Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review of Throne of Bones by Vox Day


Throne of Bones is the first book in Vox Day's Arts of Dark and Light series. It is not the first story in this world, however, and Vox Day has previously written Summa Elvetica (under the name Theodore Beale) and A Magic Broken (which I've previously reviewed at Black Gate). The latest book, more than the first two, centers around Amorr,  a city where the Roman Republic meets the Catholic Church in a world of elves, dwarves, and magic.

I really enjoyed this book, but it needed better copy editing.  There were misspellings and misnumberings (particularly egregious when you identify legions by their numbers), homonyms mixed up, timeline errors, and I lost count of the number of times that the quotation marks were out of place.  None of these things are uncommon mistakes for writers--I make a lot of them myself--but that's why we have copy editors to catch them.  Some are bound to slip by, and I often see them in published books, but rarely this many.  Then there are the editorial decisions that I disagreed with but couldn't tell whether they were intentional.  Chapters from different points of view were out of chronological order, so a character who was dead in one chapter was alive again in the next one, only to die immediately.  Writers and editors sometimes do that sort of thing intentionally, and sometimes it's very effective, but other times it's just annoying (though still not as annoying as it was in Robert Jordan's Towers of Midnight, where Tam al'Thor was in two places at once).  Nor do I really enjoy the George R.R. Martin technique of apparently killing off a character, then having him reappear later without explanation, leaving us to guess at what happened, so I'm annoyed that I still don't know how Lodi and Thorvald escaped the dragon.

Now that I've got the gripes out of the way, what did I like about this book?  A lot.  I loved the use of Roman culture, although the prolific use of Latin to refer to everyday things may pose a challenge to anyone less familiar with Roman daily life than I am.  I like the fact that religion played a prominent role which was mostly positive but also corruptible.  I personally like dwarves, so it was good to see Lodi (an old friend from Summa Elvetica and A Magic Broken) as an important point of view character.  I thought all the characters were great, from noble Corvus to honest Marcus to self-absorbed Severa (who grows a lot in the course of the story). I liked the fact that the Amorran conflict is between two sides which have legitimate interests, both of which will use underhanded tactics to achieve them.  It was refreshing to see the good guys (to the extent that there were good guys) get fed up with the enemy mastermind's betrayals and killings and turn to the simple expedient of assassination.  Where honorable doesn't necessarily mean stupid.

So, for the most part, I forgive the novel for its mistakes.  However, I do hope that the next book has better editing.  And I wouldn't mind a corrected edition to the first book, either.

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