A Plague of Giants
by Kevin Hearne
I enjoyed the first couple books of Hearne’s UF Iron Druid series set in the modern era, so I thought I’d try his straight-up fantasy.
You might have guessed it wasn’t quite to my taste. It was definitely interesting, and lots of work evident in the development of the several different cultures presented in the story, but it read more like a Dungeons & Dragons guide to a campaign world then a story. I’m character-driven, I want to fall in love with a character and know them deeply. The conceit behind this book, that a Bard takes on the appearance of main characters from each of the different cultures to tell the story of twin invasions of Hathrim (a culture of the “first kenning” having to do with folks who manipulate fire) and mysterious Bone Giants, means we’re flip flopping between different characters all the time.
Like a history book. So I never really attached myself to anyone, or rather, I attached myself to Nel of the “plant kenning” peoples and Abbhi of the new-found “sixth kenning” of animals, but then they would disappear for a long time as others’ stories were told. I actually started to somewhat skim when we were in the Hathrim parts…because their somewhat bloodthirsty, angry talk got monotonous.
And by page 400 I was no longer as invested in finding out all the cool powers, creatures, and characters as much as I just wanted to get on with the story (and it went on more than another 100 pages).
Imagination galore packs these pages. But what also packs these pages was for me a somewhat ham-handed “look at the Fornish culture! They talk in plant metaphors!” ; “Look at the Brynt culture, they talk in water metaphors!” and there was even a wind culture who had a philosophy of living in the present that was basically rehashed Zen meditation the author didn’t try too hard to gussy up in fantasy trappings.
There’s also an elderly scholar who is friends the Bard, trying to take in refugees from the war, and his realization at the end that giving folks a safe space to live and breathe is just as heroic as fighting battles was probably the best part of the book for me.
So folks who like D & D or gamelit or reading books for the purpose of discovering fascinating tidbits will enjoy this book. As a character-drive reader, it wasn’t to my particular taste. Sorry.