Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L Penelope

May Contain Spoilers

This has been getting a lot of buzz, and it’s a fantasy, so my interest was piqued. I went into this without really knowing what it was about, and I find that that usually works best for me. I like to discover a book’s plot by working my way through the pages, instead of having it handed to me in a cover blurb. This was an engrossing book that didn’t always work for me, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read more of the author’s works.

Jasminda lives in the mountains by herself. Her parents and her brothers are dead, leaving her alone. She is all she has to rely on, and she is fierce and distrustful of strangers. After a frustrating visit to town, where the townsfolk treat her with distain because of her heritage, Jasminda finds an injured man on her journey home. He’s wounded and delirious, and he thinks he’s on the other side of the Mantle, in Lagrimar, which is enemy territory. When he tells her he has to get back to Elsira, Jasminda doesn’t know what to think. When a group of Lagrimari soldiers appears, she is determined to help the stranger any way she can.

The people of Elsira have been at war with Lagrimar for centuries. The Elsirans have no magic, while the Lagrimari, through Earthsong, can manipulate the elements. They make formidable foes, and while the Mantle between their nations forms a barricade between the countries, there have been occasional breaches. These breaches lead to war and bloodshed, and Jack, the wounded soldier, knows that a breach is imminent. He has a way to end the breaches forever, if he can only get to the cornerstone that the Mantle is anchored to.

Jasminda’s mother was Elsiran, but her father was Lagrimari. Trapped in Elsira after a breach, he met and married her mother. Of her siblings, only Jasminda shares the Lagrimari coloring with her father, as well as a tiny bit of Earthsong. While her father’s magic was powerful, Jasminda’s is like a pebble in a stream. It’s just enough to get her into trouble. It’s also one of the reasons the Elsiran’s treat her so poorly.

Jack’s arrival in her life throws Jasminda in deadly peril. She must decide what she’s going to do with her life, too. Stay in the mountains, or help fight the True Father, the tyrant who rules Lagrimar. When she meets refugees from Lagrimar, people who have the means to awaken the Queen, she decides to try to help them. If they can overthrow the True Father, maybe there can be peace between Lagrimar and Elsira.

There were parts of the worldbuilding that didn’t make much sense, and I wished for a little more information. While life is rather primitive for Jasminda, the Elsirans in the city have cars, airships, and other more modern conveniences. That just seemed jarring and didn’t make much sense to me. Also, there are other countries that the Elsiran’s deal with, which made me wonder how the Mantle really worked. Did it totally encompass Ligrimar? Did the other nations have to deal with the breaches? Did they only occur on the Elsiran border? I just found that confusing. Or maybe I shouldn’t have wondered about it so much.

The other plot thread I didn’t get all gung-ho for was the romance. It just did not work for me. Jack has not bee truthful about who he is, and he has to keep Jasminda hidden away, a secret, and that bothered me. I have read the forbidden romance trope so many times, and it rarely works for me. The sneaking around, the lying, especially in a palace, where there are so many gossiping servants – nah. I didn’t buy into it, or believe that they could have kept anything a secret.

The magic is interesting, and I really liked the ending. That won me back over. This is a fast-paced read, with a young woman who must depend on herself in a world filled with prejudice and distrust because of her heritage and her magic.

Grade: 3.5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

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.