Hauntingly enthralling, A Ritual of Flesh takes everything that made its predecessor memorable and turns it up to 11, whilst adding welcome depth to the excellent world and characters.
A Ritual of Flesh is a brilliant read that builds on everything that made A Ritual of Bone great, while adding more excitement, gore, character and world development and somewhat surprisingly, emotion.
Book one was a really enjoyable read that I highly recommend but I have to say that you really feel Lee Conley has developed further as a writer here and I’m seriously impressed with how he’s sewn this tale together so far. One thing I enjoyed in particular was learning more about the world and the factions and history within it, which added a greater sense of realism and depth.
Perhaps the main aspect that A Ritual of Flesh really kicks on is with its characters, though. Suddenly a bunch of cool but ‘I don’t care if they die’ characters become layered and interesting people you care about. This may just be a case of more familiarity with a second book but I suspect the character development is simply of a higher quality here.
Bjorn and Tung are becoming one of my favourite duos and I really like their relationship dynamic that the author has set up.
Nym certainly comes into her own too and Duncan becomes really interesting, shall we say…
Of course, not one to be kind to the reader’s heartstrings, Conley continues Arnulf’s tragic story and you pray for him to find a bit of respite – a warm hall with beer and laughter. Do you think he finds it?
Aswell as new characters being introduced too and more of the characters you spent time with in book one, I loved that we revisit the mind of the cursed ones and the descent from humanity into this bestial form. What’s awesome is this series isn’t essentially just humans Vs zombies – the cursed ones really add something horrifying to the mix, as does the looming threat of the cannibalistic Stone Men. Not only these, we also have the deadly plague really taking hold and nobody is safe – perfect conditions for an undead uprising.
For our protagonists, there’s something out there that wants to eat you at all times. And boy does a lot of undead chomping happen – no punches pulled. Conley introduces us to NPCs you think must pull through, it would be too brutal not to! Nope. Their limbs and guts are ripped out and devoured while their heart still beats.
It would be pointless in my opinion to tone it down as this adds to the shock factor and the realism of the threat and horror affecting the world. As you’d expect though, Lee Conley is a master at knowing the right times to add suspense, creepiness, outright gore or unexpected emotion. He’s a puppet master or a super engineer, adjusting the dials of horror and tension at all the right times. Sometimes blood and gore can create the desired response and sometimes screams and implied events ‘off camera’ as it were are more effective at giving us those horrific thrills and I cannot stress enough how excellently the author has a mastery over this.
It goes without saying that things really step up a notch, especially in part three which is just insanely brutal and action packed, but the author is able whilst doing this to retain elements of mystery and add a lot of heart too (not just being ripped from chest cavities) that give this book such a well rounded, satisfying feel. There was even one scene that I, a reader who never cries at books, started to well up at and had to compose myself.
I wish I’d read this book a lot earlier than I did, but I’m so glad I got around to it. A book that excels at all it sets out to do – it was a real pleasure and I can’t wait to read the next book in The Dead Sagas (I’ll be eagerly starting at the earliest opportunity this time) so thanks to Lee Conley for the review copy.
Finding self published books as exciting and well polished as this makes being a reviewer completely worth it.
Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead!!
As evil ravages the north and the dead walk, all eyes fall to Arn… The apprentice journeys south, home to the College, unaware of the dark events that transpired in the High Passes after his departure. His leg in ruins, and haunted by watching shadows, the College council in Arn awaits him, but he does not travel south alone.
Arnulf and his warriors must travel to Arn also, with tidings for the king of the risen dead and the terrible curse which has destroyed all that he knew. Arnulf seeks vengeance upon the College, but must choose wisely if he is to save his son.
Meanwhile in the west, Bjorn and his strange Wildman companion report back to High Lord Archeon at Oldstones with grim news of cannibal Stonemen encroaching from the Barrens, but is embroiled in news of war and invasion as Archeon requests his service once more.
In the capital sickness awaits them all, Nym has fled to the city and must now continue her struggle for survival on the plague ridden streets of Arn, keeping all who she cares for safe from the halls of Old Night.
The many threads of this Saga converge on the city of Arn, but amid plague, invasion and terror, a greater darkness is looming. Dark forces are seeking to unleash evil upon Arnar, honour and renown is all, and sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.