Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by ThoughtsStained
I’ve been meaning to read Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long since it was first announced for publication, for multiple reasons. One: Naomi (Long’s agent) and I are friends, so I want to read as many books by their incredible clients as possible that interest me. (And, lets be real: most do, because Naomi has incredible taste. I mean, have you SEEN their client list?). Two: this book sounded utterly fantastic. And three: it promised to be the best potential comparative title for BLOOD PRICE, one of my WIPs, I’ve seen so far.
So, how did my read of this Hall of Smoke, with high expectations on many level, play out? Read on to find out!
An ARC copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Publisher: Titan Books | Release Date: January 2021 | Pages: 432
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: ARC
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.
On the Page
- Animal attack
- Blood and gore
- Death of a partner
- Death of a friend
- Disappearance of a loved one
- Grief and loss depiction
- Neglect, abuse and abandonment
- Physical injuries and wounds
- War themes and military violence
- Building collapse
- Involuntary pregnancy
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- The intricate world: I thought this world was deliciously in-depth and gorgeous. The Norse inspirations were clear, yet it felt so alive on its own that I could easily picture this world, its warring factions and its gods on their own grounds.
- Hessa: I loved Hessa. She reminds me a lot of my main character in my comparable story–and suffers just as much, if not more. Her strength was admirable, her determination fierce and I love that we didn’t shy away from allowing her to feel–and show–complex emotions.
- The focus on internal struggles: Hessa is not given an easy lot, even from the start. As the truth and complexities of the world around her shifts and unravels, she’s forced to make even harder choices. I really appreciated that we got to see her grow and struggle to grapple with these realities and harsh truths; how the focus on the internal struggle was given equal weight to hard and challenging outer struggles, as well.
- Pacing a bit: I struggled a bit with the pacing at the beginning. There were multiple times that I just wanted to get moving and get closer to Hessa’s ultimate goal. Yet, the events and complications that “slowed” down her progress weren’t pointless. They actually all made sense and were justified. And, were still engaging to read. So, I think this was just a me thing being impatient.
So, did Hall of Smoke live up to the hype I placed upon it? Yes, yes it did. I loved the worldbuilding and how it expanded upon the traditional influences and gave us something refreshingly new, yet with the flavor of something familiar. Hessa is a powerful protagonist who suffers and fights, and I pledge my sword to her always. And the layers that we get to slowly peel back and unearth are fantastic.
Not only was this such an enjoyable, complex read, but I also (finally!) found a comp title for BLOOD PRICE. The story here–detailing a complicated relationship between god and woman that only grows more complex and challenging as the story pushes on–bears fantastic similarity with my own WIP. It excites me that, one day, when BLOOD PRICE is published (sending this out into the universe!!), there is an amazing book to compare it to. Likewise, if you’ve ever been hyped about my WIP, you should REALLY read Hall of Smoke. I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it. Plus, we already have Temple of No God to read AND more books to look forward to!