‘The Hand that Casts the Bone’ is the second book in the Vanguard Series and continues the journey of protagonist, John Vanguard, as he negotiates his way through a city rife with crime and corruption. A Grimdark gas lamp novel, ‘The Hand that Casts the Bone’ follows ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ in its themes of redemption, betrayal and revolution.
Alone in a city on the cusp of revolution, separated from his allies and with nothing to his name, former mercenary John Vanguard finds vigilante life can be a poorly paid gig. When an influential aristocrat’s death causes a sudden shift in the balance of power, Vanguard finds himself once more caught in the crossfire between dangerous men with murderous ambitions.
From his tower far above the city, Captain Sanquain seeks to tighten his iron grip on the capital and its citizens. Amidst the chaos of the Black Zone, a deadly turf war is brewing between the crime lords. Outside the city, libertarian Argent Cooke struggles to gather support for the uprising. And from the smog-stained rooftops, Vanguard’s former protégé Tarryn Leersac is watching all.
With any hopes of redemption fading, Vanguard finds one last shred of hope in the form of an old friend, risen from the dead and promising the chance for atonement.
Thank you to the author (H.L. Tinsley) for an advance reading copy of The Hand that Casts the Bone. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions. The Hand that Casts the Bone released April 21st, 2022.
The Hand that Casts the Bone is a fantastic sequel, closing the door on any feared second book syndrome with its highly recognizable characters, fascinating plot, and outstanding characterization.
The Hand that Casts the Bone is the follow up to We Men of Ash and Shadow – which is one of the ten finalists in the current SPFBO7 (self published fantasy competition). If you’re looking to get into more self published fantasy, enter confidently knowing that the first book in this series is one of the best out of a field of 300 entries.
H.L. Tinsley exceeded all expectations. Gaslamp fantasy has been a new and interesting fantasy sub-genre for me as a reader, one filled with mystical and supernatural elements— ghosts, deaths, magical abilities, and so on.
Set in the same world as Tinsley’s debut, The Hand that Casts the Bone embodies everything that I love in a sequel. Tinsley reintroduces us to the bleak and desolate city and I found myself looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the world and returning to the lives of these characters where those remaining will go to any length to be successful. The different POVs enriched the story and allowed me to form more of an emotional connection and better understand their personal motivations. It was rewarding to explore more of the country, Soussan, and learn of its intricate yet fractured history.
Tinsley is adept at drawing her readers into a story with her vivid imagery, creating an immersive experience as if we inhabit the same space as the characters. I know this review is about the sequel, but I need to talk about We Men for a minute so that I can illustrate what I loved so much about the second book. I mentioned in my review of We Men that I thought the first half of the story was tightly written with a clear focus, but felt that the second half was a little unfocused and rushed – and that I felt there were many great ideas inside one book and the merging of them by the end struggled in its execution.
As I made my way through The Hand that Casts the Bone, I was blown away by how in control Tinsley was with her story. This sequel was tightly written from beginning to end, using a clever command of language to turn a phrase. There were a few different plot lines occurring within different locations, and Tinsley’s deft hand brought it all together. I loved seeing her growth as a writer and how flawless it ended up being in the end. The writing flowed. It had balance and originality.
I started this book right before bed one evening and ended up finishing 30% in a single sitting. One reason why I love this author is because of the risks taken and how she never sacrifices the integrity and direction of her plots in the name of comfort and predictability. Not once did I anticipate how the story would go and that is largely due to the book’s unapologetic nature. I have the utmost trust in Tinsley to deliver a heck of a story because she’s earned it. I am waiting in anticipation for the next installment.