Fantasy Book Review: Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Fantasy Book Review

Warrior priestess silhouetted against a divine owl
Hall of Smoke
Author: H.M. Long
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Genres: Epic Fantasy
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

Just about everything and everyone in Hall of Smoke played against my expectations - and I love it. Time and time again I found myself questioning what just happened, fully expecting some deus ex machina to undo all the carnage, but even in a book full of gods and goddesses, H.M. Long refuses to play it safe and, in the process, brings something new to the epic fantasy genre.

For a book with such mythological weight, such world-changing potential, Hessa is a wonderfully bold choice for a protagonist. Aside from being Eangi, a warrior priestess pledged to the Goddess of War, she's nothing special - no extraordinary talents, skills, proficiencies, or abilities. She's not the best of the Eangi, she's just one of the last - and even that's in doubt, given how she starts the story in disgrace, stripped of her place in the High Halls. There's something of a redemption arc to her tragic heroine story, a journey to complete a quest and save her people, but the betrayal it demands is what makes this especially interesting.

This is a solid work of fantasy, one with a well-developed world, clearly defined cultures, and a depth of mythology that's slowly unveiled over the course of the novel. Long doesn't spoon-feed the reader details, so a little patience is required to understand (or, at least, begin to understand) all that's happening, but Hessa is a strong enough character to carry the story on her own. She does have some support, allies and enemies both who round out the tale, not to mention several gods and goddesses to whom she must answer, and it's with them where it gets most interesting. There's a vulnerability to the gods here that's refreshing, and their fears and furies are something to which we can relate. There is one human character who does manage to engage the reader, a priest for whom my loathing only grew as the story progressed, but there are influences there that sort of muddy the waters.

Of course, as you might expect from a Viking inspired fantasy, there is action galore to be found in Hall of Smoke, with savage raids, pitched battles, and epic struggles between gods and monsters. Amidst all that, I love how Hessa always put what was right ahead of what might be smart, sacrificing herself time and time again for little thanks. She's battered and bruised, bloody in more ways than one, and as if the physical struggle weren't enough, her crisis of faith is beautifully explored and perfectly resolved. There's a lot going on behind the scenes here, a lot of pressure brought to bear on Hessa and her beliefs. When you're dedicated to a goddess upon whom your power and protection depend, simply asking questions is bold enough, but Hessa dares to ask them, to face the answers, and to make her own decisions.

That, for me, is where the story distinguished itself. 

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Really looking forward to starting this.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this, looking forward to starting it soon😁


Post a Comment