H.M. Long is joining us today to talk about her novel, Hall of Smoke. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war, for readers of Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.
Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.
While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller and atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.
Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.
Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.
What’s H.M. Long’s favorite bit?
H. M. LONG
My favourite bit of Hall of Smoke is absolutely the mythology. When I set out to write this book, I had only a vague understanding of the world or the story. I knew I wanted a complex warrior-priestess protagonist with an axe and an epic journey, and I knew I wanted an atmospheric world of pines and mountains. But other than that, there was only one main feature I had written in stone: the nature of the gods.
From the beginning, I wanted the gods of the Hall of Smoke world to be present, tangible, and meddling. I did this not only because I was fascinated by this kind of deity in our own world and cultures, but because I wanted to explore all the legends and myths that the involvement of flesh-and-blood, fallible gods with humanity could create.
And in the end, it was that dynamic which created the entire framework for Hall of Smoke. I could say more, but spoilers.
There are three main features of deities in the Hall of Smoke world:
- The gods in Hall of Smoke are real. You cut them, they bleed. The gods walk among humans, often masquerading as them – to the point where one of Hall of Smoke’s mantras is “Are you sure they’re human?” The gods fall in love with members of humanity and make lovable – or horrific – little demi-gods and monsters with them. There are a few deities who are made of something other than flesh, but even they are tangible and present in the living world.
- The gods in Hall of Smoke are mortal. Basically. Sort of. In a rather Elvish way, they’ll live as long as they’re not murdered, or killed by some truly magnificent accident. Of course, some forms of immortality can be attained – at great cost, or by accident, as in the case of Hall of Smoke’s Ogam, the son of the Goddess of War and the elemental Winter. Because of this default mortality and the need to procreate, there are multiple generations of gods in the Hall of Smoke world, and all the conflict that comes with that.
- The gods in Hall of Smoke are not all-powerful. They have stark limitations, strength that can be spent. They will, at some point, be in need of sustenance and replenishment. Time and space also pose as much of a hinderance to them as anyone else, necessitating creative modes of travel and shortcuts through the god’s upper realm, the High Halls.
My hope in including deities like this is to give Hall of Smoke’s mythological and religious landscape a very true, real-world feel, something visceral and intimate that stands out within the fantasy community. And I hope that you’ll enjoy reading about this world’s pantheon of meddling gods as much as I enjoyed writing them!
H. M. Long is a Canadian fantasy writer, author of HALL OF SMOKE, who loves history, hiking, and exploring the world. She lives in Ontario, but can often be spotted snooping about European museums or wandering the Alps with her German husband. She tweets @hannah_m_long.