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Month: April 2018

Blog Tour: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Blog Tour: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Title: Song of Blood & Stone

Author: L. Penelope

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pub date: May 1st 2018

Today, it’s my turn on the Song of Blood & Stone blog tour and I’m here to tell you about this excellent fantasy novel – the first in the Earthsinger Chronicles – to be released at the beginning of May.

‘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.’

Song of Blood & Stone is one of my favourite reads in a very long time. It’s an immediately engaging narrative with excellent world-building and characters whose stories it’s very easy to become quickly invested in. It manages to bypass the pitfall of including heavy opening chapters of weighty exposition by letting the reader experience the world that they’ve been thrown into through the thoughts and actions of the characters, withholding enough information that you want to keep reading without being frustrated that you don’t know enough to understand what is happening. The mechanics of the world, such as Jasminda’s Earthsong, are easily accepted without requiring an understanding of precisely how they work, experienced through characters who find these elements natural and so encourage the reader to enjoy the story and these more magical facets without questioning how and drawing focus from the narrative. This ties in with the history employed and the tales told that leave clues as to the hidden nature and lost pasts of the worlds in which Jasminda and Jack live.

Jasminda lives in a world where she is not accepted by those around her, her presence sometimes barely tolerated when she has to interact with others. Her inner strength and determination is clear from the very start of the novel, where she challenges the fact that their perception of her is owing to the fact that she looks different than they do, trying to make a woman acknowledge her prejudice. There are moments in the story when others try to take her agency away from her and have her submit, yet she deals with these incidents with dignity, intelligence and courage without ever becoming the stereotypical overpowered female lead that stars in many novels. Jasminda reads as someone doing their best to find their way and stay true to their own moral and ethical code, as does Jack, both flawed and vulnerable and brave and strong by turn. Their growing relationship is a refreshing read and perhaps the only one I’ve read of late where it feels as if it is a meeting of equals. It is not a tale of one character making another better, but of two trying to do the best they can by each other, even if they don’t always manage it.

As a Classicist, I’m a huge fan of stories that use mythology and folktales in their narratives. Most chapters open with a short excerpt from a folktale that is relevant to the chapter’s content and ongoing story, accompanied by symbols associated with each one. The chapters that look into the past are also written as if they are legends and have a fairytale-like quality to them, which I loved.

Concerning the narrative itself (no spoilers), Song of Blood & Stone unfolds in such a way as there is more than one big reveal along the way, orchestrated so finely that clues and foreshadowing never give away too much to ruin the surprise. There are details and hints woven throughout the story in a manner that keeps you guessing and able to reach some conclusions before the characters do, as a good novel should, but you never feel cheated when all is finally revealed. The story touches on themes of prejudice, war, the fate of refugees and that which separates us and brings us together through a well-layered narrative. There are no truly superfluous characters and I hope that we get to see the many of the cast again in the next novel.

I loved this novel – the next book in the series is the one I’m most looking forward to of the many that I’m reading. I cannot recommend it enough or elaborate further without inadvertently giving away spoilers, so I will settle for telling you to get your hands on a copy of Song of Blood & Stone as soon as possible. The book is on sale from May 1st 2018. Go and read it!

Song of Blood & Stone is written by L. Penelope. ‘She has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependants: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.’

Praise for Song of Blood & Stone

“Wonderful characters, unique setting, and an engaging romance set against the backdrop of ancient magic. I can’t wait to see what L. Penelope will do next.”—Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Prepare to be hooked. SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is brimming with captivating lore, unique magic, and plot-turns you never saw coming. L. Penelope has written your next fantasy obsession.” —Elise Kova, USA Today bestselling author of The Loom Saga

“Set against a backdrop of myth and magic, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is a sweeping tale of love, duty and destiny that feels as urgent as it does timeless.” —Rebecca Roanhorse, author of TRAIL OF LIGHTNING

“SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is an enchanting journey through a world more relevant than ever. Wars between Gods, romance, action—it’s everything I love all at once.”  —K Arsenault Rivera, author of THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER

“SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is a sweeping journey of magic, romance, sacrifice, and self-discovery. These heartwarming characters, their trials and adventures, and their love for each other will stay with you long after the book ends.” —Amanda Bouchet, USA Today bestselling author of The Kingmaker Chronicles

“SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is a thrilling and complex journey through a beautifully rendered world that is imaginative, magical, and eerily similar to our own. A terrific read!” —Daniel Jose Older, New York Timesbestselling author

“Great characters, beautiful writing, incredible world building.” —Ann Aguirre, New York Times bestselling author

Review: Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

Review: Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

Title: Bring Me Their Hearts

Author: Sara Wolf

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Pub date: 5th June 2018

‘Zera is a Heartless—the immortal, unaging soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.

Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum: if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy Zera’s heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.

Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him—every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him—until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.

So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.

Winner takes the loser’s heart.

Literally.’

I loved this book. I admit that the structure of the opening third threw me a little, as it initially felt as if the reader was being walked through a lot of exposition, but the shift from one time frame to another swiftly becomes less jarring, especially as the scene the novel opens with draws nearer. The book opens with Zera at the court and moves backwards to recollect how she became a Heartless and what it means for one to be such, returning to the opening scene later in the novel.

Zera herself reads as older than she’s presented (though this might be due to the fact that she is older) and heavily relies on flippancy and sarcasm to get through her everyday interactions with others. Initially, this means she sounds quite arrogant, cold and too full of herself, but as the facets of her history and what lies beneath are revealed, the reasons for this behaviour become more clear, and as she truly starts to make connections with others, these features are somewhat toned down. She is confident, sometimes seemingly insufferably so, but she also makes mistakes and is not unbelievably gifted at everything she attempts, painting this element of her personality as a front that likewise becomes more understandable as the novel continues. Perhaps Zera is not immediately likeable, yet she is immediately interesting and engaging.

It seems that none of the characters in Bring Me Their Hearts are exactly what they appear to be, making for a strong cast that demands the reader pay attention to each one and not discount any. The romance is perhaps a little predictable and inevitable, though it’s primarily a relationship that doesn’t rely heavily on instant love and affection, but in characters trying to figure each other out, making it feel a lot less forced than the instant attraction and romances many YA novels feature.

I’ve recently read a lot of books that feature heavy cliffhangers… and while I’ve then wanted to read the next novel, I’ve not exclaimed over it quite so much as with this one. Next book needed now, please!

I received an ARC of Bring Me Their Hearts from NetGalley and the publisher.