Genre: Fantasy, Romance, YA
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press on May 1, 2018
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. View Spoiler »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 Lagrimar 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 its people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their vicious captors and together 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 thebalance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war. « Hide Spoiler
Penelope’s SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is the first book in a fantasy romance series that explores racial discrimination, the atrocities of war, and what it means to belong.
Set in an alternate 1920s, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE follows two very different young people trying to save their kingdom from invasion. As a mixed-race young woman with the ability to wield Earthsong, Jasminda is hated in the majority-white, magic-fearing kingdom of Elsira. When she rescues Jack, a fellow Elsiran and a military man just returned from a dangerous mission in their enemy nation Lagrimar, she sets events in motion that will change the world as she knows it.
Ruled by a cruel dictator known as the True Father, Lagrimar represents the other in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE. Elsirans hate and fear the Lagrimari for their religion, their magic, and the colour of their skin…even the refugees who have escaped certain death in Lagrimar to seek sanctuary in Elsira. The commentary on the treatment of refugees is clear, but I didn’t find it heavy-handed. Try as they might, Elsirans can’t ignore or oversimplify the Lagrimari forever: the magical barrier known as the Mantle that prevents the True Father’s armies from invading Elsira is weakening with each passing day. If Jasminda can’t harness her weak Earthsong magic to shore up the Mantle, her life, such as it is, will be over.
Jasminda is far and away the best developed character, and she’s a very easy one to love. Despite how often she’s belittled and excluded, Jasminda remains empathetic and brave. It disgusted me to see how her neighbours treated her with contempt, hatred, and fear, but I felt so proud of her every time she stood her ground. And more than anything, I respect a heroine with such a practical nature! Jasminda’s so practical, in fact, that she’s shocked when she finds herself falling in love with Jack as their mission progresses. Her own family history has taught her that a romance between a full-blooded Elsiran and someone who’s half-Lagrimari will never be supported by society.
SONG OF BLOOD & STONE being a fantasy romance, the relationship between Jasminda and Jack is the main feature of the story. Thankfully I found them pretty cute together despite my initial wariness (there’s some major insta-lust), and their feelings for one another were well-developed. The prejudice Jasminda faces as a mixed-race person aside, Jack’s background is also a considerable obstacle for them; I was quite pleased that Jasminda in particular showed a lot of maturity when dealing with the imbalance of power in their relationship. Jack is a sweet guy and I liked him, but I found his naivety in the face of all he’d seen in war quite frustrating. Wake up and realize that your country is deeply racist!
My only serious complaint about SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is its anti-climactic “final battle” scene. Jasminda and Jack spend almost the entire book journeying, training, and preparing to face off against the Lagrimari forces trying to break through the Mantle…but the battle itself is over in the blink of an eye. Come on, y’all! I was also disappointed by the borderline deus ex machina that allowed Jasminda and Jack to be together formally and officially, but I can let that one go. Especially in light of the explosive epilogue!
Overall, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE by L. Penelope is a strong, if flawed, start to an intriguing new fantasy romance series. People looking for lovable characters, solid writing, and an exploration of social issues in fantasy should pick this one up!