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Book review: The Bronze Sword Cycles: Book 1 Hag of the Hills by J.T.T. Ryder

Book review: The Bronze Sword Cycles: Book 1 Hag of the Hills by J.T.T. Ryder

Official blurb
“Nothing is unconquerable; even our gods can die.”
Brennus is destined from birth to become a warrior, despite his farmer’s life. But when the Hillmen kill his family and annihilate his clan, he now has the opportunity to avenge those whom he loved.
Brennus must survive endless hordes of invading Hillmen and magic-wielding sidhe, aided by only a band of shifty mercenaries, and an ancient bronze sword.
Failure means his family and clan go unavenged. Victory will bring glory to Brennus and his ancestors.
Hag of the Hills is a heroic fantasy novel set in 200 B.C. on the Isle of Skye, steeped in Celtic mythology and culture.

My thoughts

This is a narrator-led story with some good action scenes and excellent research into the historical details. The storytelling is well done and a focal point of the story as the narrator, Vidav, recounts his early life to his companion, Luceo; a tale of how he started on his life’s path and the blessing/curse of his life, his ability to see the Sidhe.

Widening my reader-brain to allow the storyteller to take a place front and centre also allows a deepening of the story experience. It’s not always an easy transition, but the depth of the tale can only be realised when you take a step back as reader and allow it to flow around you.

This is the kind of novel where I want to pull it, and the authors thinking, apart and ask why? Why did that happen? Is this fact or fiction? I want to see the research – not because I don’t believe, but because I do. I’m fascinated with the story behind the story.

But I’m so conflicted! There are parts of this story where the writing style is not to my liking. Sometimes too much information is told (not enough showing) and characters come across as one-dimensional. The protagonist narrator, Vidav (formerly known as Brennus), is alternately irritating and endearing, and yet he appears to have a fairly realistic world view and is often torn between doing what is expected and quenching his thirst for adventure. If I put aside what I think I know and the other fantasy stories/writing styles that have influenced me, then I find myself possibly on the brink of something new. The result is, I recommend Hag of the Hills to readers prepared to put in some effort into delving, journeying and questing with a reminder that this is only the first in a series. Like all quests, the adventure is in the journey and often not realised until the closing pages.

Book Information

Genre: Historical fantasy

Print length: 288 pages

Age range: This is an adult book but suitable for mature teens age 16+

Trigger warnings: Violent deaths; deaths of family members; human sacrifice, .

Amazon Rating: 4.5*

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Author, Joseph Thomas

About the author

Joseph Thomas Thor Ryder is an archaeologist and author of the heroic fantasy trilogy, THE BRONZE SWORD CYCLES. Book 1 and 2 are Hag of the Hills and The Lion of Skye, alongside their prequel, Tomb of the Blue Demons.

He is a published author of Viking archaeology, and a doctoral candidate specializing in the Viking Age and Celtic Iron Age. He lives in Norway where he conducts archaeological research and writes heroic fantasy set in historical periods.

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I received a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review

as part of a Blackthorn Book tour.

This review will also appear on Amazon (Australia) and Goodreads.


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