Hall of Smoke is the first novel by H.M. Long, and what an outstanding epic fantasy debut. It is a stand alone novel that begins deceptively small and develops into amazing epic proportions. Hall of Smoke is set in a pre-modern, practically ancestral world. The main character Hessa is a warrior priestess of Eang, the goddess of war. She’s young. However, an experienced warrior, thanks to constant wars.
The story of the novel starts at a low point in Hessa’s life. She has failed to do a task, assigned to her by her goddess, to kill a guest in her town. As a result has been stripped from her position as a priestess. While she’s in a far off, to pray to God for forgiveness, who won’t reply to her. Her whole town is killed by followers of an alternate god. From that point she has only one objective: finding the man she was supposed to kill, so she can have a spot in the hall of death with her loved-ones.
However, things are not simple or clear when one is distant from everyone else and facing several enemies. While she attempts to find her prey. Hessa discovers that the whole world is in a state of chaos, and not simply among people, among the god as well. As her goddess neglects to come to her aid, she begins to question her commitment towards the goddess and the task given to her. Gradually, as her faith unravels, the stakes become higher, until Hessa ends up as a critical part in gods’ battle against one another.
Hall of Smoke was an extremely fulfilling story. The plot flows smoothly starting with one occasion then onto the next, with Hessa learning and developing along it. The pacing is not quick, however the sections are genuinely short and there is continually something going on that makes you need to continue to read. Due to the first person point of view, the side characters remain somewhat unclear, and none of them become more imperative to Hessa than her task. However I enjoyed the majority of them. I particularly loved Hessa. She is strong and determined, and capable of changing her perspective when the former one gets illogical. Furthermore, in a genuine way of epic fantasy, the individual who has lost all turns into the main person on the planet. I truly recommend Hall of Smoke to people who like reading fantasy books.
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