Of Bone and Thunder, by Chris Evans, is so good that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it beyond “You must read this book!” It’s a retelling of the Vietnam War in a Fantasy setting (including dragons). Though it deals with the horrors of war, it’s not moralistic. It is vividly realistic, however, and not for those with weak stomachs. The story is told from several characters’ points of view, which are diverse. I was pulled into what they were going through in such a way that I didn’t know how connected I was to them until I was crying at one point, and almost snarling every time one of the characters came into a scene. I realized this isn’t a book; it’s a world to become fully immersed in. It’s also a roller coaster, with well-timed lulls in the action for much needed breathers. I never had to take a break from this novel, and that’s all due to the pacing, which I didn’t even notice until I thought about it afterwards.
Two things I did notice while reading were his handling of race and gender issues. Again, this wasn’t done in a moralistic way. He simply wrote about the realities during the Vietnam Era. The race issues are between men and dwarves. Dwarves are formerly enslaved, newly integrated into Human society, and derogatorily referred to as “mules”. For the gender issues, women simply aren’t present, mentioned only in passing, with the exception of a very few who have a hard won agency. They are looked down upon as being inferior by many of the male characters. Respect is slowly gained as the story approaches its climax, but there remain men who still espouse their beliefs that women belong at home. Though at first I felt annoyed at the lack of women, that was a knee jerk reaction. Now, I see it as refreshing to have an author face the ugly truth of sexism without being preachy.
I would love to recommend this book to everyone, but it’s more for those who enjoy war stories or D&D type Fantasy. I’m giving it 5 stars, and adding it to my list of all time favorite books.