Thursday, January 05, 2023

Barrow of Winter by H. M. Long: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Barrow of Winter by H. M. Long

Barrow of Winter is the third book in Hall of Smoke fantasy series set in a tribal world of old and new gods and the peoples who used to worship them until Hessa, the protagonist of the first two books, destroyed the system and killed some gods, making way for one true god and their three primal god siblings. Events take place twenty-five years after the first book.

The protagonist is Thray, Hessa’s adoptive niece. She’s the daughter of Ogam, a winter god killed by his goddess mother, and a human woman. She’s serving as a priestess of the one true god in a small fishing village, preparing to get married, but she is plagued by the question of her immortality.

She’s put herself time and again in situations where she should die. Every time, she’s saved by her grandfather, Winter. So, when people arrive from north to her village and tell her there are plenty of Ogam’s children where they come from and they can give her the answer, she leaves with them, despite Winter’s warnings.

Things aren’t well in the north after Ogam’s death, and Thray’s siblings aren’t what she had hoped they would be. She doesn’t know who to trust and what to do with the answer she finally receivesor how to deal with the way it was delivered. She’s at odds with her family too, Hessa and her brother, for lying about being on a mission from god, so returning home isn’t appealing either. And then she has to choose between her newfound siblings and her homeland.

This was a good book. The pace was fast, there was nothing unnecessary, and the ending was satisfying and conclusive, though rather painlessly delivered. Thray, the sole point of view character, was compelling, even if she wasn’t quite as complex as Hessa as a protagonist, and rather obstinate in her quest. I didn’t share her idea that if she turned out to be an immortal, she wouldn’t be able to love anyone because she would have to watch them die, but that was the only way she was able to see things.

There were many secondary characters, but most of them didn’t have an impact on the story. Bad guys were fairly obvious, but there were interesting characters among them too. Thray’s fiancĂ© was a bit of a bore and only existed to follow her around like a puppy, with no say on decisions about their relationship. Hessa only had a small side role, but it was interesting to see her from the outside, after spending two books watching the events from her point of view.

This was a stand-alone book, and if it turns out to be the last in the series, it leaves things in a satisfying place. But the ending was open enough for new adventures too. I wouldn’t mind reading more.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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