A Ritual of Flesh is the second book in this series of The Dead Sagas. I enjoyed A Ritual of Bone quite a bit and jumped on the opportunity to get caught up when the author offered a copy for review. Thank you to Lee C Conley for the ebook!
|Series: The Dead Sagas #2||Genre: fantasy, grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: October 10th 2020||Publisher: self-published|
As evil ravages the north and the dead walk, all eyes fall to Arn… The apprentice journeys south, home to the College, unaware of the dark events that transpired in the High Passes after his departure. His leg in ruins, and haunted by watching shadows, the College council in Arn awaits him, but he does not travel south alone.
Arnulf and his warriors must travel to Arn also, with tidings for the king of the risen dead and the terrible curse which has destroyed all that he knew. Arnulf seeks vengeance upon the College, but must choose wisely if he is to save his son.
Meanwhile in the west, Bjorn and his strange Wildman companion report back to High Lord Archeon at Oldstones with grim news of cannibal Stonemen encroaching from the Barrens, but is embroiled in news of war and invasion as Archeon requests his service once more.
In the capital sickness awaits them all, Nym has fled to the city and must now continue her struggle for survival on the plague ridden streets of Arn, keeping all who she cares for safe from the halls of Old Night.
The many threads of this Saga converge on the city of Arn, but amid plague, invasion and terror, a greater darkness is looming. Dark forces are seeking to unleash evil upon Arnar, honour and renown is all, and sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
“The sky above the banners was clear, but clouds loomed on the horizon, blotting out the sunset, heavy and dark,winter. Silhouetted against those approaching clouds were hundreds of tiny dark shapes. They wheeled over the rooftops and through the hearth smoke, carrion birds spiralling over the city as if it were a battlefield. The birds swooped down to perch atop twisted corpses, unperturbed by folk walking by. They have come to feast on an entire city…
‘That is a foul omen,’ Hafgan muttered.”
Right Now by Fire From the Gods
I just stumbled on this song and it’s amazing. Not all the verses fit the story but most do.
We return to Conley’s incredibly atmospheric plague-ridden world of Arnar where we rejoin our survivors as they head to the capital hoping for shelter, and for some- like Arnulf, answers. But the capital has its own set of problems, with illness spreading rapidly and threats of an invasion in the air- it’s not quite the haven they were expecting.
Reading virus stories like this in the midst of our current state of the world, and things like arguing over masks etc. that are so relevant to now, but with this setting, was such an odd transposition of mind-set for me between our present world, and the medieval world of Arnar…. it felt so weird.
There is a large cast of characters and a lot of them are fleshed-out so I really liked that we were given nice-sized scenes with them to get us caught up and help to set them in our heads again, something which I especially need because I just have the worst time with names.
Also, a huge help for me was the what came before and the cast list. And for those that love them – there are maps. I know maps are a requirement for some in fantasy but unless they include notes like there’s a 7-Eleven on this corner and an arrow saying ‘your house is that way’ maps just make me more lost.
I don’t read a lot in this genre these days but I grew up on horror. Thanks to my mom, my introduction was mostly film – Hitchcock, library reels of Bela Lugosi, Saturday night B-movies and later she introduced me to the books. Which is probably the reason I enjoy Conley’s The Dead Sagas so much – it captures some of the elements I grew up with and enjoy the most; something I wasn’t really expecting to find in a fantasy book with zombies.
The first part of A Ritual of Flesh is kind of the groundwork – like any good horror this builds the story slowly. It lets us remember who everyone is, where they are, what they lost and basically, we get to re-establish our favourites while adding a few new faces into the mix.
The second part opens up the bigger plot, raises the stakes, and starts moving people where they need to be, while strongly hinting at the horror to come with little scenes sprinkled throughout.
And the third part builds on all that fear, until all hell break loose in this big final showdown of sticky entrails and blood spraying zombie scenes that would make a Romero movie proud.
For a zombie book though, there really isn’t a lot of those gruesome scenes outside of the finale and a few cut scenes (I have no idea what you call those outside of the movie/tv world) this mostly leans towards atmospheric horror; which is my preference. I’ve never been good at zombies just because I can’t handle the eating of gross things. So, for me this works because so much of it is moody scenes.
And there are some great mood setting scenes – one of my favourites was when their ship was coming into the city of Arn and the bloated bodies were floating downriver.
Of our cast – I enjoyed our apprentice’s arc the most for giving us some motive and something to watch unfold as the world falls apart. Also, I enjoyed Arnulf, and his hope for a cure for his son.
I am the most curious about the way things will play out with Seth and Duncan though and am really looking forward to seeing where that goes.
The writing and editing have greatly improved over the first book (mind you I haven’t read the edited version of A Ritual of Bone so it may be on par now). I only had a few occasions where I thought something felt repetitive or needed a bit of trimming, or thought a conversation was a bit rough. Outside of that I didn’t have much in the way of complaints.
A Ritual of Flesh is a good creepy zombie story that is perfect for this time of year, with Halloween fast approaching.