this is written in third person.
To round up, this is a good story that combines two tropes, fantasy and horror, well. It has a great cast of characters, an intriguing story-line with secrets and an open world which is ever growing in size which brings with it new problems, people and places for you to explore. You should pick this book up if you like fantasy stories as it is predominantly that but if you like horror and fantasy stories then this was made for you because it’s a fantastic blend and reads really well.
I’m now looking forward to reading A Ritual of Flesh (The Dead Sagas #2) to see what happens in Arnar!
Follow Lee on Goodreads here and Twitter here
You can buy A Ritual of Bone here and it is part of Kindle Unlimited
Thanks for reading.