I’m bringing you yet another tour stop today sponsored by The Write Reads! This time, I’ll be talking about an historical fantasy immersed in Celtic mythology and set on the Isle of Skye: Hag of the Hills by J.T.T. Ryder. If the gorgeous cover doesn’t pull you in, perhaps the promise of a well-researched story that blends historical fiction and fantasy will appeal to you!
Before we jump in, though, I want to thank Dave @ The Write Reads and all of the crew for giving me a spot on this tour! I also want to thank the author for sending me a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! It is, as always, much appreciated.
Now, let’s get into the post!
“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 who 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.
Joseph Thomas Thor Ryder is an archaeologist and author of the heroic fantasy novel HAG OF THE HILLS, book 1 of THE BRONZE SWORD CYCLES duology. He is a published author of Viking archaeology, and a doctoral candidate specializing in the Viking Age and Celtic Iron Age. He resides in Norway where he conducts archaeological research and writes heroic fantasy set in historical periods.
Social media links: https://linktr.ee/jttryder
Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions contained within are my own.
I always find it hard to write reviews for books that I know, on a fundamental level, are good but that I personally didn’t enjoy. Unfortunately, such is the case with Hag of the Hills.
This is a historical fantasy that follows a young lad named Brennus. Brennus yearns for a glorious life of adventure like the one his father led. His life at present, however, is anything but glorious. His eldest brother has plans from him that involve less glory through battle and more getting married and tending the family farm. All that changes after Brennus has an encounter with the sidhe and his home is invaded by the Hillmen. Now, he may get the life of glory he once dreamed of… but at what price?
Now, I’m going to say it right here so y’all don’t get the wrong idea: this is a good book! It’s well-written and has clearly been impeccably researched. I’m not at all surprised to find out that the author is an archeologist that has studying the Viking and Celtic Iron Age. His breadth of knowledge shines through throughout this novel. It also makes for quite a violent and raw tale, as he doesn’t flinch away from how life could be during those times. This is one of those books that include a lot of pretty graphic stuff, but you can tell that it’s not just tossed in for shock value. It’s to add to the realism of the narrative and it certainly works!
That being said, I think my main issue with this book (and this is completely a me-issue) is that this read more like a historical fiction than a historical fantasy. Of course, the sidhe are involved in a lot of what goes wrong in Brennus’ life, but I wanted more of the fantastical! The bits where the sidhe are prominent in the story are my favorite bits, but they felt very few and far between. I mean… Brennus is constantly feeling the call of the sidhe, but it felt like the story focused more on his trials to keep oaths and obtain glory than his issues with malevolent, magical beings. And I just got bored 😅 It probably doesn’t help that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. I found I just couldn’t care less about what happened to Brennus and company, which made pushing through his story feel tedious.
I will say, though, J.T.T. Ryder can certainly craft an incredible action scene! Beyond the parts where the sidhe were more prominent in the book, I found myself truly enjoying the big battles that were fought. The way they are written was engaging and made me feel as though I were watching a fight scene in a movie!
Final thoughts: Though this book wasn’t my cup of tea, I can recognize that it is a well-written story that will definitely have its audience. The action is beautifully done and the world comes to life because of how knowledgeable the author is of the time period. For me, personally, I just wanted more of the mythology and fantasy and less of the historical. If you’re a fan of fantasy that is very true to the historical period in which it is set, with action and excellent world-building, though, I think you should give Hag of the Hills a try!