Welcome to Luitox—pronounced lew-tow, not loo-tox—more commonly known, by the troops fighting here anyway, as the Lux. It’s a hot, humid hell, populated by natives known as slyts, dotted with dosha swamps that smell like the shit the natives use to fertilize the dosha, open areas full of sawgrass, and everything else covered by dense jungle.
Welcome to a fantasy unlike any other I’ve ever read.
Luitox is the creation of Chris Evans, but it has a real world inspiration: Vietnam. Everything you read in this novel will remind you of accounts you’ve read of the Vietnam War. Sure, in the Lux, the Kingdom bringing freedom to the Luitoxese uses dragons for air support and transport, and the soldiers, divided into phalanxes and shields rather than battalions and companies, use crossbows rather than rifles, but you’ll still recognize a lot here.
Most of the soldiers are conscripts, and they all have nicknames like Wraith, Carny, Knockers, and so on. And their personalities run the gamut from the ultra-religious Ahmy, who’ll preach to you about the High Druid at every opportunity, to Carny, who has reached a point where he really doesn’t give a fuck anymore.
It’s a fully realized world that you’ll want to sink your teeth into.
Granted, it’s still fantasy, but if you’ve ever read one of the epic Vietnam novels—The 13th Valley by John M. Del Vecchio springs to mind for me—you’ll feel right at home. Sure, there are dragons instead of helicopters, crossbows instead of M16s, and dosha swamps instead of rice paddies, but everything else will be familiar. There’s the commander, a man named Weel, whose only concern is body counts. There’s Wraith, the soldier who found himself in his element in the Lux. There’s the new guy—called fawns in this world—who’s just coming over with visions of fighting for the glory of the Kingdom—even if things back home aren’t the best in the world since it was discovered the last several generations of kings were descended from a bastard. It’s still the Kingdom, and the freedom it’s bringing to Luitox is the best thing going.
Of Bone and Thunder is written both as an homage to Vietnam veterans and as another way to illustrate what that war was and is to this country. The Kingdom is torn apart by racial tensions as the dwarves—still often referred to as mules by most—have been given most of the freedoms humans enjoy. There’s still plenty of prejudice to go around, though, and it isn’t helped any by the fact dwarves aren’t allowed any real weapons in the army, and are still relegated to positions of servitude.
I wasn’t sure what I’d get when I picked this book up, and I admit it took me more than a few pages to get into it. But once I did, it was hard to put down. I became quite invested with all the characters, wondering which ones would survive this humid hell and what they’d be like if they did. Because you can’t go through a war like this and not be changed in some way.
Even if you don’t normally like fantasy, try this one. It draws you in because there’s so much that’s familiar here. It’s just disguised as something else.
You’ll still recognize it, though.