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Of Bone and Thunder
Chris Evans
Titan Books, 527 pages

Of Bone and Thunder
Chris Evans
Chris Evans was born in Canada and by law began playing hockey at the age of three. He now lives in New York City where he enjoys running in Central Park, ordering the #1 at the Gracie Mews for breakfast, and apparently retains some of his Canadian accent though he can't hear it. He's a historian as well as an editor of military history and current affairs books including the highly successful Stackpole Military History Series.

Chris Evans Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Darkness Forged in Fire

A review by Sandra Scholes

BSFA Award-winning author Chris Evans brought readers his Iron Elves trilogy; Ashes of a Black Frost, A Darkness Forged in Fire and The Light of Burning Shadows. Of Bone and Thunder is a re-imagining of a Vietnam War we never saw, but could have and here Evans is writing from his experiences as a historian. The book has a normal start with the image of soaring condors, which don't seem related to the wartime feel of the novel. Chapter 1 introduces the characters who protect Luitor from their enemy. Carny, Big Hog and Vooford are members of Red Shield, a group of men who were conscripted into a war that might never end.

For me, the name Chris Evans is synonymous with the entertainment industry as a TV presenter, but as I've only just heard about Chris Evans the author, I expected a lot from him after gazing thoughtfully at the back cover blurb for his newest novel which tells of a Vietnam style war fought in the past that many of the men think might never end in their lifetime. Just about everything is given a slang name in this story, from the dragons to the men fighting battles for those who might not be so good to the cause. War is hell, and Evans tells us this in great detail. While the opening scene of the condors tends to throw you at the start, the rest of the story seems to concern Carny's men of Red Shield who protect their land from the marauding hoards of enemy's day in day out. The trouble is, after a while the sight of these men in the same place telling of their troubles and hatred of the war can get tiresome, though the fighting and reading of what happened in the past is interesting to read.

Every day the men of Red Shield have to face the Collective as they need to keep the Kingdom enemy free in Luitox. Here while they play the waiting game for their enemy to approach, we hear the war from several viewpoints during the story and many of the accounts aren't what the Kingdom's rulers might expect. The men are tired, hurt, stressed-out and at times bored out of their brains, and who can blame them? Their enemy is sneaky, dangerous and worthy of being feared as they never show themselves if they can help it, and they aren't the sort of enemy who fights en masse.

It is refreshing to see why Evans has written from the Vietnam perspective as Red Shield try as they might to keep control of their area, the enemy advance and prove the might they have almost every day. The Collective also have the advantage of knowing where their enemies are as they have slyts or powerful fighters and magic they have no hope of being able to fight off. For the most part readers spend most of their time reading about the Red Shield characters being in the jungle. This ends up being a much longer time than I had anticipated, but I can see why Evans did this as he wants to get across what it would have been like for men in the Vietnam War if they were set in the past without the many weapons they had. Evans had a very good idea he brought out into the open with strong, valiant characters who, I thought were realistically portrayed as the sort of ordinary types who thought they were there to do good, but soon realised what politics was going on back home.

I would like to have known more about the magic their enemy used and less about the jungle warfare, but it would be such a waste to miss out on a compelling book as this one for those reasons. Of Bone and Thunder isn't just another wartime fantasy story with dragons in it, it is also about the men who served in the jungle, their thoughts on the war and whether they would get home alive. The themes of drug use, depression, worthlessness and racial oppression are just some of the issues that get mentioned in here. Mainly the racial oppression as the Dwarves are very much the underdogs in this novel with years of racial hatred and prejudice that goes back centuries. This is quite the tome to go through, but once readers have digested all the facts they will understand why it was written from this perspective.

Copyright © 2015 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has been concentrating more on her two blogs over the past month of the New Year and still finds time to write for Albedo One, Fantasy Book Review, Love Romance Passion and the British Fantasy Society.

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