Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean

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“Ellinburg is corrupt to the core,” she said. “From Governor Hauer on down, the city all but stands on the shoulders of its underworld.”

Priest of Bones is the first installment of the new grimdark fantasy series War for the Rose Throne. If you are like me and love morally grey characters and anti-heroes, then you will love Priest of Bones!

Tomas Piety is an army priest who prior to being conscripted to fight in the war was the boss of the Pious Men, a gang that ruled the streets of Ellinburg known as the Stink. When he and what’s left of his men return home, he finds that he’s been dethroned by some opportunistic outsiders.

In true grimdark fashion, the world of Ellinburg is bleak. There’s disease, people are hungry, and work is hard to come by. While Tomas “cared” for those in his streets that pay taxes for protection, in turn providing them with work and food if needed, the people who stole his crime empire while he was at war did nothing for the people of the Stink. The war may have ended, but the world is a violent place.

Priest of Bones is told in Tomas’ first person perspective as he is writing down the story, writing directly to the reader. Tomas has a characteristic wit and an ego to boot, and I found the narrative full of his boasting about how he knows to lead men and how smart he is which I found a little tiresome at times, but at least his strategic mind backed up his ego. With his Pious Men, he fights to reclaim his businesses and right the wrongs of the streets. His protection may not come for free, but he takes care of his people.

There is a large cast of characters and thankfully there is a Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book that lists all of the characters – I referred to it quite often because I found that most characters were a bit two-dimensional and difficult to keep track of. The main characters of Tomas, Anne, Billy the Boy, and Jochan were a bit more fleshed out but I look forward to seeing some character growth in the continuation of the series as I think some interesting arcs have been set up for them.

I do wish that more time had been spent to worldbuilding in this book; however, there is a good amount of explanation about the religious systems and a taste of the political intrigue that begins to play a role in this book and will be front and center in the next one. I would have liked to learn more about the overall world itself, its history, the magic system/cunning (I honestly have no idea, but I think that is the point as the characters don’t either), and a bit more about the Queens Men. That being said, I really enjoy worldbuilding a lot and for a lot of readers what is provided will be enough!

This is a gritty, dark, and violent book. I have an extensive list of content warnings at the end of the review, but I do want to say that all of it is addressed in the text through Tomas’ character. He is about as morally grey as you can get… an anti-hero with strict rules. It took me awhile to settle into the narrative, but even then I was drawn in immediately with the wit and humor of the narrator. Overall I enjoyed this plot-driven book and will definitely continue with the series!

CONTENT WARNINGS (all addressed in the text): abuse, religious homophobia, genital mutilation, war, murder, death, sexual abuse, prostitution, patricide, killing of innocents, child prostitution

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an electronic advanced reader copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication. Priest of Bones will be released on October 2, 2018.

🤝 Buddy read with Destiny from Howling Libraries. Check out her review here!



You can find information about my rating criteria here.


Priest of Bones coverThe war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg–his people–have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life, it becomes clear:

The war is only just beginning.


Peter McLean lives in the UK, where he studies martial arts and magic, and volunteers at a prison, teaching creative writing. He is the author of the Burned Man urban fantasy series.


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

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