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.
Viking-esque in its telling, this book gripped me from start to finish.
What if the gods you serve aren’t gods at all? What do you do when you are faced with the fact that everything you’ve believed your entire life is wrong?
Being Eangi, one of the gods chosen warriors is all Hessa has ever known. Eang’s Fire lives within her and calls to her in times of great need. She turns that fire on all who stand in her way. But, when she is shunned and her people slaughtered, she has no choice but to seek out the answer to why her godess has abandoned her people.
Knowing from a young age that she was to kill a traveler who would one day trespass on Eang’s lands, Hessa has prepared for that day, for that destiny. But when the man shows up, he is kind and welcoming. Hessa can’t bring herself to do it and she had no idea why. The order to do so came from her godess. It should be a simple task but even staring down the man jars her, makes her sense that there is no evil within him.
Due to her inability, she is cast from Eang’s temple and again charged to track down and kill the man she’d allowed to escape. Her journey, however, will lead her to many unanswerable questions. Why had Eang abandoned her people? Why were the bonds between the gods and their lands crumbling? What was happening in the High Halls? How were thr old gods escaping?
Each step in Hessa’s journey leads her to believe that Eang may not be who she claims to be and that the other gods may be just as fickle. Yet, hundreds of years of history tell her otherwise. She’d seen Eang’s fury in action. She held the spark of Eang’s power. She’d seen the visions given by fate.
While grief remains at the forefront of this novel, Hessa is a well rounded figure and a strong one. She has many obstacles to overcome throughout but the worst of it is dealing with the death of her husband. Many times the novel dips into Hessa’s depression. It can slow down the pacing of the novel and does get tedious in some places but overall, it is simply an overriding theme that loss is something the gods themselves cause.
The lore in this story and the world-building are very well laid out and simple to understand. It makes for a quick read and one that would be good for fantasy beginners and veterans alike.
I would highly recommend giving this novel a read.
HALL OF SMOKE
Titan Books, 2021
eBook, 421 pages
Fantasy | Mythology