Song of Blood and Stone: Review
St. Martin's Press emailed me about reviewing Song of Blood and Stone, the first book in the Earthsinger Chronicles by debut author L. Penelope and I was so excited about it! It was described to me as having the following qualities:
- The doomed star-crossed lovers of Romeo & Juliet
- A reluctant ruler and epic quest against darkness ala Lord of the Rings
- The romance of Ilona Andrews
- The world building of Brandon Sanderson
- The dynastic intrigue of House of Cards
Note: I received an e-galley from St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers.
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.
Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it's people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.
Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.
The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.
At its core, Song of Blood and Stone is a story about two kingdoms and groups of people who have deep-rooted prejudices. One source of conflict is the concept of magic. To the Elsirans, it's nothing more than witchcraft. To the Lagrimari, the gift of Earthsong is revered and deemed powerful. Indeed, their tyrannical ruler, the True Father, is rumored to be the most powerful Earthsinger alive.
My chief complaints about the Earthsong magic system is that we are not given a sense of what constitutes a "powerful" Earthsong. We are constantly told that Jasminda's Song is not very strong because she was raised in Elsira and hadn't had many opportunities to practice using it. But we don't have a concrete spectrum for the Song and its Singers. The scenes in which the Song is invoked are not terribly visual, and so I have a difficult time wrapping my head around this strange power. Plus, terminology is thrown around at the start of the book without any introduction. What is the Mantle? What are Breaches? These Breaches are another source of conflict throughout the book, so it would have been great if they were given some more explanation.
While the magic system is not as fully formed as I would have liked, it has an intriguing mythology behind it. Jasminda, our protagonist, is given a caldera which contains the memories of an ancient Earthsinger. These memories reveal clues about the origins of the two lands and the potential of the Song. These flashbacks were interesting to read and I confess, sometimes more interesting than the current timeline.
That's because Song of Blood and Stone contains several YA fantasy cliches. I won't go into detail to avoid spoilers, but plot twists were predictable and the romance was pretty much insta-love and quite gratuitous. I was mortified when I happened upon these scenes in the middle of a crowded subway car.
What I truly enjoyed about this debut novel was its emphasis on prejudice and social commentary. Jasminda is half-Lagrimari and half-Elsiran, though her fellow citizens see her only for her dark Lagrimari skin. She has never felt like she truly belonged in the Elsira, yet all of her familial memories are rooted there. When the Lagrimari pour over the Mantle to escape their terrible ruler, the True Father, Elsirans are in an uproar about what to do with these refugees. These themes could almost be real-life parallels.
I rate Song of Blood and Stone 3/5 stars. Keep an eye out for its release on May 1st, 2018!
Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the e-galley!