Vox Day’s Throne of Bones is a work of “high fantasy” in the vein of JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin. The story takes place on an Earth-like world called Selenoth, populated by humans and the standard fantasy races: elves, dwarves, goblins, and trolls. Yet Day adds some interesting twists to the tropes.
Throne of Bones avoids the usual cliché fantasy setting by drawing inspiration from elements such as the Roman Empire, medieval France, and Viking warriors. Religion, often missing in fantasy, is present in the Christian-like “Church of the Immaculate” which is ruled by a Pope-like “Sanctiff.” Selenoth’s elves are as usual, long-lived and beautiful, but with a sadistic streak and a propensity for genocide. Goblins are more pathetic than evil; the trolls use them both as cannon fodder and table fodder.
Like most epic fantasy novels, Throne of Bones is a bit long for my taste, with far too many point-of-view characters. On the good side, they are complex and well-rounded with unique personalities and voices. The most notable protagonist is Marcus Valerias, a young Amorran nobleman who abandons his calling to the priesthood to become an officer in his father’s military legion. He’s idealistic and conflicted but never doubts his faith. That’s because Day’s characters don’t bow to modern sensibilities.
One of Throne’s major plots concerns a proposal to grant all residents of the vast Amorran Empire full citizenship. Opponents see the move as a dangerous power grab by one noble family intent on ruling by sweeping away traditional institutions. The conflict between the two sides quickly becomes violent.
A second plot involves Theuderic, a mage from the human kingdom of Savonne. He’s a vile schemer who acquires his beautiful elvish lover by secretly arranging her defilement and then “rescuing” her. His fellow mages have accidentally summoned a dangerous demonic being which threatens the entire world.
I greatly enjoyed the political intrigue and especially the chapters that dealt with Amorran military campaigns. Day has really done his research when it comes to ancient warfare. However, the story threads involving Church politics and theology were dull at times.
Vox Day is the pen name of Theodore Beale, who is famous for his participation in the “Rabid Puppies” campaign against political bias in the Hugo Awards. Unlike the “social justice” types who dominate the Hugos, I believe that an author’s ethnicity, gender, and politics of authors shouldn’t factor into an honest critique of their work. I say this as advance notice that I won’t respond to any indignation over Day’s notoriously right-wing views.
This book is a really long read, but for the die-hard fantasy fan, it’s a worthwhile effort. Yes, Day is an ideologue, but he’s also an excellent writer. If you don’t tire of Selenoth after 900+ pages, the book has both a prequel and a sequel. I give Throne of Bones 4.5 out of 5 stars, deducting half a star for the churchy parts.